Okay, okay, I hinted at this in a previous post, but to make a long story short, for the longest time as a kid I was a Sonic fan. Toys, comic, games, webcomics, everything but the really gross fan scene that was likely a reason why I drifted away from franchise in general. However, nostalgia got the better of me in 2010, when I bought Sonic Colors, played three hours of it, and put it on a shelf. And oh dear, no wonder I stopped playing it.
Sonic Colors Review Release Date: 16/11/2010 Platforms: Wii(Reviewed), DS Developer: Sonic Team Publisher: Sega
Now, for the sake of this review, or addressing any other title in the series with my diluted memory of it, I’ll be treating this title as its own game, at least for the most part, because going through drafts of such a review in my head seemed less than ideal. However, the game takes a similar course of action, not addressing any other ideas in the series aside from Sonic being a fast hedgehog who is also blue, Tails being a smart sidekick, and Eggman being a semi-comedic antagonist who is cranked up to a near parody. In fact, the game often feels like a more child friendly reboot to the series, with regular jokes during cutscenes, comic relief robots alongside the big bad.
With the biggest change being that everything takes place in a space amusement park powered by captured planets of cake, forests, haunted mansions, and aliens who look like gummies. It is something I wouldn’t expect much character to be added in or story to be presented, which is why the dialog is all the more jarring. Now, I will never say that writing is easy, especially writing for children’s entertainment. However, a lot of the cutscenes sliced into the game were more than a little inspiring of a groan. Capturing a feeling that I got when watching a more recent Dreamworks picture in a child’s dentist office. With the dialog very clearly made for younger children above all other audiences.
Which becomes more than a big confusing, if only because after playing the game through to completion, and often replaying levels, or at least sections of levels, several times, I wouldn’t want any of my theoretical children to play this title. It is hard to find a compact term for Sonic Colors, if only because its answer to designing levels and gameplay mechanics in general is often very hectic and random.
The game is reminiscent of Ms. ‘Splosion Man and certain parts of Rayman Origins, as a platformer with a firm emphasis on flow. Where the primary goal is to either quickly zoom past the level or get a collectable off to the side, and are very clearly rewarded for both upon completing the stage. However, with Sonic Colors, it is very difficult to figure out what exactly the game wants you to do in a given stage.
From the level and world selection screens, you are constantly reminded of how many Red Rings you collected, and how many levels you completed with an S rank. The Red Rings are five secret items hidden throughout every level, while an S rank is made up of a combination of your overall score, time, and ring count that you finish the level with. However, if you try and replay the first stage over and over for several hours, you will still be unable to reach the goal, if only due to the power-ups added to the game, called Wisps.
Aliens that merge with Sonic to give him very awkward controlling abilities that are used to surpass obstacles and receive points by simply having the power activated. These abilities are introduced throughout the game, but even the earliest levels have instances where you can use Wisps, but only after going to the stage where they were introduced. Which only makes the levels themselves filled with sprawling paths that make the quest for an S rank all the more difficult to wrap one’s head around.
Well, it would if not for how quickly I realized that the game was too shoddily designed for me to spend my time thinking about this blurry image of how it wants to be played. Part 2D platformer, free running back view where you move Sonic around in one of three ways, or just being a game where you run really fast, Sonic Colors has a very broad idea of what it wants to be aside from a fast game. Breaking that point several times due to slow platforming made all the more awkward by Sonic’s concerning walk animation and very uncomfortable double jump that weirdly keeps the homing attack staple. An unwelcomed inclusion for the several instances where the homing attack resulted in a less successful run, and another pressing of the reset option.
Many of the levels feel either out of place due to their contradictory nature to the emphasis on speed found elsewhere in the game, with a slower route that one could not predict the first time going through the level possibly being the correct path. And that is assuming you don’t screw up the game’s very clearly intended to be scripted sections that give you a bit too much freedom, making them aggravating instead of provoking a wow factor that I found in the two aforementioned titles, Ms. Splosion Man and Rayman Origins.
The game feels like it was designed by several teams devoted to a few levels, but with a projected winter release date, they lacked the time to polish them, and needed to focus on the levels that I have no problem calling badly designed for the majority, with the few really fun stages being roughly a quarter of the game. All while having a penalty system that not only removes all of the point filled rings you collected through the stages upon getting hit as they scatter about, but incorporates a lives system. Which actively discourages human error, with the penalty for death being zero rings and the same time as when you died, but a butt back at the last level specific checkpoint. While even in Ms. ‘Splosion Man, you could die a few times and still get the par-time.
However, the game’s very jumbled together nature, which in my mind makes it more useful as a tool for designing games than something I’d recommend playing, does look especially lovely. Taking a very colorful style with cartoonishly designed world, Sonic Colors makes the most of its Wii exclusivity with a gorgeous games that sadly follows the gameplay in giving too many things to look at and comprehend. With the last traditional stage being a great offender of this, as you are going down an endless runway in outer space as the ground is changing patterns, the area above you is changing, very easy to miss six inch platforms are right in front of you, and you’re trying to get every goodie in order to get an S rank.
Meanwhile, the music remains a force that allowed me to keep my mellow while dealing with the sections that left me speechless by their almost counterintuitive inclusion. With a series of memorable tunes that mix well with the jingle of collecting rings or pressing a button to move even faster. Giving the world a sense of personality, and only growing aggravating when the rest of the game did, and I resorted to memorizing the sequences, trying not to screw up.
It’s a fine line between challenge and something being poorly designed. And while Sonic Colors can skirt around said line, its place is very clear in my mind. Lacking the sense of accomplishment as my rank felt mostly arbitrary, as the rest of the game was seemingly set at a level where it believed it could talk down to me. It is a very messy but visually appealing title, but was one where I ended nearly every session flabbergasted at what the game thought was okay to put in its 37 normal stages.
Subpar (6/20) There are a few high point, yet the entire experience is hampered by issues that outnumber the good. Not the worst, but not all that great.