Electronic Theatre In-depth Review: Sonic Colours

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            After a somewhat mixed reception for the digital reboot of SEGA’s mascot midway through 2010, Sonic the Hedgehog received three new retail outings in time for the close of the year. Sonic Colours was designed to be inviting for Wii and Nintendo DS owners, with Sonic Free Riders in-line for the Xbox 360’s full-body motion-control device, Kinect. While one title has been considered little more than a quick cash-in since release, the other has been met with a significant amount of critical acclaim. The Wii version of Sonic Colours does well to prove that a Sonic game can work in 3D, even if it’s still not quite perfected yet, while Sonic Colours on Nintendo DS somehow manages to steal the whole show.

            Sonic the Hedgehog has already benefited from an impressive Nintendo DS exclusive release in the form of Sonic Rush, and while the direct sequel, Sonic Rush Adventure, was a little disappointing, Sonic Colours is intended as the spiritual successor to that series as opposed to a simple adaptation of it’s sister release on Wii. The basicElectronic Theatre Image premise of the game is the same as that of the Wii version, with Eggman having built an intergalactic theme park and kidnapping aliens known as Wisps within. Here on the Nintendo DS however, the plot is largely irrelevant, simply providing an appropriate excuse for some fantastical level design.

            And that aspect of design is undoubtedly Sonic Colours’ greatest strength. The levels are split into areas which each take place against a different backdrop, and are divided into three separate stages. As has become tradition for the 2D Platform titles in the franchise, each level features many multiple routes and hidden items, encouraging players to replay earlier levels, but also players receive a score for each stage which they are given the opportunity to improve upon at a later date. And players will replay many of the levels, as most are expertly crafted tests of dexterity and forethought. Rarely are there any instances in which death is unavoidable thanks to an earlier action, as has been the greatest weakness of many of Sonic’s more recent 2D outings, and the pace at which the game moves has been balanced to perfection.

            In addition to the basic run speed, Sonic has a dash manoeuvre available which is slightly limited by the need to collect Wisps. The dash allows the player a brief moment of invulnerability, able to take down enemies just as well as executing an extended leap off of a ramp, and the necessity to limit the ability is obvious so as to prevent any level of challenge eluding the player. A homing attack is also on offer, but generally only comes into play in spots of real bother.

            The Wisps are of course a significant aspect of the game, each unlockable in turn and granting Sonic new abilities. Red offers an explode-jump that acts similarly to the Morph Ball bombs of the Metroid series, and the drill, rocket and laser Wisps act as down, up and forward charges. The latter Void Wisp does feel slightly misjudged as an inclusion, but can easily be overlooked given the near-perfect delivery of all else up to that point.

            Sonic Colours is a fantastically presented game, with some delicate animation and beautifully colourful backdrops. The pseudo-3D bonus levels reminiscent of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 compliment the main game despite the switch in visual style, and the delivery of the Wisps is just as well placed here as it is in the Wii game. Sonic Colours on Nintendo DS is a visual treat, if not pushing the Nintendo DS hardware in any real respect.

            Over the years as Sonic the Hedgehog has lost the grip of a market he was once one of the leading players in, SEGA has constantly promised a return to form. In Sonic Colours on Nintendo DS, Sonic Team has surely come closer than any other recent attempt, delivering a fine Platform game with a wealth of content beyond that of the main game. Sonic the Hedgehog may have seen release on near-every videogame format over the past year, but if you only wish to own one, make it Sonic Colours on Nintendo DS.

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