Sonic Colors

Sonic Colors
Sonic Colors Cover
Platforms Wii, Nintendo DS
Genre 3-D Sonic Experiment #9
MtAMinutes to Action 0
Keep Playing? I guess so
Buy from Amazon

Hi everybody. My name is Nate, and I'm a disgruntled Sonic fan.

I was five years old when my dad brought home a Sega Genesis with Sonic the Hedgehog 2. That game was like catnip to me: its lightning speed, vibrant colors, and catchy soundtrack were all I could think about through elementary school. The only reason I put down Sonic 2 for good was my migration to its sequel duo, Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Catnip was now crack: I was hooked for life. I loved the game then, but it wasn't until years later that I realized the genius of S3&K. The sprawling, interconnected stage designs were like races on the playground: your goal was to get from one end to the other, but you could do so in dozens of unique ways. I still play the game annually, and even after so many trips from the beach of Angel Island to the Death Egg in outer space, I can still find new secrets by experimenting with the physics and stage design in ways I hadn't thought of before.

Fast forward to the launch of the Dreamcast, when Sonic Adventure started a new era for for the blue blur. New playable characters, new gameplay modes, cutscenes and spoken dialogue...all in 3-D, of course. And while the addition of a dimension provided the potential for even more spacious stages, the final product was a far more restricted affair than its 2-D predecessors. Gone were the intermingling tunnels and paths, replaced by a string of land strips that were suspended over an endless chasm. I dug the thrilling dashes through those corridors for a while, but I now I only realize how many flaws I overlooked in those days when I replay Sonic Adventure, its sequel, and its successors.

It's been over a decade since the franchise changed course, and while Sega recently made an attempt to recapture the Genesis style, I just don't see the same brilliance in Sonic the Hedgehog 4 that made its prequels so timeless. On the other hand, 3-D Sonic's roller coaster runs have been tampered with throughout the years -- rarely for the better -- and the most recent experiment is Sonic Colors. It sure doesn't appear to be what I want from a Sonic game, but I'll admit that it looks like a huge improvement over the rest of the Adventure-spawn. I decided to give it a chance, something I swore I wouldn't do after Sonic's Arabian Nights-inspired adventure broke the camel's back. Was my change of heart warranted, or am I simply a glutton for punishment?

There are apparently a number of control options to use in this game. I'm going with the Gamecube controller for now.

Minute by Minute

(minutes are in bold)

00 - New game. Tropical Resort, Act 1. And we're playing! Sonic is in a 3-D environment, like Sonic Adventure. Sonic can jump with A, double jump, and slide with X.

01 - Controls feel pretty loose...here's hoping there's not a lot of precision needed. Holding the B button boosts Sonic to full speed, absorbs nearby rings, and takes out enemies.

02 - Pressing the A button quickly makes Sonic do a quick hop, like a hurdler. If a target icon appears on an enemy or object, Sonic can use a homing attack.

Sonic Colors Welcome

03 - Music's a pretty decent mishmash of surfer rock and quick-paced techno. I guess I'm at some sort of theme park, with bright carinval colors everywhere and what appear to be rides in the background. I found a big red ring, wonder if that's important?

04 - Now I'm grinding down a rail on Sonic's shoes. I have to avoid objects and grab rings by switching between the three parallel rails here. At the end of the railing, Sonic launches off and goes into slow motion...I'm prompted to hit the A button several times to keep him rising in the air. How gimmicky.

05 - I've attacked some kind of machine...it's the end-of-level capsule full of captured animals! A bunch of little floating ghost(?) dudes pop out, and an orchestral fanfare plays as my level score is calculated. Got a C rank.

06 - Tropical Resort, Act 2. I can faintly hear Dr. Eggman (or Robotnik or whatever) making public address announcements in the background. This level is set up as a sidescroller right now. Sonic's signature Spin Dash move from Sonic 2 is missing. Can't roll into a ball, either.

07 - Jumping up some bouncy springs on the wall now. I've found some kind of glowing stick in the ground, but nothing I do seems to affect it. The game switches back to 3-D in a flash, but it's hard to see what's coming at me with the game's neon palette dazzling my eyes. I trip over a small edge in the floor. Didn't see it coming. I guess I was supposed to hurdle that.

08 - A huge trail of enemies stretches into the distance. I guess I could boost through here, but my boost meter is empty. I'll just run past them...

09 - And that's the end of the stage! Another C rank. Cutscene: Dr. Eggman welcomes the public to his interstellar amusement park over the public address system. Sonic and Tails are on the scene, investigating the legitimacy of a floating space amusement park surrounded by planets bound by enormous chains.

10 - Apparently Sonic and Tails snuck into the park. So they're the villains, really! Eggman reminds his amusement park patrons that this theme park has nothing to do with any evil deeds.

