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Saturday, 21 May, 2011 12:17 PM
'Sonic Colors' almost gets it right for the Nintendo Wii
Sonic Colors for the Wii is Sega’s latest entry for the blue hedgehog. The Sonic Team over the years have struggled greatly to get Sonic out of the side scrolling genre for a little over a decade now with little success and even less overall progress. Fans of the series have been clamoring for Sonic to return to his roots of side scrolling gameplay after being trounced with terrible Sonic game after terrible Sonic game attempting to make a 3D plane work.
Sonic Colors is less of a dramatic foray back into the 2D realm and more of a compromise advocating both. Clearly the Sonic Team wants to get it right for once, perhaps jealous of the Mario squad who got 3D right the first time and has never looked back, or some kind of personal score to settle for themselves. In any event this stubbornness will either lead to the eventual downfall of Sega’s mascot, or his rise from the ashes if they ever manage to get it right. Sonic Colors….almost gets it right.
There has never really been a reason to care about a plot in a “mascot” game like Sonic or Mario or Crash Bandicoot, and there still isn’t. Sonic Colors mediocre plot is Dr. Robotnik Eggman has created a very large space amusement park and invited Sonic as seemingly its only guest. Sonic and Tales are immediately suspicious and play it very tongue and cheek to the audience breaking the fourth wall and giving us a constant wink wink we know he’s up to no good. Eggman insists he’s turned over a new leaf but of course in the very next few scenes we see what his nefarious scheme is. He’s out to capture these alien creatures that generate their own source of mystical power. He wants to use that power to power his super weapon thingie…and Soinic has to stop him.
That’s really it, nothing special here. However, the cutscenes in the game are quite funny. Some of the humor actually made me laugh a lot, and even one joke in particular had me pausing for a moment to catch my breath. Maybe I set my standards really low while playing, and humor is a hard thing to review as it strikes a different cord with everyone, but I found parts of this game genuinely funny. Then there were some jokes that were so awful near the end I wondered if perhaps I was just slap happy while playing the earlier parts of the game making me think it was really funny…I’ll have to revisit that.
The Wii is truly showing its age offering graphics comparable to the previous generation of the Nintendo Gamecube. It’s not often we go 10 years seeing the same tech without a dramatic jump in graphics, but Nintendo has done this with the Wii. But as far as Wii games go, Sonic Colors doesn’t look half bad, but not the best either. The character model of Sonic doesn’t appear to have changed or improved since his first outing on the Wii with Sonic and the Secret Rings. By comparison Nintendo changed the look of Mario between Galaxy 1 and 2 even if it was ever so slightly, they still made improvements.
The levels themselves are bright and colorful which is nice. The theme park lights up and shines with vibrancy even at the breakneck speeds the game allows, and thankfully with no slowdown in frame rate. It has a very “space” atmosphere to it similar to Mario Galaxy. A lot of the game seems to draw from Mario Galaxy in the looks and sound department. Unfortunately in both areas Sonic Colors falls short by comparison. There is a severe lack of detail in the game. It feels like looking at an N64 game where textures were at a premium and random polygon shapes took over where detail could not. It’s not entirely void of textures, but it feels very lacking in the looks department overall.
The Sonic Team decided to try melding side scrolling with a 3D plane in this iteration. It mostly works and sometimes doesn’t. The best parts I can say about the gameplay is it’s playable at least…whereas recent Sonic games really haven’t been.
The game is broken up into three distinct types of gameplay really. They give us the classic side scrolling, also a behind the camera 3D perspective of Sonic that lets you control his movements fluidly going forward on the screen, and finally retaining the 3D perspective you control Sonic by moving him left or right and he changes “lanes” as it were. I found the third method of gameplay most prevalent in this game which could be good or bad depending.
