Life has been rough for the iconic Sonic the Hedgehog over the past ten years. Year after year, another title in the Sonic series has released, with reception ranging from mixed to utterly awful. Recently, Sega has pulled its low-scoring Sonic titles off the shelves, vowing to improve the quality of the series that once put them on the gaming map. Sonic Colors is one of the first Sonic games since that emphatic declaration. Does Sonic Colors provide a ray of hope for the franchise, or does the prism that created the colors need to be polished?
Dr. Eggman has built Eggman’s Incredible Interstellar Amusement Park, claiming to build the space theme park to make up for his past transgressions over the years. This does not fool Sonic and Tails, who head to the amusement park to investigate. Once they get there, they meet a race of aliens called Wisps, who grant Sonic special powers for use in the game. Dr. Eggman is also looking to harness the power of the Wisps for his own nefarious plot.
The story is simple and easy to understand, in contrast to some of the more realistic, serious stories of Sonic games past. The dialogue is full of cheesy jokes and one-liners, some of which just don’t work out too well. Younger players will find it all funny, while older players may cringe at some of it. All of the cutscenes in Sonic Colors are voice acted, and, for the most part, are voiced well. However, the nature of the dialogue may be grating to some players as they progress throughout the story. Should this occur, cutscenes can be skipped.
What stands out first when you start Sonic Colors is the environment and scenery. While Sonic Colors is not the best looking game on the Wii, it does a great job at bringing the interstellar amusement park to life. Each world is based on different mini-planets and amusement park rides, and most levels use the atmosphere to great effect, creating a delightful romp through the fantastic amusement park. The soundtrack is also bombastic and orchestral, similar to that of Super Mario Galaxy, but with less audio quality.
Gameplay is a mix between 2D and 3D perspective. The 2D gameplay uses 3D graphics, much like New Super Mario Bros. Wii. It plays very much like past 2D Sonic games with a couple of changes; Sonic can now double jump and the spin dash has been removed (except when using the pink Wisp). The 3D segments are in the minority and mostly encourage you to run forward in short bursts. Sonic Colors has four different control setups: Wii Remote, Wii Remote/Nunchuk, Classic Controller, and GameCube Controller. I recommend the use of either the Classic or GameCube controller, as the extra buttons they provide help out while pulling off the numerous maneuvers in the game.
What sets Sonic Colors apart from Sonics past is the alien race known as Wisps. Different colored Wisps grant Sonic different power-ups. The Wii and DS versions share four colors: White (powers up boost meter), Cyan (turns Sonic into a laser), Yellow (lets Sonic drill through the ground) and Orange (turns Sonic into a rocket). The Wii version has four additional colors: Pink (turns Sonic into a spiked ball that sticks to walls), Green (lets Sonic hover and dash across ring paths), Blue (changes blue rings into blue blocks and vice versa), and Purple (turns Sonic into a demonic shark, eating everything in its path). These Wisps are used to progress through the levels, and every level revolves around the Wisp powers. Whether you’re bouncing about the level as a destructive laser, drilling through the earth, or chomping enemies apart, there is plenty of fun to be had as the level becomes your personal playground.
Versus mode is also included in the form of Eggman’s Sonic Simulator, which pits Sonic and another hedgehog in several different levels to play through. The levels can be played either by 1 player or 2 players. Two-player can be played either as a versus contest to see who can reach the end quickest, or as co-op, where one player plays as Sonic and the other plays the role of assistance to help Sonic progress.
The main story of Sonic Colors can be defeated in less than five hours if you rush through each level of the game once. However, doing so would not give you the fullest experience of this game. Some Wisps in earlier levels are not unlocked until you are introduced to them in a later world. This means that when you replay levels, there will be new Wisp powers available that were not there in your first run. As mentioned before, these levels were designed not only for classic Sonic gameplay, but designed as a playground for the Wisp power-ups. Tearing through the levels in new ways with new powers is not only fun, it also lets you access different paths through the levels. So even though the game itself is short, the replay value is easily increased by the Wisp powers and the alternative routes they lead to. There are also red rings scattered throughout each stage that will often test your abilities. The red rings also unlock more levels in Eggman's Sonic Simulator, which in turn will unlock more secrets, including a certain, awesome secret that I will not spoil here.
However, not everything about Sonic Colors is bright and colorful. The controls tend to feel a bit loose at times. This results in Sonic changing lanes in the 3D sections later than you’d like him to. If you try to overcompensate for this, Sonic will then feel like he’s sliding across the level and it becomes difficult to control him. This especially happens when you drift through turns in the 3D segments, which the game encourages you to do. This isn’t as big of an issue in the 2D portions, but precision jumping can be difficult. Sometimes you will be required to use the double jump to help land on small platforms, but if an enemy is nearby, Sonic will automatically homing attack that foe instead, forcing you to respond quickly or potentially fall to your untimely death. When the controls work (usually during the Wisp segments), Sonic Colors is a blast to play. When it starts having issues, it can become frustrating.
Sonic Colors is certainly a bright spot among the darkness of recent Sonic games. However, some gameplay and control issues hold it back from being the true successor to the days of Genesis Sonic that many old-school fans have been hoping for. That being said, the comparison to the Genesis days is unfair in many respects, and compared to what Sonic has struggled through in recent years, Sonic Colors is an enjoyable step in the right direction.