Sonic Colors Review

Sonic Colors [Available only on Wii]
ESRB Rating: E
Players: 1-2
Genre: Action
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sonic Team
Release Date: November 17, 2010

Parent Talk: Another holiday platformer that’s appropriate for gamers of all ages. A perfectly good choice for the kids if they can handle the difficulty spikes.

The Great:

+ Visual punch. The aesthetic thrill ride is far and away the greatest thing about the blue hedgehog’s latest adventure. Speeding at hundreds of miles an hour through environments that are packed with activity — enemies whizz in and out, environmental features are crashing down around you — is truly invigorating, and the chaotic action is backed by a solid graphics engine. Each level is alive with colour and fabulous special effects, and there’s so much going on that it’s difficult to take it all in at once.

+ Forward momentum. The game is at its best when you’re scorching forward at a blazing speed, racing up and down loop-de-loops, bouncing off trampolines, and leaving enemies in the dust. The sections where you have room to move side to side, dodging debris and collecting rings are fun (that is, in the areas where movement is allocated to pressing left and right on the d-pad — not so much in the areas where you run freely and wrestle with stiff controls). The thrill of speed is in full force here.

The Good:

+ Epic boss fights. If there’s one thing that Colors has nailed down, it’s the crazy boss encounters. At the end of every area is a climactic battle against one of Dr. Eggman’s crazy robots, and all of these encounters are enjoyable. You’ll run orbits around a gargantuan Gundam-reject , take down an enormous aircraft by dodging canon-fire to strike weakpoints (think: Super Mario Bros. 3 airship levels), chase a starship down a psychedelic roadway in space, and more before you score a date with Eggman himself.

+ Multiple routes. As is customary in Sonic games, there are dozens of different ways to complete each level. The best players will utilize hard to reach shortcuts to increase completion times but there’s also a fair bit of leeway allotted for less experienced players. For instance, if your reactions aren’t quite up to the test during the speedier sections and you fall off the edge, there’s often one or two lower tiers allowing players to continue the level (albeit with finishing with slower times, which will affect ranking). It lends to the game’s longevity, as it will take several playthroughs to see everything that a particular level has to offer.

+ Replay value. For those who stick with it, Sonic Colors offers a solid chunk of playtime. A single run through the campaign will take most people around seven to ten hours to complete, but there’s plenty more in store for players after putting an end to Eggman’s evil plans. Rank perfection, time trials, and completion of Dr. Eggman’s Sonic-sim challenge levels await.

+ Wisps. These little guys are power-ups that can be collected in each stage, each kind giving Sonic a different power. The ability to forward in a level like a laser, to drill through soft surfaces, to fly, to shoot up in the air like a rocket, and other Wisp powers are present in the game. They’re a bit under-utilized, and some are not so exciting to use, but they’re a welcome addition to the game nonetheless.

+ Cool stages. The levels in Sweet Mountain are among the most compelling. You’ll be running through mounds of popcorn that fly up into the air as you sail through, scaling giant hamburgers, and ricocheting off of lollipops on your journey to the finish line. All the while, you’re treated to a backdrop filled with smartie-dispensing capsules, donuts, and all other sorts of tasty treats. Another area features futuristic runways that disappear behind you just as quickly as they appear in front of you, and later stages will have Sonic running down asteroid belts, jumping from one space rock to the next. Have no doubts about it, each area is chock full of imagination.

The Bad:

– Bad level design. As cool as the concepts are for the levels in Sonic Colors, more often than not they fall apart in practice. It’s a shame because there are so many touches of brilliance, including a handful of stages that show the game’s true potential. Act 1 of Planet Wisp is a great example of a Sonic level coming together perfectly. If only there were more like it. There are so many design issues with some of the stages, from pacing to the occasional bore-fest to the constant stream of sudden pitfalls that set players up for countless trial-and-error deaths instead of a realistic challenge. There is some truly fantastic design work smattered throughout the game, but it’s unfortunately a mixed bag of satisfaction and frustration due to cheap death traps, sparse use of checkpoints in difficult later stages, and the lack of cohesion with Sonic’s control mechanics.

– Sonic is best in 2D, right? Not necessarily. One of the central themes in Colors is switching from a 3D perspective to a 2D perspective. The problem is that the controls were designed with a three-dimensional, behind-the-back perspective in mind. The jumping mechanics simply aren’t cut out for the precise platforming that take the focus in the 2D areas.

