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Sonic Colors Review


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On 11/16/2010 at 12:09 AM by Jason Ross

A grand space elevator. A theme park in the sky. Giant robots. Planets tethered together. Men shaped like eggs. How could I not love this new Sonic title?
RECOMMENDATION:

For fans of the day stages of Sonic Unleashed and those who enjoyed Sonic Rush. Everyone else can give this one a pass.

Sonic Colors poses a strong argument in response to the question above. A successor to the day stages of Sonic Unleashed in controls and stage design, virtually everything the title offers rides on the waves of mediocrity under the glitz and the glam of gorgeous graphics and diverse stage backgrounds. The gameplay, stage design, special abilities, controls, story, bosses, and enemies leave whole planets worth of expectations to be desired, unfortunately.

The premise is simple: Eggman seems to have turned over a new leaf, and instead of using his engineering prowess for evil, it appears he’s decided it would be more worthwhile to build a giant space theme park. As plot would have it, Eggman isn’t such a great guy after all, as Sonic and Tails quickly stumble upon a pair of his bots trying to abduct a pair of aliens, Wisps, to power his evil theme park and make it do evil things that are made clearer as the game progresses. Unfortunately, most of the story is told through Sonic and Tails' dialog. To illustrate, we have the line “You just missed the BBBE!” For those out of the loop, like Tails, that means “Best Boss Beating Ever.” Sonic Colors is just full of stuff like that!

I must say that while the cutscenes are terribly flat, the stages themselves look great. One planet is made entirely of junk food. Candy, burgers, popcorn, and cake litter the foreground and background of the stage. Giant rockets fly towards Sonic at high speeds in the 3D segments. Red robots stand there and look at Sonic, grasping whisks, staring with intimidation whilst wearing chef hats, waiting for Sonic to just homing attack into them. Eventually, Sonic reaches constructed components in each of the planet’s stages, which, while still showing the sweets in the background, feel generic and unnatural.

Adding to the aesthetics is the Wisps’ homeworld. This planet, with a jazzy, snazzy tune starts Sonic running quickly through a stunning open field, straight into a construction area, with unnatural, inorganic scenery, in contrast to the earlier parts of the stage. Of course, Sonic battles Eggman’s bots, based on the local scenery: Red robots grasping pickaxes, staring with intimidation whilst wearing mining hats, waiting for Sonic to just home in on them. I almost forgot the final world! In it, red robots grasp some kind of mace hammer and wait to be homing attacked... or the Japanese-themed aquarium planet, where red robots hold giant swords and wait to be attacked. Oh, and there’s the first world, where red robots stand still holding “Welcome!” signs and get attacked.

Ok, not every enemy in the game is a red robot grasping a world-based object. On the aquarium stages, there are fish-bots. In other stages, there’s the rare Spiny, which hails from Sonic 2 and fires a bomb at set intervals. In the high-speed 3D segments, there’s slightly more variety beyond red bots, too. There’s Motobugs, who kind of drive down, then just die when Sonic runs into them, as well as a giant bot that chases after Sonic and punches at him brutally. Still, aside from the fish-bots, there aren’t planet/world exclusive enemies, or at least, there aren’t any exclusive enemies that stand out in any meaningful way. Worse, the majority of the bots in the game are described in this review, while the ones left out provide very little color to the title.

Stages, likewise, often don’t contain unique or memorable experiences. When a stage does, it’s typically from something flashy happening in the background or a minor twist of an existing gameplay convention. An entire fleet of ships warp onto the scene, but Sonic just runs by. Sonic rides a deadly roller coaster in a segment entirely too like the rails he grinds on. He homing attacks from asteroid to asteroid just like he shoots from enemy to enemy. Each boss, likewise, has its own unique stage, but unfortunately, of the seven bosses, six come in pairs. That is to say that the last three planetary bosses are variants of the first three.

Colors consists of two main aspects of gameplay: 3D, high-speed Sonic running and 2D, platforming-oriented sections. There are two main types of 3D parts, both of which resemble Sonic Unleashed: Sonic can quick step left and right, akin to changing lanes in a car, to dodge laser beams and motobugs while collecting rings or he can drift around relatively tight turns, also like a car. There’s also what could essentially be considered “Straight line” 3D segments where Sonic might homing attack from one enemy to the other over a large pit, but as the game goes on, aside from the rocket-based candy level and one or two other points, these segments are largely forgettable.

