Now that I have a Wii U (you can read my first impressions here) I can finally catch up on some of the Wii titles I've missed over the past 7 years. On the top of my list was Sonic Colors, a 2010 release that never found it's way to my beloved Xbox 360. I knew this game had received a lot of praise with it's released, but that wasn't enough to get me to invest in the Wii.
So with that, I am finally diving in. Keep in mind I'm playing these late Sonic titles out of order, having already experienced Sonic Generations (2011) and Sonic Lost World (Sonic Lost World 2013). So in many ways, this really is a retro review. A look at an older title, but comparing it to the standards of 2013.
Sonic Colors seems to be the game that got Sonic back on track after a decade of 3D missteps. For starters, the story is light and fun to watch. Eggman has started his own amusement park in outer space. Sonic and Tails decide to check things out only to realize that Eggman is up to no good. Suprise! From here, Sonic is off to stop him from his evil plans.
The whole story plays out like a semi-cheesy 90's cartoon. The voice acting is great, and the one-liners are a welcome change compared to the faux-dramatic tones of his past 3D outings.
The main world screen shows off Eggman's amusement park along with the various planets he has captured and chained to his park. The amusement park itself, along with the chained planet's, offered a wonderful landscape for the level designers to get creative.
Some of the levels feature realistic settings such as resorts, a lush grassy planet, and an aquarium. Other's have a more fantasy setting, including a roller coaster linking asteroids together, a land made up almost entirely of junk food, and a light show. It's seriously enjoyable and just seeing what's next contributes greatly to the fun.
Despite the Wii being limited to 480p resolution with anamorphic widescreen support, the graphics hold up surprisingly well on modern, large, televisions. Sure some things look more pixelated than they should on a 2010 release, but the sheer vibrancy and detail of each level help mask the lack of resolution.
All of the little things are done correctly; as Sonic reaches max speed, the music starts to sound distanced, as if Sonic has broken the sound barrier. When underwater, the music get's muffled. Sonic stretches before the beginning of each level as if he's preparing for the marathon lying ahead. This type of attention to detail really sucks you into the game and the world presented.
When you begin the first level you know you are in for a treat. It's obvious the game is a vast departure from the failures of the past. The control issues, camera issues, collision problems, and level glitches are completely gone.
The 3D portions of the game put you behind Sonic as he blazes a trail forward, and avoids any awkward wandering around trying to figure out where to go next. There are a few head scratching moments where the game wants you to "drift" around corners that I could have lived without, but generally speaking these levels feel fairly cohesive.
The 2D segments comprise a majority of the gameplay, and I was absolutely stoked that the developers allowed Sonic to play around in his natural habitat. Here you get to put your platforming chops to the test going through loops, bouncing off springs, and solving light puzzles.
Sonic Colors switches seamlessly between the 2D and 3D level styles and it never feels jarring. There is a flow to the levels and the different gameplay mechanics that is hard to put into words. It’s poetry. Everything just feels right.
Throughout the levels are encapsulated Wisps that Sonic can break free. Once obtained, these Wisps give Sonic a variety of special powers. For instance, one Wisp will turn Sonic into into a saw that allows him to run up walls and ceilings, while cutting through boxes. Another Wisp turns Sonic into a rocket, allowing him to scale tall vertical areas.
For the most part the Wisps are implemented well and rarely break the flow of the game. They are also introduced slowly as you progress throughout the game, and in the early portions you will find transparent Wisp capsules. This means that you haven't obtained that specific Wisp yet, but once you do later on in the game, you can revisit those previous stages to find alternate paths, secrets, and more.
The Wisps also fit perfectly into the final boss fight with Eggman, as well as the final cinematic sequence of the game. While I thought the Wisps were tacked-on in Lost World, in Colors they feel like an integral part of the game.
Overall, the tight controls, creative amusement park landscape, light-hearted story, brilliant soundtrack, and cohesive level design really pull this whole title together.
In all seriousness, this is probably my favorite 3D Sonic title since the original Sonic Adventure on the Dreamcast. It edges past Sonic Generations as it doesn't require you do any side quests to advance the story, and it's game play is a bit more focused than the sometimes inconsistent Sonic Lost World.
Not only is Colors a brilliant Sonic title, its a brilliant game period. I haven't been this surprised by a game in quite some time, and I came into it with lofty expectations. I had a serious amount of fun playing this one, and finished the main portion of the game in just a couple of sessions (takes about 6 hours to complete the game ignoring any bonus goals), I couldn’t put it down. This is a seriously fun romp.
Game play 9/10 - Brilliant level designs, smooth controls
Graphics 8/10 - Bright and colorful
Sound 9/10 - The usual Sonic fair, excellent soundtrack along with great voice acting
Overall 9/10 - Absolutely stunning game that brought Sonic out of the dark ages