Sonic Colors Review

Foreword

Well my fellow readers, it’s been several months since I’ve published reviews, and I think it’s time to go out of that hibernation state. Sonic Colors is a game that I was ignorant of (despite being a Sonic fan), that I eventually learned of its existence through reviews – whether it be written or videos – and gaming sites in 2011. What influenced me to buy it was the similarities to Sonic Unleashed; the lack of third party games (and in general); and the positive reception, finally getting it in March of 2012.

Almost all of you already know about the history, but I’ll give you a brief synopsis on it anyways. After the atrocity known as Sonic ’06 made the franchise go rock bottom, Sega decided to return its IP to its former glory. First, they developed Sonic Unleashed, though only somewhat of a success. Then came along Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing and Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode I, which both received critical acclaim. With fans and critics beginning to re-trust Sega with the series again, would Sonic Colors finally be the game?

Then in 2010 it was finally released, living up to most of its hype. It received positive acclaim again, and some even considered it to be the best since Sonic Adventure 2. Sega brought back the daytime levels from Unleashed, and replaced the godawful werehog levels with more 2D sidescrolling segments, alternate routes, and platforming. Aesthetics are of high quality as usual, the plot was “retconned” to the early days…before Shadow The Hedgehog, and the only gimmicks this time around were the power-ups.

Plot Analysis: 8.0/10

So the story starts off with Sonic and Tails in an amusement park within outer space built by none other than Dr. Eggman “to make up for his past transgressions.” Of course, Sonic doesn’t buy into this scheme, and decides to investigate even further to uncover any evil plots just the day before it opens. Lo and behold, his suspicions are confirmed when he saves an alien from Orbot and Cubot (Eggman’s personal robots) who reveals his plans to Sonic. In reality, the park is really just a set-up to fool people into being ignorant of his true intentions.

The alien (whose name is Yacker) reveals that he comes from a race called Wisps, and his race along with their home planets (disguised as attractions) were dragged “halfway across the universe, ” bound by chains through several different generators. Since Eggman discovered discovered they produce a type of energy in their bodies called “Hyper-Go-On-Power,” he decided to harness it via the energy reactor disguised as the park, in order to hypnotize the citizens of Mobius to do his bidding to aspire for universal domination.

All of this is received by Tail’s alien translator after many humorous attempts at troubleshooting. Sonic goes on his way to destroy all five generators and free the kidnapped Wisps, while exploring and sightseeing the beautiful attractions (okay, the player does that). Once this is done, they all celebrate for their hard work – when suddenly Dr. Eggman claims that Sonic’s efforts were in vain as he already harnessed enough energy to put his plan into effect. However, just as the satellite can activate, Orbot’s missing arm is revealed to be jamming it, causing the entire plan to completely backfire.

Sonic and Tails runs for the exit as the park is being destroyed, only to be stopped by Dr. Eggman in a giant killer robot (that also uses the Hyper-Go-On-Power). Sonic sacrifices himself by letting Tails take the ride back home while he stays to fight (and obviously) defeat the doctor for the 9000th time. Although the reactor collapses upon itself to create a mini-black hole (or purple wormhole), the Wisps save him from his doom by taking him back to Mobius. They all depart back to their regular lives after Tails whines about the Wisps leaving when his translator finally works.

Sonic Team this time decided to go with a simple plot equivalent to that of a children’s cartoon. And it works well, as we all know how tired we are of the long and mediocre plots that plagued the series. It’s aimed towards children, so despite the lame jokes and corny lines, they did their job well with presenting kid-friendly material to their targeted audience. What I find to be a major disappointment is there lacks returning and new characters that could’ve made the plot more developed.

Colors may just be a Wii exclusive (the DS port is both non-canon and a spin-off), the cutscenes rendered in this game are of high quality, almost being a rival of Unleashed (well, not the CGI of course – though Colors also has CGI of its own). Animation and lip syncing are accurate, though the use of certain sound effects is questionable – even if used for comical purposes. Another good thing is that it doesn’t abuse cinematic time by going straight to the point without any plot holes or paradoxes.

Just like the story, the script revolves around comedy, corny jokes, and a simple layout in order to appeal to children. But don’t be fooled, as long time fans can also be entertained with the jokes poking fun to nostalgic references and humor that only adults and youth understand (though not to children…hopefully). This is a good change, since we all know how bad previous Sonic games were, focusing on realism and mature content when the characters are just talking anthropomorphic animals!

Gameplay: 8.0/10

Like in most Sonic games, the goal is to complete the level (called acts) as fast as possible from point A to B. You do this by utilizing traditional mechanics such as the homing attack, spin dash, and light speed dash seen in the Adventure titles; while also taking advantage of newer techniques like the speed boost, drifting, quick-step, and sliding/stomping introduced in Unleashed. At the end, you’ll be given a rank based on your overall performance, which is influenced by factors consisting of time, rings, bonus points, skills, and enemy count.

