Sega has spent the last decade trying to find the next quality evolutionary step for their blue speed demon. After the original trilogy on Genesis, Sega's famous mascot has grown stale to embarrassing levels with goofy gameplay gimmicks, ridiculous story arcs, and a worthless cast of characters. Similar to Sonic 4, Sonic Colors trims all the fat that has accumulated over the years and returns to its slim and straightforward gameplay roots.
With a similar vibe from 2007 Super Mario Galaxy, Sonic travels into space to experience Eggman's new space age amusement park. Although the story isn't the most original, it really allows the game to take a creative turn down well-developed-lane. At its core, Colors uses a more minimalist approach but this keeps the gameplay faster paced an entertaining.
Instead of rescuing tiny kidnapped animals, Sonic will save Meteos-like aliens called Wisps. These aliens are the Mario power suits of Colors; they give Sonic new abilities to keep gameplay interesting by navigating through obstacles. Becoming a bouncing laser beam to reach new heights or using the power of a drill to burrow beneath the surface are quick one trick ponies that introduce new level designs and hazards to the player.
Sonic Colors is indeed a 3D game but a majority of the time will be spend in a classic 2D perspective. If the game only played from a 3D perspective, using Sonic's new powers would have easily become more of a nuisance than an advantage. Of course the game still has 3D segments, but wall jumping, digging through the ground and cruising through the levels from a side scrolling view point is where Sonic Colors excels.
Like many other sequels and spin-offs, Colors is a platformer with Sonic's speed used as both a positive and a negative aspect to gameplay. Sure, running at super fast speeds can be highly entertaining but this also makes the platforming parts of Sonic games unbalanced and cheap as running into surprise spikes, deathtraps or enemies is always a frustrating way to lose all those hard earn rings; this becomes more of a problem in the later stages. Using speed as the main gameplay gimmick means that platforming and solid controllable jumping looses structure as traveling from Point A to Point B feels a bit more random than a providing a true sense of accomplishment. Traveling at high speeds also puts the game on auto-pilot where the player really isn't doing anything more than admiring the visuals.
Each stage will rarely take more than a few minutes to complete which really gives the player a rapid sense of accomplishment. The downside to this is the game isn't terribly long and the play-the-level-again to get a higher score isn't the best form of replay value. However, online leaderboard makes this a little more tolerable. And a two-player mode was also included, and while it can be fun at times, ultimately suffers from an incompatible camera system; it can have a difficult time keeping up with the high speed action.
The space theme definitely gives the game plenty of excuses to turn on the neon and colorful art pallet to the max. The game looks good and the cutscenes are short and skippable. But if you do manage to watch the plot unfold, it is pleasing to know that the game never really takes itself too seriously. With constant sarcasm coming from Sonic's mouth, its as if the developers are trying to nonchalantly put a band-aid over the scars it has left on Sonic over the years.
Sonic Colors is a refreshing step in the right direction after years of disappointing titles. With a solid reference back to the 16-bit era, new super powers that work with the level and game design, and a straightforward and colorful presentation, Sonic's return should please the fans that were begging for a more retro-style title. It might not be as high of quality as Super Mario Galaxy 2 or Donkey Kong Country Returns, but ring collecting in loop-de-loops hasn't been this fun in quite a while.
Better Than: The Sonic Advance titles
Also Try: Sonic Pocket Adventure (Neo Geo Pocket Color)
Wait For It: More Episodes of Sonic 4
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