Review – Sonic Colors DS

Sonic Colors DS Review
Just how does Dr. Robotnik Eggman have so much money at his disposal? You’d think that the repair bills resulting from his many battles with Sonic the Hedgehog over the years would have put him into bankruptcy by now. Yet time and time again the diabolical Eggman somehow comes up with enough revenue to construct armies of robots, elaborate airship fortresses, and, in the case of Sonic Colors, an interplanetary amusement park.

Did Eggman have a lucrative career thanks to his status as a doctor? Is he independently wealthy? Is he shoulder-deep in credit card debt?

Regardless of his mysteriously renewable sources of capital, Eggman is up to his old tricks – the latest scheme involving the use of said amusement park as a cover in order to capture aliens called Wisps, and utilizing their power to create a mind control beam. In other words, the not-so-good Doctor’s amusement park isn’t quite the family-friendly vacation destination it appears to be. But never one to pass up an opportunity to cause millions of dollars in property damage where Eggman is concerned, Sonic speeds to the rescue yet again to save the Wisps and foil Eggman’s plans.

And so we have the premise of Sonic Colors, which is one of Sonic’s most creative outings in years. Okay, admittedly Sega has dropped Sonic into all kinds of crazy situations via the past few games in the franchise – be it traveling to the era of King Arthur in Sonic and the Black Knight or flirting with lycanthropy in Sonic Unleashed. The difference here, however, is that much like Nintendo showed with Super Mario Galaxy, putting a protagonist into a space setting seems to be a recipe for shaking up ideas.

From that it seems like Sega might as well have called the game “Sonic in Space,” since that pretty much sums up the experience, but Sonic Colors happens to be a perfect title because the game is bursting at the seams with bright, neon visuals.

Furthermore, the game’s stages are some of the wackiest locales Sonic has sped through in quite some time. Whether Sonic is zooming past giant hamburgers, a massive space armada, or submerged temples, Sonic Colors shows no shortage of creativity in the imagination department. The soundtrack is equally vivid, featuring wonderful compositions that tie in nicely with the game’s happy atmosphere and speedy pace. I suppose one could say that Sonic Colors is, indeed, colorful in all respects.

Yet for the praise I can swing toward the nifty backdrops and catchy music, all that color also represent a problem, namely that the DS title was developed in concordance with the Wii game of the same name. And I can’t help feeling that Sonic Colors DS might have been an even better game had it been allowed to develop as its own animal. Now to be fair, Sonic Colors DS is a completely different game in most respects, as the levels in the DS and Wii versions are unique from one another even while sharing elements.

Still I’ve spent the majority of my time wondering what could have been had the latest DS outing of the Hedgehog not been resigned to simply mirroring the console release. Sonic Colors DS is essentially Sonic Rush 3, but with the Sonic Colors theme worked into it. And for the most part this works, and thankfully Sonic Colors DS refrains from including aspects such as the superfluous and boring boating sections from the previous Rush game.

But the core element, the Wisp transformations, doesn’t really meld well with the Rush formula. Sonic Colors features a number of different Wisp aliens that are happy to lend their powers to Sonic, allowing him to transform and take on new abilities. These forms include a laser, a drill, and a rocket, all permitting Sonic to progress past obstacles that prove beyond his normal repertoire of moves. But the Wisp transformations seem wholly unnecessary here, only serving to complicate the gameplay rather than enhance it, and in some instances bring the rush to a grinding halt. The Wisps aren’t deal-breakers like Unleashed’s Werehog fiasco, but it’s clear that Sonic Colors DS would be a better game for focusing on the speed over force that makes the Rush series work on the DS.

The boss battles are also worth a disappointing mention – none of them offer up much of a challenge, and these sections feature some of the clunkiest controls in the entire game. Sonic is designed to speed forward through loops, dips, and dives, and slowing him down to fight bosses never feels quite right.

The only real threat the boss stages ever dish out comes in the form of trying to wrangle control over Sonic, and even then Eggman’s creations don’t pose much of a threat.

One element of the Wii release I do wish Sonic Colors would’ve borrowed more heavily from is the length of the adventure. The worlds in Sonic Colors DS all feature two main stages and a boss battle, which is significantly less when compared to the Wii version. To be fair, the stages in the DS version offer a sizable length of quality-over-quantity, but the game is over far too quickly. There are bonus missions that can be played in each area of the amusement park, but they don’t do much to add to the overall experience.

Between the paltry number of levels and undercooked boss battles, I wonder if more development time could have helped Sonic Colors achieve more than sidekick status to the Wii release.

Despite the shortcomings though, Sonic Colors isn’t a complete misstep, and I hope Sega continues to refine the formula they’ve come up with here. Just like Mario, Sonic seems to excel in a space setting, and it allows for some amazingly imaginative level designs, unlike anything in the series’ previous titles. If Sega were to expand upon the many positive elements within Sonic Colors, they could very well craft the perfect Sonic game. That said, I won’t be surprised if Sonic returns as a vampire in the next outing, but in the meantime I can at least enjoy Sonic Colors for what it is and appreciate how close Sega came to finally getting the series on track.


Developer
Sonic Team, Dimps

Publisher
Sega

System
Nintendo DS

Modes
Singleplayer, Multiplayer

Release Date
November 16, 2010

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

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  • EdEN

    I’ve had fun with the Sonic DS games (except for Chronicles which was a bit boring and repetitive) so I’ll give this one a try next month since I still have to see how I’ll manage to finish all my 2009-2010 purchases in 2011. Maybe not buying any game until december 2011 will help?

  • Ujn Hunter

    Just when I felt like I was lacking some Sugar in my diet today along comes some Sugary review goodness! Too bad it was a review about Sonic… ;)

    • http://www.gamesugar.net Jamie Love

      haha, hey, I reviewed the panty searching penguin game yesterday, cut us some slack :)

      • EdEN

        Sometimes you just can’t please Ujn hahaha.

        Need to get back to writing since I took a week off to spend with my family…

      • Ujn Hunter

        I’m fairly easy to please… Sega just needs to quit making Sonic games and I’m happy. See? ;)

      • EdEN

        They DID give us Valkyria Chronicles so all is forgiven, right?