Since this game has essentially three ways of being played depending on the level, I’ll go over them one by one. The side scrolling aspects of the game are ok, if not possibly the worst aspects of the game sometimes. It depends on the level honestly. Some are designed well with multiple paths and with high speed maintained or the fun boss battles, but other areas simply aren’t well made. Or some are designed well but Sonic’s awful jumping mechanics makes the level atrociously annoying. In the side scrolling view Sonic has what has to be the worst jump arc I have ever used in a game before. It’s floaty and has a momentum factor to it so if you’re jumping and holding right or left you sail past what you were aiming for as Sonic revs up in the air faster than you’d want him to. The safest ways to jump is to not have any initial momentum on the ground before you actually jump. This ensures at least a calculable trajectory that gives you some measure of consistency. It’s still horrid though.
This time around Sonic gets to use those alien creatures as mentioned before to help through the levels. They are stationed in the levels exactly where they need to be used so there’s no pre planning or forethought going into using them. They give him skills such as, turning into a laser beam to bounce to hidden areas, a drill to go underground, a floating balloon thing…, a purple pac-man like guy, a spiny thing that lets you guide Sonic around the tops of areas, a rocket, and a blue cube which transforms blue coins into platforms and platforms into coins. Some of these abilities are available in the other viewpoints but they work best in the side scrolling view.
All the abilities are fun in one way or another but sometimes feel way too present in the later levels. They feel forced in the later stages forcing Sonic to use them throughout the level. This makes the late parts of the game kind of boring as you’re just skill swapping through the whole thing and not really feeling like you’re playing anything at all. An example would be like you use the laser and bounce your way to a rocket which launches you up on a rail that auto-guides to a purple pac man skill and you eat your way to a bouncy thing that launches you up to a spiny where you roll around to a blue cube that forces you to puzzle solve your way to the finish…It’s all very contrived.
3D User Control
I call this view the user control because you can guide Sonic on whatever path you want as mentioned before. This is the least prevalent control and honestly I think it’s only used once or twice. There’s not much to say here at all, it’s just like Sonic you have seen before on the Dreamcast. It doesn’t work well at all and he moves too fast to really plan ahead. It often takes multiple plays just to catch the alternate path you want. Also the alien abilities are just awful in this view. I still haven’t figured out how to aim the laser ability in these sections of the game. It’s downright impossible.
Though you get the least amount of actual control in these sections, they are pretty fun I think. It’s the only time I really feel like Sonic where you go really fast, nothing stops you, and you’re still killing enemies. Sonic runs by himself here and you have the option of speed boosting or slowing down a bit. Changing lanes into enemies kills them and you avoid damage by…changing lanes. So you’re only task in these parts is speeding up or changing lanes, very minimal gameplay here. The only problem with them is they are too frequent and end up overtaking the game. Even the final boss is fought in this control scheme. It gets draining after a while because while it sure feels like Sonic and it gives that sense of speed, it just ceases to feel like a video game anymore.
Sonic lately has been known for really weird off the wall music ranging from rap to heavy metal to orchestral all in the same game. Sonic Colors tones all of that down and uses orchestral and some pop songs. It works really well for the setting, but the orchestral sounds WAY too much like Mario Galaxy. Sometimes the music is borderline plagiarism here. I am a classical music nut so trust me when I say the music is clearly ripping Nintendo off. That’s not a bad thing for the game because it sounds great just like Galaxy did; it’s just a bit of a turn off for me and only makes me want to hear Galaxy tracks unedited by Sega more.
The game has about 44 levels and takes around 6 hours to beat. It is very short. There are minor multiple paths in levels, some collectables to get, and some minor things to unlock. All said you could probably eek out 20 hours with this game having done everything, and that’s only if you’re actually enjoying it.
If you are a Sonic fan don’t hesitate as this is pretty much the best outing he has had in years. I still wouldn’t pay the full $50 for it (and I didn’t) so if you can nab it for $25 or under I would say it’s worth it. Otherwise stick with Mario if you are looking for the superior game.
Release Date: November 16, 2010 / Platform: Nintendo Wii / Rated: Everyone
Photo credit: Nintendo / Sega of America Inc.
Sonic Colors box art
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