The majority of the game takes place in 2D segments, which do contain some flashy segments where Sonic is out of the player’s control, but for the most part consist of fairly difficult platforming. The difficulty, however, is highly “artificial” in a few senses. For one, Sonic’s jump is incredibly strange and unreliable in Sonic Colors: Partway through the jump, Sonic floats upwards unnaturally. So unnatural is this float, when I demonstrated a jump to Chris, he was under the impression I was double-jumping. When the camera zooms out and Sonic shrinks down to be about two inches tall on my 47” screen (Read: There are segments in this game probably built just for large-screen TVs, it may not play too well on smaller screens), with Sonic’s erratic jump, it’s hard to read where he’ll wind up landing, and thusly, the difficulty of the game’s platforming increases. There is a small double-jump to help compensate, but use of the double jump is completely lost if there’s anything in the direction Sonic is facing that can be homing attacked. In fact, I’ve managed to clear entire portions of what looked to be difficult platforming sections because there were red bots placed sporadically on some of the platforms.

Still, there are 44 single-player stages, and most of them have a decent length, though a few are just a bit too short. Each stage does have five red rings to hunt down and find, many unavailable until specific abilities are unlocked through gameplay. The rings ultimately unlock multiplayer stages and eventually, upon completion of the ring-collection, there’s an extra bonus, but I won’t spoil that here.

Sonic Colors wouldn’t be Sonic Colors without the colors. Colors, as in Wisps, provide Sonic with temporary power-ups. By shaking the Wii Remote or pressing a shoulder button, depending on the controller used, Sonic can activate whatever color/Wisp/ability he currently holds and use whenever desired.

I’d say the Wisps present another mixed bag. On one hand, about half of the abilities are pretty inventive and fun to play as. My particular favorites were the drill, spikes, and cube, which let Sonic drill into the ground, cling and roll around walls, and solidify blue rings (think the P-switch from Super Mario Bros.). The three remaining abilities are frenzy, a rampaging form that eats whatever is in its path and grows larger as it eats; laser, a form that ricochets Sonic off of walls and prisms at high-speeds; hover, which allows Sonic to float in the air slowly and move quickly through lines of rings; and rocket, an ability that transforms Sonic into a rocket and fires him straight into the air.

Some abilities, like spikes and cubes, encourage Sonic to explore the stage, his surroundings, and potentially solve simple puzzles quickly. Others, like hover, typically require Sonic to move on a linear path and forced me to just watch as Sonic flew down a pathway of rings. Rocket was hands down the worst. Often, upon receiving the power-up, the camera refused to pan upward, which means rocketing skyward would be a practice entirely consisting of guesswork. Perhaps what might be most disappointing about the colors is that the extra flare to platforming and stage complexity many add is incredibly limited, as they all have a brief timer and can’t be used again after the timer runs out.

In the end, Sonic Colors comes down to being an inconsistent Sonic sequel with a few bright spots, but many drab splotches. All together, Sonic Colors creates a pretty mediocre picture that will leave fans of Sonic Rush and the daytime stages of Sonic Unleashed happy, but probably won’t interest anyone else, especially fans of the classic Genesis titles or people who wanted a solid evolution of Sonic’s 3D gameplay from the adventure series. The lack of unique or diverse enemies and the basic stage design, including the portions with artificial platforming difficulty, weigh Sonic down, and never quite allow Sonic Colors off the ground to reach its potential.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

Comments

Matt R Previews Editor

11/16/2010 at 12:13 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

'For those out of the loop'

ha ha

Our Take

Jason Ross Senior Staff

11/16/2010 at 12:26 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

Alternate abstract:

"HOOOOOOOOOOOOGS IIIIN SPAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACE!"

Nate Hascup Contributing Writer

11/16/2010 at 04:13 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

Sonic has been out of the loop for a long time. Last time I enjoyed running Sonic through a loop was in Sonic 2.

Anonymous

11/16/2010 at 05:29 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

That score is somehow even lower than a troll's view on things. Though that's probably because the scale is different. Now I worry about X-Play's score.