– Let’s emphasize this: yes, the jumping is bad. Sonic has always had a more ‘floaty’ jump than most other platforming heroes, but here it’s sluggish, unresponsive, and imprecise. The mechanics are so stiff that it’s an absolute chore to land precarious jumps. Any area that requires precise platforming is disastrously frustrating. Furthermore, Sonic’s aerial homing attack will hang you out to dry on more than one occasion, causing extreme irritation in some of the later levels. You will jump to your death over and over, regardless of your skill level or how carefully you try to line up jumps, and it will not be fun. I promise you this.

– Unresponsive controls. It doesn’t matter a whole lot which controller option you choose, as both are pretty poor, but I recommend the Classic Controller over the Wiimote (seems that opinions are quite varied on this, so it’s clearly a matter of personal preference). In addition to the aforementioned jumping issues, trying to move Sonic left and right while still pushing forward to keep him moving is not a smooth process in the least. In designated areas, a double tap of the control pad will shift Sonic to the left or right, which is relatively intuitive (using the left and right triggers of the Classic Controller for this function in Sonic Unleashed was a superior method, though). However, outside of these areas you’ll find yourself struggling to make even slight directional adjustments. Effectively collecting rings and dodging enemies is far more difficult than it should be, and even more puzzling is that Sonic controlled more responsively over ten years ago in his first jaunt on the Dreamcast. There are extra functions which are helpful in certain situations (for example, the ability to ‘drift’ around corners, which sort of works), but basic movement is not up to par. Why has play control deteriorated over time? One would think it should be vastly improved by now.

– Are you really in control? Because it doesn’t feel like it for much of the game. Ironically, the places in the game where you have the most control are the least enjoyable due to the bad controller layout, horrid jumping mechanics, and so on.

– Stop talking, please. Be happy that Sega made every cutscene in the game skippable, because I can’t think of many that didn’t grate my nerves. I usually have a good sense of appreciation for storytelling directed at children, but Colors is so reliant on slapstick humour and lame jokes that you’ll be hard pressed not to hit the skip button every time Sonic opens his mouth. Some may enjoy the goofy story and the new voice cast, but I personally don’t find the performances much better off than before. Tails’ voiceover has certainly been improved, but Sonic’s cool-factor is strangled to death throughout the game by bad lines. Yes, the in-your-face radicalness of his character was worn thin in recent years, but scratching that persona entirely and subbing in a complete moron was not the best answer.

– Co-op. ‘Co-operating’ in this game is an impossibility, and Sonic Team’s weak attempt at it is hardly worth mentioning. It sucks. Stay far away.

The Lowdown:

As a huge fan of Sonic games (regardless of their terrible quality in recent years I admit with a degree of embarrassment), it’s difficult to take a concrete stance on Colors. Yes, it’s a heck of a lot better than recent debacles like Black Knight and the Sonic the Hedgehog reboot for PS3/360, but that’s not saying much. I’ve played every 3D game our favourite hedgehog has starred in since he hit the Dreamcast over ten years ago, and while Colors is much better than the bulk of Sonic’s outings in the past five years, it’s not the ‘rise to grace’ that a lot of reviews on the net are claiming. From my experience, the 3D design peaked with Sonic Adventure 2 (in reference to the levels featuring Sonic and Shadow, not the treasure hunting/run-and-gun stages starring supporting characters), saw a number of pleasing refinements in Sonic Heroes, and has been coasting a downward slope ever since.

In conclusion, if you’re a hardcore Sonic fan that can handle the issues that have plagued the series since its transition into three-dimensions, you’ll enjoy what the game has to offer. While flawed, Colors sparks a glimmer of hope in Sonic’s murky career. The game pulls the overall franchise quality up a notch, but is simultaneously bogged down by level design issues and control mechanics that are somehow still less intuitive than in Heroes and the Adventure games. For the most part I really enjoyed the game despite its many shortcomings, and so will other Sonic aficionados, but that doesn’t excuse the sloppiness. If you’re not a diehard fan, try it before you buy it.

13 thoughts on “Sonic Colors Review”

  1. Great review, Charles. I like how straight-forward you are here, no sugar-coating or downplaying of obvious flaws in the pig picture. Very detailed analysis. Sonic fans tend to be overly critical, and rightfully so since the series hasn’t been the same since the Genesis. I’ve been pissed off that some people are dissing Sonic 4 which is everything fans wanted, but with Colors it’s a different story. It’s unfortunate and strange that these design flaws exist since the director supposedly wanted to gear this installment to younger fans. Was really looking forward to this because of the glowing reviews, but now I’m extremely skeptical. The DS counterpart has been received just as well on the other hand, and it obviously takes a lot from the Sonic Rush series due to the same developer. Perhaps I should check that one out first before jumping into the Wii version. I was just really looking forward to the latter.