New to this title are the aerial tricks, double jump, and the jump dash, which are pretty self-explanatory. Power-ups make a return, in the form of Wisps inside capsules, each representing a different color and ability; thus, the game’s name, plot, and gameplay is focused around this one gimmick but it works pretty well. Other than conventional sections like shuttle loops, grind rails, and linear paths, Colors brings back the 2D sidescrolling sections and the quick-step chase sequences from Unleashed, which add more to the gameplay.

The controls is somewhat of a blend of Adventure, Unleashed, and Rush put together. You can play Sonic Colors with either the Wii Remote, Wiimote + Nunchuk, Classic Controller, or also the Game-Cube controller. Many recommend the retro controller for its lack of motion and ergonomic design, although I find the Classic Controller Pro to be great too (since it has handles and improved shoulder buttons). Overall, the controls are very precise and responsive, but at the cost of slippery controls that is a nuisance to inexperienced players.

If you practice often, develop quick thinking/reflexes, and have played Unleashed, the controls should be a breeze. The controls for Sonic is similar to that of a spaceship – control stick to steer, face buttons to use the ship’s main functions, and shoulder buttons to activate special features. Colors puts more of an emphasis on platforming and 2D sidescrolling, so it’s not like you can simply just “boost to win” as Unleashed was heavily criticized for.

Although there are many control styles, I’ll still do my best to explain it. You use the d-pad or control stick to move; A or the 2 button to jump, double jump, spin attack, and perform the homing attack; B or the 1 button speed boost and jump dash; X, Z, or B button to stomp/crouch/slide; and the R or Z button to activate power-ups. Of course, you have to shake the Wii Remote to use the Wisps if using the first two controller variations. What sucks is that you can’t customize it to suit your preferences like in Brawl.

Quite surprisingly, this installment is actually pretty easy; if you only care about beating the game by clearing each level, watching every cutscene, and defeating all bosses, then you can beat it within a few hours. But if you achieve high ranks, find all collectibles, explore every nook and cranny, and complete side quests, then that’s when it’s difficult. However, in general (and to balance it out) though, it’s still easy as there are a surplus of check-points, warning signs over most death traps, on-screen button prompts, hint system, and hazards easy enough for kids to avoid.

Content: 7.4/10

There really isn’t anything to play besides story mode and replaying old levels, except for Sonic Simulator and the Egg Shuttle. In Sonic Simulator, up to two players can participate (simultaneously or alternating)  in 21 different levels inspired by past Sonic games; you can unlock more levels by collecting red star rings and beating three acts for all seven zones unlock the Chaos Emeralds (which brings back Super Sonic). And the Egg Shuttle is sort of like a speed run, in which you attempt to beat all the levels in one run with no extra help as fast as possible.

It’s nice to have multi-player for a change, although the drawbacks outnumber the benefits of Sonic Simulator. Similar to New! Super Mario Bros. Wii, all players share the same screen, so the second player can often die if left behind (though warping is available). Just like in Donkey Kong Country Returns, both players share the same life count, so you better make sure that you work well as a team or you’ll both suffer. Though in my opinion, it’s quite fun and easy with most levels being 2D and the Wisps being used in ways not seen in campaign.

One of the major downsides to Colors is the level design. Sonic Team finally listened to the criticism and their fans by removing all bad gimmicks and different gameplay styles, but as a result had boiled everything down to its basic foundation. More than 80% of the levels are in 2D, which slows down the fast-paced actions we got from Unleashed. The 3D sections are few and just consist of straight linear paths, quick-step sequences, drifting curves and grind rails with little to no hazards, and automated sections such as shuttle loops.

I’m not saying it’s mediocre as said before, they removed what the fans hated. The levels make use of the park and space themes without being a rip-off of Super Mario Galaxy; each act being different from the last and each world feeling alive. Who can forget memorable levels like the hamburger tower, outer space rollercoaster, or even the galactic parade? It also puts a larger emphasis on platforming, bringing Colors somewhat back to its Genesis roots. Each level also has multiple paths and goals which rewards you with hidden goodies and racks up the total score.

Eggman’s Interstellar Amusement Park (as the doctor likes to call it) has 7 different attractions that can be accessed as you progress. The hubworld in Colors is just for visual purposes as you can’t explore it; the park itself is a map which you use the cursor to choose the attractions similar to Unleashed (PS2/Wii ports) and Adventure 2. Each attractions represents a different theme, and resembles the map system of the NSMB games. All the levels are represented by dots connected by lines with landmarks indicating what to expect just like in Donkey Kong Country Returns.

Now let’s talk about the game’s power-ups, or the Wisps, as they are the main focus of the plot and the main gimmicks. It may seem like Sega is just ripping us off and appeal to kids at first. However, the Wisps aren’t forced on you to beat levels (for the most part and are temporary if forced), only mandatory to access hidden routes and collect red star rings. Each of them has a unique ability and can be used strategically in different situations. When you do use them, they’re simple to use, have a time limit, and rack up extra bonus points.