11 - Elsewhere, a duo of bumbling robots are trying to round up some those floating ghost creatures. One of them speaks like a pirate, the other is an effeminate guy. An effeminate guy robot. A fem-guy-bot?

12 - Saving data now. And we're at the world map, with planets and satellites to select. One of them is an options satellite, another looks like a Sonic robot. I'll check out the options.

13 - I can switch subtitle language, spoken language (English or Japanese), check online leaderboards, and more.

14 - The Sonic robot planet is a "Sonic Simulator" that has a multiplayer mode. I guess it's like bonus levels? The menu here is presented at an Atari-styled arcade board. I can choose my character (from a variety of different colored Sonics) and change his speed. I choose stage 1-1, and am brought to a sidescrolling level set in some kind of sterile cyberspace. Reminds me of the extra stages from Mirror's Edge.

15 - There's a red orb following me. Hitting the Y button changes Sonic to red and the orb to blue. Not sure what that does. Anyway, the stage is more focused on precision platforming than speed and spectacle. It doesn't quite feel right with the loose controls and floaty physics.

16 - I finish the stage and am shown my score while horrifying chiptune music plays. Back at the menu, I see there's also a 2-player and "1.5-player" option. Not sure what that means.

Sonic Colors Simulator

17 - I go back to the world map and select the middle planet, which is the only one unlocked. This is the Tropical Resort planet, and it has a map screen similar to a Mario game with the first two stages complete. A tutorial says that a Cyan Wisp (one of those ghosts, I guess?) will allow me to use a Laser power. I activated it by pressing Z, but I'm not sure how to use it. Sonic ends up zooming off into the distance in a cyan laser.

18 - I regain control far ahead in the stage and continue on. There seem to be plenty of alternate paths to find in these 3-D stages. A capsule full of white Wisps refills my boost gauge.

19 - Apparently I can stomp the ground by pressing the X button while in the air. Doing so launches Sonic downward very fast and crashes through some boxes.

20 - I've noticed that using the boost function sort of drowns the music out a bit. It's kind of a neat effect. Eggman's announcements over the PA system keep on coming. They're pretty funny, actually.

21 - A switch on the ground reveals some gradual steps to jut out of the wall. The steps return into the wall if I take too long.

22 - A zipline brings me to the goal ring, though I saw another goal ring ahead. Could that be a secret exit? A bunch of Cyan Wisps are seen circling the planet on the world map. Maybe I unlocked them to use in other stages?

23 - Tropical Resort, Act 4. Sidescrolling again. There's some kind of floating robot container that surrenders coins when I climb up to it and hit it with homing attacks. Found an extra life, too.

24 - And...that's the end of the stage. Already? That was fast. Still only got a C rank, though.

25 - Cutscene: Tails is fiddling with some kind of gizmo. Apparently he's trying to cook up a translator so he and Sonic can talk to these Wisp creatures. Apparently they're in danger for some reason. Probably Eggman-related, so Sonic and Tails set off to investigate.

26 - Tropical Resort, Act 5. Sidescrolling again. I've found another Cyan Wisp for the Laser ability...a trajectory trail shows me where I'll zoom to, and if I put it on crystals in the environment, Sonic streaks between them and zooms ahead, destroying any robots in his way.

27 - There are a bunch of targets in this stage. What are they for? No idea. I can destroy them by jumping into them or using the homing attack. I've been finding these big red rings as well; I'm still not sure what they do.

28 - I pass over some pits full of spikes and find the goal ring to end the stage. B rank.

Sonic Colors Laser

29 - Tropical Resort, Act 6. Sidescrolling for now. A caution sign at the bottom of the screen shows up. I guess that signifies that falling means death here?

30 - Stepping on the floating platforms causes them to rotate around each other. This precision platforming really isn't the game's strength. I die trying to get a red coin in a tricky area.

31 - Woops! Hit the wrong button and dashed right off the platform to my death, again. Can't say I'm a fan of the whole string-of-platforms-suspended-over-bottomless-pit level design in modern Sonic games.

32 - Made it to the goal ring. B rank. Back at the world map, the Boss battle is now available. Cutscene: Eggman commands his clumsy robot servants (the ones from earlier) to capture more aliens. Apparently he's going to harness their "Hyper-go-on" power to...do something.

33 - Sonic shows up on the scene and cracks wise. Eggman responds by running away and siccing a giant robot on the hedgehog hero.

34 - The stage is set up like a giant wheel, with the robot's face at the center and a series of platforms rotating around the inside and Sonic on the inside of the rim. I have to jump around the platforms to hit the robot's face while avoiding its enormous arms that smack the sides of the wheel.

35 - It's hard to tell what's going on, so I jump at the boss and homing attack it a few times. Rings start flying out everywhere...and that's it? Guess I took it out already.

