Sonic Colors DS
Whatever you might have thought of Sega’s recent attempt to revitalise the classic series with Sonic 4, there’s no denying the character’s success in the handheld market. The Sonic Advance titles were highly enjoyable in their own right, while the original Sonic Rush served to rocket the blue wonder into a world of mind-boggling speed and screen-hopping hijinks. Sonic Colors [sic] – the DS version of the Wii game with the same name – looks to continue the trend, this time with the inclusion of strange new colour powers to mix things up beyond the usual running and spinning. Are Sonic fans in for another portable treat with added colour, or is this just another bland adventure that’s soon to be forgotten?
You know how it works by now; Sonic spends the majority of the game blasting from one end of the stage to the next, collecting rings and busting mechanical bad guys. The Sonic Rush titles have obviously been the key influence, maintaining the speed and keeping much of what kept the momentum going, such as the grind-rails and boost power. Sonic moves fluidly throughout the levels and the game makes good use of the dual screens in this respect, dropping Sonic in the bottom screen one moment, then bouncing him to the top in an instant. There is something of a blind spot between screens and if you’ve played either of the two Rush games this should come as little surprise, but it rarely becomes an issue.
There is story and exposition here, told through static conversations with familiar faces such as Tails, Knuckles, Cream and Blaze. Thankfully, each and every one of these can be skipped – it’s something of a necessity when the dialogue is so pointless. Sonic Colors goes some way to trim the fat of the last handled offering (there are no jet-ski levels here, with the stylus reserved for the half-pipe special stages), whilst retaining many of the side-missions and presenting them through these supporting characters. The missions themselves are nothing special, generally asking you to defeat a set amount of enemies, collect a number of wisps or reach the goal within the specified time limit. With side-missions, emblems to collect and higher grades to achieve, the game offers a decent amount of replay value, which is just as well given its relatively short length.
The boss fights are also standard fare if you know what to expect, evoking a sense of 3D and, at times, giving Sonic an enclosed arena to jump around in. These battles boil down to trial and error, learning the pattern and then going in for the kill. Certain boss fights are definitely easier than others, with the more challenging ones involving an on-rails sprint where being hit scatters your rings with zero chance of getting them back. There are times when it can seem more like an exercise in frustration, but this is something Sonic fans should have come to terms with by now.
The biggest shake-up to the formula is the introduction of the wisps, a race of small aliens that imbue Sonic with colour-based transformations that we’ll try not to spoil too much here. Some of these abilities allow the hero to reach new heights, open new routes and break down barriers in earlier levels, while others end up as the single method of progression. The development team should be respected for experimenting with the Sonic formula, and doing so without forcing you to play as members of the supporting cast, but as with every experiment, not everything has proven to be successful. Violet Void should have provided a sense of empowerment given its nature, but the controls are so floaty and its level so full of instant-deaths that any fun has been sapped from it. One cyan power in particular proved unwieldy and more luck-based than anything. As each stage is centred on the use of one particular wisp, the game itself often comes across as a mixed bag.
The world has been built by Dr Eggman to look and sound exactly like a deadly tourist resort, complete with the signature spikes and pitfalls you would expect from a Sonic game. This has allowed the developers to put their thinking caps on and design creative stages as opposed to constant remakes of Green Hill Zone, this time presenting fun locales such as the neon Starlight Carnival. Granted, each land appears fake and manufactured, but this affords the game a distinct look that sets it apart from prior instalments. Even so, the obligatory water level is present and more aquatic than ever, and as always you’ll find a number of well-placed air bubbles to prevent Sonic from drowning. The team might have finally realised how much we hate their extensive list of ‘quirky’ characters, but there’s still a good amount of head knocking to be done.
Sonic Colors is more of the same in many respects, retaining the blistering speed of the Rush series and recycling the special stages from previous years. Fans will still find a few surprises this time around, including a form of multiplayer support available from a single DS card, but it’s in the colour-based wisp abilities that the game tries to stand out from the crowd. Many of the frustrations associated with the franchise are as present as ever, but if you’re looking for a Sonic game that does slightly more than just tear through enemies from left to right without having to slow the pace with needless fluff, then grab a ticket and prepare to enter Eggman’s amusement park.
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