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bebopsamurai in 24_hr_gamer

The Life Technicolor (Sonic Colors review)

Game: Sonic Colors
Rating: E
Platform: Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS
Developer: Sonic Team
Publisher: Sega
Released: November 2010

With the possible exception of Leisure Suit Larry, few enduring mascots have had as contentious a gaming history as Sonic the Hedgehog, though the latter at least had a foundation in actual gameplay.  From fans who hate everything he's in to fans who like everything he's in to the handful of fans who look at individual games based on their own merits but are drowned out by the gaming community at large, each new game is for some a thing of beauty, and for many others a disappointment.  And with bickering still raging over the recent return-to-popular-2D-sidescrollers-but-with-modern-touches attempt "Sonic 4 Episode 1," many have been on the fence about "Sonic Colors."

And speaking personally as a 'conscientious objector' to the fandom at large, I can say with little exaggeration that "Colors" may just be the best Sonic game in years-- or at least, the best platformer.

 

In a dramatic departure for the series, "Colors" follows a remarkably deep narrative-- Arriving at an intergalactic theme park established by a newly reformed Robotnik, Sonic-- gnawed at by a crushing sense of despair and lack of direction at no longer having a rival-- sets out to 'rescue' an alien species called Wisps that are secretly evil and take advantage of Sonic's hero complex to kill Robotnik who's actually become the good guy and... okay fine I'm kidding.  But it's not as though story is exactly priority-one for Sonic anyway.  To be fair, what's there is pretty lighthearted and enjoyable, though anyone hoping for a SATAM-style dark sci-fantasy tale is going to be disappointed.

What "Colors" does offer, however, is some of the best level design for a Wii platformer-- or frankly, any platformer this generation.  It's easy enough to beat the game on its most direct paths if you're in a hurry, but it's the going outside the margins that really makes you appreciate them.  The titular 'Colors' (power-ups that do everything from send you rocketing into the sky, drilling through the ground, or just devouring everything in your path) are the gimmick this time around, and going back to old levels with new Colors unlocked makes it easier to shoot for that faster completion time.  The design difference between Mario and Sonic has always been strategy vs. speed in my opinion, and "Colors" does a great job of highlighting how a more 'on-the-rails' mindset can work well.

Speaking of Sonic's longtime rival, Sega has mentioned that "Colors" was intended to appeal to Mario fans as well, and from the new pickup-oriented gameplay all the way down to the "Super Mario World"-esque level hubs, that definitely seems to be the case.  (Hell, the 'press start' screen music even sounds suspiciously like that of "Super Mario Galaxy.")  Though considering "Colors" managed to avoid the all-too-overused visual motifs of Fire Level, Ice Level, Desert Level and Lava Level for mountains of junk food, asteroid roller coasters and even a fleet of spaceships, it's certainly holding its own in that regard.  Admittedly, there's a Water Level, but since Aquarium Park offers plenty of ways to get around quickly (or even run over water provided your Boost meter's high enough) and thus avoided the eternal fun-killer of swimming in a video game, I'll give that a pass.

As for replay value, there's quite a bit to be found; in addition to a Time Attack mode where you replay levels in quick succession and the ever-present challenge to S-Rank every area on its own, there's a two-player splitscreen competitive mode for a self-contained set of levels, more of which can be obtained by collecting more of the Red Tokens to be found in Story Mode proper.  You can even play through them as your Mii... or rather, your Mii-head attached to a Sonic body, which is actually a rather unnerving image for an E-rated game if you think about it.

The main issue with "Colors," really, is that it just might be too easy, at least in regards to the bosses.  Most of them can only take a few hits or telegraph their attacks so hard that evasion is practically an afterthought.  Robotnik himself is actually something of a pushover-- his giant mecha du-jour only having one mode and all its attacks fairly easy to avoid-- even if the final blow is probably the snazziest spectacle in a Sega-distributed game since a giant hair goddess punched God into the sun.

Still, "Sonic Colors" is quite a bit of fun.  The entire package is polished and well-made (though the writing is... well, not for everyone), and regardless of your stance on Sonic over the years, it's still a good game and definitely a worthwhile pick for anyone on the Wii.

The Good: Gorgeous art direction and level design, Color-powers add a fresh dynamic to classic gameplay

The Bad: Some cringe-worthy dialogue, bosses are pushovers, Color use is often unclear

The Ugly: A Mii-head stapled "Dr. Moreau"-style onto a Sonic body.  Helloooo nightmares.

Verdict: 000/0000 Rings


 


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