36 - Cutscene: Sonic moonwalks back to Tails and his alien friend. Apparently the translator is fixed. After several mistranslations, the duo figure out that the aliens are called Wisps, and that they're being captured by Eggman to use their powers for evil. Sonic heads out to save more aliens.

37 - The incompetent robot duo is cleaning up the pieces of the giant robot destroyed. After remarking how gory and traumatizing this must be from a robot's point of view, they mention an arm is missing. It is shown sticking out of a tube in space, with gas leaking out the crack.

38 - Two more worlds have opened up: Sweet Mountain and Starlight Carnival. Let's try Sweet Mountain.

39 - Sweet Mountain, Act 1. The music is a brassy jazz-rock fusion. And the scenery is filled with giant junk food. Such huge hamburgers...

Sonic Colors Burgers

40 - Plenty of variety between 2-D and 3-D gameplay here. There are transparent capsules here, and I remember seeing them earlier, too. Maybe I have to unlock new Wisp colors for these to fill in? Incentive for returning to earlier levels, I guess.

41 - I've found a Yellow Wisp, which gives Sonic the Drill ability. Since the ground here is made of cake, Sonic can drill through it and access new areas underground. Little pockets of rings and stuff are down here.

42 - Out of curiosity, I decide to see what happens when the Drill power runs out while I'm still underground. Sonic ends up dying. Cause of death: smothered by cake. There are worse ways to die, I suppose.

43 - In this 3-D section, a trail of giant missiles is heading toward me. I have to take the path underneath surface level to avoid getting slammed by warheads as big as blimps.

44 - Busted a machine full of Wisps, and that's the end of the stage. Got a C rank that time.

45 - Sweet Mountain, Act 2. Now I'm heading into the screen, but instead of having full 3-D control, I have three lanes I can switch between to avoid obstacles and grab rings.

46 - I hit a switch ahead in the sidescrolling section, and a series of bad guys appear. It bothers me that the homing attack is the only viable offensive tactic in this game. What happened to all the spin attacks, Sonic?

47 - A zipline appears after taking out all the harmless-looking robots and takes me to the next section. Got another Drill, and I dive into the cake. There are a bunch of other drills chasing after me...and a lot of slowdown for some reason.

48 - Hmm, I must have taken a wrong turn at Albuquerque: I'm back where I was before. Guess I'll head forward instead of taking the drill.

49 - I take a grind rail around a huge sandwich and come to the goal ring. You can hop around while the game calculates your score, and destroying the rank letter and score numbers enough times yields a 1up and some rings. Let's try going back to that other world for now instead of heading to Act 3...

50 - Starlight Carnival, Act 1. Sonic shows up...and is running upside down through space! A neon path sprawls in front of him, carving a narrow lane through the final frontier. I'm not in control, though, this is all automatic.

51 - The path ends abruptly...and I'm dropped into the void of space. Dead. What was I supposed to do there?

52 - Made my way back to where I died...by not touching anything on the controller. Turns out I have to homing attack some unsuspicious geometry floating around to stay alive.

53 - I've found a Blue Wisp ahead, which gives me Cube form. There are blue rings and blue cubes everywhere...the rings are collectable while the cubes are solid. Using the Cube power switches the rings and cubes, kind of like the P Switches in Super Mario World.

54 - This Cube power seems to just be used for light puzzle-platforming sections. Using it in the air plummets Sonic to the ground. Wish I knew that before I used it over a pit of cubes: they turned into rings and I fell through the stratosphere to my death.

55 - Hmm...not sure how to get out of this area. There are blocks all around me, and I'm not sure where to go...

56 - Still trying to figure out how to get out of here...

57 - Turns out this section is actually a path forward from an alternate route in the stage. I backtrack for a few seconds and launch upward toward the right path.

58 - Sonic is free-falling to the ground now. I can move him around and collect rings as he falls, or hold the boost button to fall faster.

59 - One of those magical paths through space appears again, and some kind of beetle robots are cruising along as well. Running into them trips 'em up...sometimes? Sometimes they're destroyed, while other times they'll end up smashing rings out of me. Not sure how that works.

60 - Back in a sidescrolling section, this one with some machines that launch Sonic very high, well above the border of the screen. I decide to waste the rest of my Boost meter, which I've neglected enough to fill entirely. I zoom past plenty of real estate and end up at the goal ring in a flash.

Sonic Colors Where

First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 0. Start a new game, and you're immediately playing. That's the way it should be.

What I liked: Sonic Colors is a lot like the Saturday morning cartoons I liked as a kid: fast-paced and filled with bright neon colors. I guess that's where the name came from. The presentation as a whole is surprisingly good, thanks to the little things: using the speed boost blurs the screen and puts a muted filter on the music, character animations and interactions in cutscenes are far better than what I've come to expect from the series, and Eggman's humorous public addresses that play throughout the experience put a smile on my face.