Anonymous

11/16/2010 at 05:33 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

The fun part is that a lot of people on Sonic Retro, fans of the original Sonic2/3/K like the game a lot.

Nick DiMola Director

11/16/2010 at 09:42 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

To the Anonymous posters: I can tell you that Jason is not just trolling this game. He is pretty well-versed in Sonic and has played most, if not all, of the games in the series.

He went into this really wanting to love the game, and even left E3 super excited about the possibilities of the title. Even after completing it, he refused to believe it turned out as poorly as it did and went back through certain parts again to see what so many critics loved about the game. For the reasons listed in his review, it just didn't click with him.

Honestly, for mega Sonic fans like those on Sonic Retro, I'm guessing they have been starved for a good Sonic game for so long, that something even serviceable looks like gold at this point.

Jason Ross Senior Staff

11/16/2010 at 09:54 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

I noticed that we got picked up by GoNintendo. In case anyone is confused, I say "Artificial Platforming Difficulty," not just "Artificial Platforming."

What I mean by this is that the difficulty doesn't come from good stage design. It comes from bad gameplay mechanics. For instance, there's a segment with rotating platforms over a giant pit. Sonic has to wait for a moving platform on the right side of the screen as a sort of pinwheel of platforms moves clockwise. The camera zooms far out, and on some platforms, there are enemies.

In order to make it to the platform on the right, the player has to jump from rotating platform to rotating platform. Normally, this isn't difficult at all. The addition of the enemies (Notably red bots, again) mean Sonic has to attack those enemies before he can land on their platforms. Due to unreliability of Sonic's standard jump attack, it's very easy to jump into the enemies, get hit, and just fall to your death. Because of the way the homing attack bounces Sonic in the air, and due to the zoomed out camera and slightly touchy air control Sonic has, it's tough to land on the platform after a homing attack. Since Sonic can't face an enemy and do a double jump, it's difficult to get above the platform and do Sonic's downward attack. Eventually, things work out, and Sonic can get to the platform, but the effort to get there is so great not because of stage design but in limitations in the game's engine that the stages weren't designed to compensate for.

That's a bit of a more in-depth example of what I mean by "artificial platforming difficulty."

Anonymous

11/16/2010 at 10:03 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

Artificial platforming difficulty? *Facepalm* I really disagree with this review, but to each its own.

Anonymous

11/16/2010 at 11:05 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

Some people are also so starved of a good Sonic game to admit any Sonic game can actually still be good.

Anonymous

11/16/2010 at 11:41 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

@Nick DiMola

Sounds like you know nothing about Sonic Retro's community. :P

Nick DiMola Director

11/16/2010 at 01:06 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

No, I can't say I do. I didn't intend to offend anyone there, but my point was, if you haven't had a good game in a series you have an attachment to in a long time, it's easy to overlook flaws in a decent game.

It doesn't mean you can't judge a good game from a bad one, it just means that you might be apologetic at this point. Maybe that's not the case at Sonic Retro, but it is a reasonable assumption to make.

For the record, I have not played Sonic Colors since E3. I really enjoyed it there, so I am curious to try out the finished product, regardless of what Jason's review says. I too love the old Sonic games, so I desperately want Colors to be a great game and see Sonic returned to his former glory.

Matt McLennan Contributing Writer

11/17/2010 at 01:16 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

People seem to easily forget that none of the original major players that made Sonic great in the Genesis days are long gone from Sonic Team.

Though this comment is coming from someone who thought Sonic and the Black Knight was pretty fun, despite being flawed. Yet how this game is considered terrible yet Sonic and the Secret Rings is considered 'better' continues to astound me to this day.

I can't get over it. I just can't.

Jason Ross Senior Staff

11/17/2010 at 01:28 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

I couldn't get all the way through Sonic and the Secret Rings. I wanted to play Sonic and the Black Knight before I wrote the review, just to see if any gameplay elements carried over, but after playing a bit of Unleashed, I could see that the game directly relates to it.

Anyway, yeah, my impressions of Sonic and the Black Knight will likely appear on the forums, but from what I've read about it, it does sound to be better than Sonic and the Secret Rings.

Edit: Also, browsing Sonic Retro, it looks like a lot of my sentiments mirror what the folks there are now saying. I'm not claiming to know all that much about their community, but am just saying some of those folks seem to have some issues with the game, too.

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