Sonic the Hedgehog games are usually a fine example of how solid ideas can be ruined by stupid gimmicks. Look at Sonic Unleashed, which is 50% the best 3D platform game ever made and 50% an absolute nightmare, filled with ridiculous werehogs and terrible Devil May Cry Junior gameplay. What would happen if you took that good half, buried the bad half in the desert, and gave it a gimmick that actually worked? Sonic Colours would happen, that’s what!
Switching seamlessly between better 3D sections than Sonic Adventure and better 2D sections than Sonic 4, Sonic Colours manages to completely grasp onto what a new Sonic game should be and runs with it. The action is fast – super fast – but controllable and natural. The level design is unfortunately linear, but makes up for it by offering you a lot to look at and constant impulsive gaming. It’s a pretty game, especially for the Wii, and we don’t even need to ask whether the music is any good – it’s a Sonic game, of course it’s good.
The ‘Colours’ part of the title is all because of the Wisps, a multi-coloured alien species who are being pestered by that blasted Doctor Eggman. Isn’t he dead? Nope, he’s somehow still bumbling around, opening up a intergalactic theme park to cover his plot to enslave the Wisps. Sonic buddies up with the Wisps in order to save them. They can offer him power-ups when he rescues them from the fat doctor’s traps, and every colour gives a different power. In the Wii version, there are eight colours to pick up, and they all have great effects on gameplay. Cyan turns Sonic into a laser, Pink turns him into a sticky bomb, Purple lets him eat up anything in his path – oh man, even writing these down reminds me of how fun all these powers are. The highlight is the Yellow Wisp, who allows Sonic to drill down through solid rock to secret areas beneath him, just like a real hedgehog. Surprisingly, these gimmicks don’t ruin the game and they don’t make you cry over the packaging. They actually make the game better. GASP.
In order to save these good gimmick-generating plot elements, Sonic must explore eight themed planets. This results in a lot of typical Sonic fare, casino planets and green hill planets for example. Each level is an assault course of massive leaps, bouncy springs, robots to smash and rails to grind. Nothing out of the ordinary for the blue hedgehog. There’s over sixty levels on offer here, so there’s a decent dose of longevity to look forward to, although a few moments of bad level design let down the rest of the stages. Mostly this happens when the flow of the game slows down so Sonic can deal with a puzzle, which goes against pretty much everything Sonic Team should be aiming for. Difficulty-wise, most gamers will coast through a lot of the game, but that’s not to say you won’t be frustrated at times.
Something’s got to be wrong here. The 2D sections of the game are great, the 3D sections have ditched a lot of the frustrating elements of the earlier games, even the bosses manage to not completely suck. I suppose I could criticise the co-op multiplayer mode, which is awkward and boring and reminds of the silly ‘co-op’ gaming of Sonic 2, where speed + keeping two players on screen = a complete disaster. You can play with your Mii’s face plastered over Sonic’s body, so that should keep the kids happy, but other than that, this should be treated as a strictly one player experience. Sonic Colours could have done with a true special stage as these tend to be some of the better moments of Sonic gaming, but the chaos emeralds (and their reward, hint hint) are still here.
Sonc Colours was written very much for children and relaxed players who are not looking for a brain-busting challenge. The storyline is silly but written with its tongue intentionally well in its cheek. It’s intentionally self-deprecating, and occassionally genuinely hilarious. Sonic straight up telling Eggman that he’s being “lame” is brilliant, given the amount of crap he’s put with in the past.
It’s one of those rare adrenaline-pumping rollercoaster ride games, packed with instinctive controls and terribly fun moments, embracing the spirit of the moment and not hanging around to think about things too deeply. It’s not perfect – the gameplay slows down at times and difficulty spikes are a problem – but it has so many good ideas that it should fill all Sonic fans with optimism for the future. Show support for Sonic and pick this one up. Unless you hate fun or something. Good on you, Sonic – you get an 8 out of 10.
Get Sonic Colours now
New: Buy Sonic Colours from Amazon.com