What I didn't like: The individual elements of the game just don't get along together. The speed-focused physics and level design leave clumsy controls for the slower platforming sections. It's also tough to see the foreground elements as they whiz by in front of such vibrant and detailed backgrounds. Finally, the screen also zooms out very far during the precision platforming sections, making it difficult to see important little details like where Sonic is and where danger is.

Video: If you stop and look around, the grand amusement park sights are among the top visual achievements on Wii. There was a bout or two of slowdown in that first hour, but the game moves so fast and displays so much that I'm surprised it didn't happen more often. My one complaint is that it's all so fast and bright that it kind of hurt my unblinking eyes after a while.

Audio: For the first time since Sonic started speaking on the Dreamcast, I haven't been tempted to hit the mute button yet. The voice work gets a huge upgrade from past games. Up-tempo music matches the game's pace while the genre-bending tracks complement their corresponding locations well. I just hope I never have to hear that cheesy theme song from the intro FMV ever again.

Story: Thank goodness they dropped the melodrama and sci-fi tropes that were forced onto fans for a decade. Sonic's snappy wisecracks and the villainous ineptitude of Dr. Eggman and his cronies will will be a hit with the kids...and I'll admit that I am mostly enjoying them as well.

Gameplay: Sonic Adventure started the trend of smashing too many gameplay types into one package, and while Sonic Colors cuts the playable cast to one, it still feels at times like a strange brew. The precision platforming doesn't play nice with speed-inclined controls, the frequent switching from 2-D sidescrolling to 3-D tunnels can be jarring, and the coolest parts of the game don't involve the player's input at all. Nothing in the game is broken, but it's far from ideal.

Challenge: It seems the hedgehog's natural predator is the bottomless pit. Enemy robots serve no purpose other than to provide targets for the homing attack, and environmental hazards like spikes are rare. Unfortunately, the game's velocity and level layouts provide for plenty of opportunities to blindly fly off solid ground to an unexpected and irritating death.

Pacing: Thankfully, the cutscenes of Sonic and friends are only sprinkled into the game after every three or four stages. As for the gameplay itself, the frequent changes in perspective and addition of gimmicks over time ensure that the journey through Eggman's outer space amusement park feels fresh (if unfocused) throughout. Each Act is bite-sized as well, lasting between sixty seconds and five minutes.

Fun Factor: The loose controls and unclear physics are definitely immersion breakers, but going really really fast is still a pretty good time. Everything peripheral to the gameplay is enjoyable, as well.

Would I keep playing? I guess so. The restrictive, roller coaster design of modern Sonic games is definitely not how I'd hoped the Genesis classics would evolve into 3-D, but Sonic Colors at least seems to have trimmed most of the unnecessary fat from its hodgepodge predecessors. I'll rescue some more aliens before I think about ejecting the disc.

Sonic Colors Water

Words from Beyond the First Hour: Dr. Eggman's diabolical scheme to create the best amusement park in the galaxy has been foiled. Sonic and Tails have saved the day through their selfless acts of trespassing and vandalism.

Sega first got into trouble with the Sonic franchise by trying to do too many things in one game. While the extra characters and their peripheral gameplay modes have been dropped, Sonic himself is still juggling too many dissociative identities in Sonic Colors: 3-D speedster, 3-D platformer, 2-D speedster, 2-D platformer, lane-switching obstacle dodger, and of course the seven different Wisp abilities that change up gameplay further. It would be hard to pull off so many ideas in any circumstances, and with some fundamental flaws in the physics system and stage design carrying over from predecessor Sonic Unleashed, none of the pieces that make up the whole are quite adequate.

That's not to say Sonic Colors is an awful video game, as only the game half of it really suffers. Aesthetically, it's fantastic. The series has never looked better, with striking views of grassy fields, giant doughnuts, and dragon roller coasters in space providing the perfect backdrop for some thrilling and lighthearted action. There are even some genuinely entertaining cutscenes after every few Acts, and they're a great way to wash down the shortcomings of the core gameplay.

On a system bursting at the seams with great platformers, this game's a tough recommendation. There are so many better titles in the genre on Wii that are more deserving of your cash. Sonic Colors is merely a refinement of what I consider to be a flawed pretender to my favorite classics, but fans of recent Sonic outings will at least find plenty of content to enjoy. The 36 story stages are full of hidden red rings to find, 21 Sonic Simulator stages can be played alone or with a friend, and there are plenty of alternate paths to experiment with when looking for the fastest route through each stage. Kids will love the antics of Sonic and pals, and their parents won't be too annoyed with the talking critters, either. Those expecting the next great platformer or a Sonic title like the classics will be disappointed. For the curious, a rental is the way to go.

Sonic Colors Zoooooom

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