December 12, 2010

Review – Sonic Colors

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 2:06 pm

Sonic Colors Wii
Rose tinted retina make the Sega of my youth an experimental laboratory, a torrid love affair of success and failure, never short on wonder by the means in which releases explored the boundaries of evolving genre templates. I’m entirely uncertain whether such pretty words apply here, whether Sonic Team’s latest attempt to put the hedgehog on track has tapped the original spirit of the endeavor, or if the law of averages has inevitably produced a title better than those released since the demise of the Dreamcast.

It’s ever tempting to suggest that the demise of the hardware was responsible for the continual release of the Sonic missteps we’ve suffered with, but that would be the real red nostalgia talking. From the beginning, Sonic has struggled to run outside the lines that structure the platformer, while awkwardly seeking to incorporate elements of that genre even while fighting to escape it – the shift into three dimensions simply made the conflict more visible, and often frustrating.

During a year when Sega seeks to appease fans with a classic revisit of the series’ roots via Sonic The Hedgehog Episode 4, Sonic Colors continues the quest for a solution to that long running problem. It’s as polarizing as ever, but Sonic Colors hits upon the reason we continue playing through a conflicted franchise, reminding us that when Sonic finds his groove, the experience can reach heights worth all the heartache.

Sonic Colors Wii
On the list of most aptly named releases of 2010, Sonic’s outing on the Wii doesn’t disappoint. The blue blur runs through a world of glittering chaos, of Vegas flavored extravagance that maintains a detailed sense of structure and order even as the environment melts into incomprehensible sensory stew.

Seeking to unravel Eggman’s latest plot, Sonic and Tails arrive at an amusement park made up of worlds built on Candy, spatial anomalies, under water structures, and a slew of more bizarre constructions that challenge description. Any familiar minimalism inherent to Wii releases fades to thematic environments bursting with robotic enemies, but also brightly lit oddities, as if capitalism exploded inside the disc and the carnage painted every inch of the roller coaster ride that commences after pressing the start button.

You’d think the temptation to stop and take it in is like slamming on the breaks of a car to catch the passing scenery, and yet the game possesses a measured sense of its spaces, areas meant for momentum provide a view that doesn’t lessen when stopped, the details are still there when the breaks are on – however the emphasis is on momentum, and stopping to analyze and dissect the pieces would miss the forest for the trees.

Sonic Colors Wii
There are times when sonic whips across the screen, able to quickly dispatch enemies and grab hooks to ascend to other levels, where the game finds a groove worth enduring the hassles of digging through a chaotic game structure. Maintaining the momentum convinces a feeling so positive that the imperative becomes fighting to keep Sonic in motion, mostly encouraged but sometimes hitched with those inevitable and awkward platform sections that thankfully litter this release far less than previous titles. Sonic gets his groove back when the player is encouraged and enabled to let go, to stop obsessing over collecting items and comprehending every inch of each stage on a first pass.

Once I learned to let go, the game offered chaotic gold, levels meticulously designed to convince me that I was always taking the right path despite the knowledge that there were numerous roads available.

The problem as always is the aforementioned stoppages that occur as the design dips into platforming distractions. Sonic Team has worked to split up this division, most often basing stages on short bouts of puzzle like platforming, and the speed racing I’m waving a flag for here, so that it often feels like a case of choosing one or the other by stage, with speed taking the priority. There are crossover moments, and the game is a continual experiment trying to resolve what exactly a Sonic game should be to that end. But nothing is worse than being taken in by the momentum only to suddenly stop at some elementary puzzle that costs the connection the game had been forming up to that point.

Sonic Colors Wii
There are times where I want to stop playing, when a jumping challenge suddenly demands a level of patience requiring a Monk. Anytime Sonic becomes dependent on an object, such as a moving platform to provide his ride, the game suffers.

Sonic Team is still digging for a way to justify the platforming here, the answer this time around a series of color-coded aliens Sonic encounters and seeks to save from Eggman. These aliens absorb into Sonic to offer new powers – Sonic can become faster, blast into the air like a rocket to reach new areas, stick to surfaces to crawl to new areas, and even transform into a purple menace with a hunger for metal enemies. Mentioning that another of these aliens gives Sonic the power to turn into a laser beam in order to reach new areas, you’re probably noticing that the bulk of these powers necessitate the platforming breaks previously mentioned. They create a toybox within the game, a series of powers to experiment with for a time – the first time I gained the ability to drill through the ground to reach new spaces was definitely a treat. But it isn’t long before said abilities become a distraction from the prime draw of the title.

It’s not that these can’t be fun, turning into a giant purple beast that grows as it consumes enemies has to be worth something, and these probably offer the best solution to the platforming areas, but this is still an attempt to make the platforming better, which would be fine if the speedier parts of the game weren’t finding greater ways of letting the hedgehog loose to discover his potential without them.

Sonic Colors Wii
I think we find our way back to questioning whether we’d play an endless series of race courses if offered them. There are times when you could question whether you’re even playing this game during those points, simply tapping a button to jump or duck obstacles as Sonic runs through the spectacle of stages. Sonic Colors is digging for more of a connection during these sequences however, offering players button prompts during some of that play, challenging us to ask whether this is a simplistic solution, or a different way of playing – where the simplicity is allowing players to really absorb the entirety of what’s occurring onscreen.

I can’t escape the sensation that this game is most successful during sequences where sonic runs flat out and players can switch from side to side to dodge attacks, fall to lower levels, raise again, and eventually fight a ship along a track where Sonic’s speed attacks are the weapon of choice.

In the end, it boils down to whether players are willing to dig through some chaotic presentation and structure to discover the core that I’m going to admit finding value in.

Surprising as it may be, Sonic Colors finds a groove that feels unique while familiar, entirely overdue whether it is intentional or accidental – something from a dream of speed, color, and sound, dancing to the fingers holding a sideways WiiMote.

Again, it’s simply a case of letting go of old habits, strapping in for this experiment to discover a great relationship of the sensory and tactile powering the core of this game.

Sonic Team


Nintendo Wii

Singleplayer, Multiplayer

Release Date
November 16, 2010

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review


  1. Is it a better investment than Sonic 4 Episode 1?

    Comment by EdEN — December 13, 2010 @ 5:25 pm

  2. Well, dramatic price difference of course, but I would much rather play through the bits and pieces of Sonic Colors that I’ve been digging on than what Sonic 4 has offered so far.

    Comment by Jamie Love — December 13, 2010 @ 5:46 pm

  3. Ok, will take that into consideration once I can make either purchase.

    Comment by EdEN — December 13, 2010 @ 6:47 pm

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