Sonic Colours review

Review of Sonic Colors video game for the Nintendo DS rated 8 out of 10
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It’s possible that when megalomaniac tyrant and animal slave master Dr Eggman announced he was opening an interplanetary theme park, he might not have been entirely honest about his intentions. He claimed that this was an attempt to turn his life around and make up for his past sins, but Sonic the Hedgehog suspects that something not very nice is up. Given how many times Eggman has tried to crush Sonic to a bloody pulp, I’m not surprised. We’re talking about attempted murder here. Repeatedly. From a man who now wants to open a theme park. This is not typical behaviour.

Teaming up with non-playable sidekick Tails, Sonic hijacks a space elevator to the amusement park and sets about exploring its fun-themed planetoids. It’s not long before he unravels the truth and realises that this isn’t the start of a whole new direction for Eggman’s career, but rather an extension of his reign of criminal terror. An encounter with two of Eggman’s idiotic robot underlings reveals that the whole theme park angle is just a smokescreen for a sinister plot to capture the alien race known as the Wisps and harness their supernatural powers for nefarious purposes. It’s up to Sonic to save his new extraterrestial friends, otherwise Eggman would no doubt kill absolutely everybody.

Sonic Colours on the Nintendo DS is a different kind of game to its Wii counterpart. While its big brother is a 3D/2D hybrid action game, the handheld version follows in the footsteps of Sonic Rush before it, offering an old school style 2D platformer with the occassional 3D sequence or boss battle. The meat of the game is mostly classic Sonic fan comfort food, but that’s not to say it’s lacking in ideas, as Sonic Colours adds a whole new selection of moves to the menu. There’s a wall jump move, a slide and a floor slam joining the old repertoire of spin dashes and homing attacks, and while essentially we’re still just collecting rings, smashing up robot badniks and trying not to fall down gaping holes, this is the freshest Sonic platformer we’ve seen for a long time. The main reason for this is the addition of the Wisp power-ups, collectable throughout the stages.

When Sonic collects a Wisp, the two bond and Sonic adopts his new partner’s powers. The Wisps come in a variety of colours, and each one has a different effect. White Wisps allow Sonic to use a boost power, letting him run on water and follow paths of rings through the air. Cyan turns Sonic into a laser which can bounce around the level. Yellow provides a drilling power, Orange provides vertical boosts and gliding, Red turns the hedgehog into a blaze of fire and Violet, being the strangest of all colours, lets you suck up nearby objects and subsequently increase in size, Katamari-style. The inclusion of the Wisps adds some strange and compelling twists and new approaches to problem solving and progression, greatly enhancing the usual gameplay.

Collect enough rings in a level and you’ll be spirited away to a special stage, which sees you running into the screen down a 3D tube, collecting orbs of specified colours. This mini-game relies on touchscreen controls and is a joy to play. For the hardcore players, each planet will offer a selection of challenges (collect a certain amount of Wisps in a set time, for example) to encourage replay and headaches. There are some tough cookies in this mode that rely on training and highly-developed skills for success. As mentioned earlier, boss battles throw Sonic into an ugly 3D arena. They don’t look great, and play only slightly better, and these bits are probably the most uninteresting sequences in the game.

The competitive multiplayer is unassuming and doesn’t try too hard to do anything, but racing against friends is always fun in this kind of wacky environment. Being a Sonic game, there is of course an extra Time Attack mode. I guess that’s for when you get desperate and can’t afford new games.

Sonic Colours has a lot of spiffing ideas behind it, from the colourful and inspired theme park themed levels to the witty dialogue that plays inbetween levels. There has been no great leap in visual style since Sonic Rush Adventure, so this will lose in a beauty contest with its Wii sibling, and the soundtrack doesn’t have the funky kick of its DS predecessors, but there are elements of Sonic Colours’ design that make leaps and bounds over any other 2D Sonic adventure, even putting the level design of Sonic 4 to shame. Relegating the entire Sonic crew of cling-ons and idiots to cameo appearances and dialogue-only roles was a great idea, flushing out so many of the troubling and tiresome elements of the modern Sonic games and focusing strictly on the satisfying and appealing bits.

This is more of the same, which is the same as it has ever been, but a bigger and bolder leap in the right direction for the series means that Sonic Colours will live on as one of the few post-Sonic 3 highlights in the blue one’s troubled history. With this, the Wii version and Sonic 4 showing us what Sega can do with Sonic if they just concentrate, the future looks good. Sonic Colours receives a bright and cheery 8 out of 10.

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