There’s the Cyan Laser Wisp to bounce off walls and use diamonds and optical cables; and the Yellow Drill Wisp to travel underground and underwater at high speeds. The Orange Rocket Wisp to reach high places; Blue Cube Wisp to change blue blocks to blue rings and vice versa; and the Green Hover Wisp to travel over long gaps and perform the light speed dash. Finally we have the Magenta Spike Wisp to maneuver around walls and ceilings and do the spin dash; and the Purple Frenzy Wisp, becoming a Nega-Wisp to eat everything in sight and getting bigger over time.

As you can tell, the Wisps aren’t just situational limited in one use *cough* Mario items. You also have the White Wisps that fills up your boost gauge, thus you can’t just boost whenever you please (whereas you could in Unleashed with rings). Red Star Rings are pretty self explanatory are pretty straightforward, hidden throughout the levels that test your curiosity and skill, since they’re hidden well or difficult to get to. Actually beating the Sonic Simulator grants you the Chaos Emeralds to become Super Sonic in normal levels but disables the Wisps.

For some reason, Sonic Team decided to make this game extremely easy including the enemies and bosses. The homing attack, stomp, and speed boost make it easy enough to make the enemies seem like flies, but they nerfed the bosses by reducing their health, having a repetitive fighting pattern, slow obstacles and attacks, and giving you a power-up (if you’re fast enough). On top of that, the hint system even directly tells you how to defeat each boss; and the second set of bosses is just clones of the first three bosses, but at least the enemies are very diverse.

Presentation: 8.5/10

Before anybody assumes that Colors has bad graphics being a Wii game, then let me prove you wrong. It’s considered by many critics and fans to be one of the best looking Wii games, praising it to have near HD graphics. Upscaling the resolution from 480i to progressive scan makes it look close to Unleashed (and I’m not exaggerating). The models are accurate and detailed, seeing how they based the characters from their appearances in Unleashed – I hear that even the game engine and its physics is taken directly from it too.

Although at 30 FPS and not 60, it’s still consistent and usually never drops unlike in Unleashed; textures are a bit odd looking with the art style being a split between Sonic ’06 and Unleashed. Still, the lighting is done very well, combined with the bright and vibrant colors (pun somewhat intended), giving it the look of a cartoony feel from the Genesis titles. Being in a park, there are many breath-taking environments that take advantage of the graphics and it make feel lively, from Sweet Mountain to Planet Wisp to even Starlight Carnival.

Music is phenomenal with the soundtrack being catchy and memorable, different genres to suit everybody’s tastes, and tunes being relevant. It doesn’t sound as sophisticated as say Sonic Unleashed, since Sega finally stopped trying to make Sonic serious and cool for once which really works. They even made multiple re-mixes for each attraction (and I love all of them, even the 8-bit variations). Who can forget about the orchestral remix of the main theme used in the final boss battle, and is it me or does the generic boss music sound like Silver’s Boss Battle Theme from Sonic ’06?

Nothing much to complain about the sound effects, but the in-game sound is realistic to balance out the goofiness. Sometimes the music drowns out all other sound…especially when you want to listen to the hilarious announcements made by Eggman. I know this happens whenever you speed boost, but they should’ve just sped everything up instead of muffling the noise (on top of adding a rocket sound effect). I forgot to mention voice acting, though it’s not much besides new voice actors (except for Eggman) to rid the series of corny sounding adults that never hit puberty.

Verdict: 8.7/10

Completing the game takes 4 hours; trying to go above and beyond takes 10 ; and doing everything takes over 20. Getting all the red rings is a pain, so make sure you use a walkthrough guide. It’s worth it because Super Sonic is this game’s super easy mode, but they nerfed it by taking out flight (though you can fly a little with the jump dash), and the top speed is only a little faster but you have unlimited speed boost. You have to go back to get the full experience; not just to extend time, but to discover secrets and get rewarded, as opposed to just bragging rights.

Overall, Sonic Colors is a game that truly shows that Sega doesn’t need to implement different gameplay styles, loads of content, and a serious plot to make a decent Sonic game. As being my first 3D Sonic game, I have to say that it left a great impression, and I’ll definitely buy more Sonic titles in the future. Colors is short and sweet by favoring quality over quantity; the fast-paced action mixed with power-ups and exploration makes it addicting; rewarded with extra content for finding secrets; and great aesthetics and plot to compliment all else.

To make up for the cheesy plot, low difficulty, barebones level design, and lack of content, Sonic Team balanced it with amazing aesthetics, humorous script and voice acting, precise controls, superb gameplay, and high replay value. I personally enjoy the little things that add extra charm such as the radio announcements, enemy animations, and backgrounds; however, I dislike the fact that you must adapt to the controls and platforming to truly enjoy Colors. Sonic can definitely talk the talk and walk the walk, deserving to be played by any Wii owner and Sonic fan.

Final Review Score: 8.1/10

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