For better or worse, depending on your gaming preference, Sonic games of late are best compared to a roller coaster ride; fast and exhilarating but with a sense of powerlessness. But therein lies the main problem – for all their visual flair and exciting moments Sonic games can’t quite distract from the fact that they leave their players feeling more like spectators rather than participants. Sonic Colors on the Wii does very little to break this trend – after all, Sega and Sonic fans wouldn’t have it any other way, and whilst control issues of the past still creep up every now and then, it does manage to provide some genuine moments of fun.
Dr. Robotnik, Sonic’s age-old nemesis, is up to his old tricks and is yet again intent on ruling over the galaxy at all costs. This time around however, he has disguised his evil plans by inviting those from across the universe to come and revel in all the fun that his new amusement park has to offer. Sonic, understandably skeptical of the doctor’s sudden change of heart, sets off with his binary code reading friend, Tails, to investigate Robotnik’s false fair ground. This sets up the template in which Sonic must follow in order to defeat the doctor and foil his disastrous plans: six levels, each containing six stages and a boss battle, which Sonic must jump, drill and of course run through.
If plagiarism is the finest form of flattery, then Sonic Colors clearly feels that it has a lot to thank Nintendo for as it makes no secret of its Super Mario Galaxy-inspired level design. From the opening orchestrated theme all the way to the Galaxy themed amusement park, one wouldn’t be surprised if Sonic dashed past Yoshi eating fruit whilst on his travels. It’s a constant reminder that Sega are clearly struggling to find Sonic’s own unique character, generating a sense of bitterness for the blue hedgehog who once blitzed his way through the older, custom built playgrounds, including the likes of Green Hill Zone. The good news is that Sonic looks and sounds great and despite borrowing quite heavily from Super Mario’s world, he does roam through some unique and incredibly well detailed levels of his own – one in particular being a fast food themed level that has Sonic running rings around mouthwatering burgers and cups of soft drinks.
Musically, Sonic provides us with its typical upbeat and at times, cheesy pop vocals to maximum effect. Whizzing through stages wouldn’t be the same without the up-tempo beats that we’ve been treated to over the years and in Sonic Colors, no exceptions have been made. The orchestrated pieces are a welcome and charming addition to Sonic’s universe, matching the astronomical feeling that Sonic’s environment already provides. On the contrary, the voice acting, although nowhere near as annoying as it was in the past, will likely fail to entice its audience into caring as to why Sonic is actually battling his way through an amusement park. Of course, the reality is that the side story is likely intended for a younger audience as opposed to trying to attract the more mature GTA/Modern Warfare players.
Given the reputation Sonic games have built for themselves over the last ten years, presentation is generally never an issue, as Sega have continued to push forward with an unequivocal desire to keep Sonic looking and sounding great – the concern for every new release is whether it will finally find it’s feet and deliver a truly great Sonic game, arguably something we last saw witnessed on the Sega Mega Drive. The quick answer is no, but that’s not to say Sonic’s latest outing isn’t good. There’s lots of fun to be had here and if anything, this is the most encouraging Sonic game made in years, showing promise for future editions. The problem is the nature of the beast; Sonic is fast, therefore considerations need to be made.
Running at high speeds through levels full of enemies, holes and general annoyances, Sonic has always required snap decision making as being the ultimate test. It’s easy to forget at times that you’re playing Sonic as you watch him take over for brief moments, before suddenly being prompted to jump over a gap. Sega have clearly learnt from previous Sonic games and have added far more check points than before, notably placing them just before the tougher parts of a stage. This however is the equivalent of patching a problem opposed to fixing the main cause and only highlights the trial-and-error issue that Sonic has faced for years. The feeling of satisfaction for completing a level is sometimes substituted with total relief as levels are finally conquered, allowing you to move on and see what else lies in store.
Then there’s the subject of control, a hit-and-miss affair that continues to plague the series ever since it went 3D. To its credit, Sega have moved away from using the Wiimotes accelerator to make Sonic move and have opted for a more conventional control scheme, requiring use of the nunchuk to control Sonic and the ‘A’ button on the Wiimote to jump and while this certainly helps to tighten up game play, it doesn’t eliminate the issues that have existed since Sonic Adventure on the Dreamcast. It’s still frustrating to see Sonic fall to his death even though you pressed jump a dozen times and nor is it fun to attack an enemy, only to see Sonic miss and yet again plummet downwards. Niggles aside, Sonic Colours is a step in the right direction, albeit a well overdue one and is for the most part an entertaining ride. It’s just a shame that the domineering conclusion from the final product is promise, still leaving us waiting for the definitive 3D Sonic title.
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