  2. Great review there Charles. I’ve skipped all Sonic games since Sonic Adventure 2. The last one I picked up was Sonic 4, and I’ve really been enjoying that one. If it weren’t for the nonstop flood of games I have to review, I’d continue with it. I only have another two levels to go O_O Have you tried that one yet? If not, get to it!

  3. I spent over 60 hours in Sonic Adventure 2: Battle for the Gamecube for some reason. The Sonic/Shadow stages were awesome. So I was mildly interested in this new game, but after reading this, I think this won’t apply to me as I don’t consider myself a hardcore Sonic fan.

  4. I really loved Sonic Adventure 2 for the Dreamcast and GCN, and Sonic Heroes was a surprisingly fun game, I thought it was great. But I’ve skipped all of the 3D ones since then, and Sonic Colors and piqued my interest–it looks surprisingly good. I’m glad your review gave me some more perspective on it, because it seemed like other reviews had heaped on the praise (especially Nintendo Power, but they also gave Shadow an 8, so….yeah). I really liked Sonic the Hedgehog 4 despite its flaws, so maybe this is the year Sonic breaks the cycle of bad games.

    I’ll probably get Sonic Colors sometime down the road though, it seems fun. :)

  5. @ Ahmed: While the game is definitely designed with younger fans in mind, kinds are going to struggle with the cheap deaths and bad controls. Of the Wii’s holiday lineup that I’ve played thus far, it’s much easier to recommend PokePark for kids. I’ve heard a lot of great things about Sonic Colors DS, so maybe that one is a better option.

    @ Jarrod: I actually haven’t played it yet, but will soon.

    @ Steve: It’s true, those levels were truly awesome. City Escape is the best level I’ve played in any Sonic game ever, 2D or 3D.

    @ Tim: I have no idea what Nintendo Power is doing when they write these reviews. I reviewed Shadow the Hedgehog back in the day too, and it was horrible.

    1. Unlike everyone else, I kinda hated Sonic Heroes for some reason. Couldn’t get into it at all. Like Steven though, Sonic Adventure 2 Battle for the GameCube was really addicting. That’s the last and only 3D Sonic game I enjoyed. Sonic and the Secret Rings was a close second much to my surprise.

  6. I’m grateful for the fresh and honest opinion. This review definitely changes my viewpoint. For me, the best 3-d Sonic game was Heroes, though I liked Adventure 2 quite a bit. After Heroes, I played a little bit of Sonic Unleashed and that was it for 3-d Sonic.

    I think I’ll stick to the 2-d Sonic games for now. I have such a huge backlog of them for DS and GBA.

    Your review pushed Sonic Colors to the back of my “games to buy” queue–Epic Mickey is looking more appealing all of a sudden.

    1. Welcome to the site, man! You should comment more. Good stuff. I’m also looking forward to Epic Mickey more now, even though I know that critics will be harsh on it. The camera system has been the biggest complaint thus far.

  7. @Ahmed Mosly: Ahmed, I agree with you on that one. Sonic Heroes didn’t click with me either (I think it was the three-character swapping mechanic that I didn’t care for), but they did refine the controls and even improve the sense of speed significantly. Like I said in the review, though, as far as its Sonic/Shadow levels go, Sonic Adventure 2 was the peak in my opinion. Still had its fair share of issues, but the levels flowed nicely, the jumping was solid, and maneuvering while running was a breeze.

    I like what Secret Rings did with the on-rails approach. I found that there were still issues with the responsiveness of the motion controls, but it felt great being able to shift Sonic around while running more easily.

  8. @colortvgame:

    I’m glad this review helped you with your game-purchasing decisions for the holiday season. ;] Stick with 2D Sonic, and definitely put your money on Epic Mickey and Donkey Kong Country Returns instead of Colors.

  9. Good review man, and there are people looking forward to Epic Mickey is which is nice to hear. Even tho after I played Mickey at the E3 I was not really all that impressed with the game.

    Maybe I just need more time with it, but I did not really enjoy what I saw and played myself. The intro was awesome tho lol

  10. @Timothy Magana:

    Can’t vouch wholeheartedly for Mickey since I haven’t played it yet, but it definitely looks promising. DKCR is truly top quality, though. Retro did a fantastic job with the franchise.

  11. @Charles Sharam:

    I bought DKCR on launch, but my Wii is currently unavailable and has been for the past few months. So the game is just sitting there in shrink wrap, mocking me because I can’t play it. :(

    All I have for the time being are my portables. That should change reasonably soon, and then I will have a nice, hearty session of DKCR (followed by another, and then another).

    I’m also considering spending my money on The Sly Collection for PS3 instead of Epic Mickey. Decisions, decisions! :)

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