Sonic may have had a bit of a harsh time lately. Sonic Unleashed promised hi-speed hi-jinks, but only half-delivered with most of the game spent lumbering around dark areas hitting neon coloured animals. And the less said about Sonic and the Black Knight and Sonic the Hedgehog, the better. However, Sonic Colors stands as an astonishing example that Sega is actually listening to what fans want and enjoy, and we got to demo the Wii and DS exclusive title with producer Takashi Izuka.
Sonic Colors once again follows the exploits of Sonic as he deals with the villanous Dr. Eggman, who has built his own space-born theme park, which is composed of several planets. As is always the case, he's up to no good, so Sonic must tackle each area of the theme park to reach Eggman and stop his plans to take over the world. We noticed during our demo that one of these planets looked suspiciously like the head of Metal Sonic, so naturally we asked the question. Is Metal Sonic in the game? Izuka was coy, saying that Metal Sonic will not be in Sonic Colors, but something else, possibly new, is.
The gameplay of Sonic Colors will be instantly familiar to anyone who played Sonic Unleashed. The gameplay varies between 3D sections, where the camera is positioned behind Sonic as he races through levels that are confined to fairly narrow roads, taking out enemies and grinding on rails, and 2D sections that recall Sonic's glory days of sidescrolling action. The twist is that players won't have to suffer through slow Werehog sections to play these levels - the entire game is composed of these levels, so expect fast paced action and thrills. Sonic's boost returns from Unleashed, only now it isn't powered by rings but by enemies destroyed.
Takashi Izuka showed us two zones, Tropical Resort and Sweet Mountain. Within these levels are beings known as Wisps, which are the source of a range of new abilities for Sonic. We were only shown a couple of them, but they presented some interesting (although perhaps not entirely original) powers. Cyan Wisps allow Sonic to use a 'laser' power, where he can follow the trajectory of a laser extremely fast, breaking through objects or even seemingly teleporting from one location to another. Yellow Wisps allow Sonic to drill into areas which have earth beneath them, to collect rings or to access underground locations. This seems similar to an ability seen in a recent game from another famous mascot, but it was only used in the 2D sections and was actually quite fun from what we were able to play. In fact, we found all of the acts we tried to be very fun, feeling much more like what a Sonic game should be. Sonic was never slowed down too much by enemies, the new powerups allowed us to access secret areas and explore and the controls were responsive and the motion control was implemented subtly, to activate Wisp powers.
Sonic Colors will also be available on DS, but while it shares the same premise and zone themes as the Wii game, its gameplay is actually different. Sonic Colors on DS can be considered the third game in the Sonic Rush series, as the gameplay is almost identical to those games. The 3D Sonic moving against 2D backgrounds, the use of both the DS screens to create a vertically elongated image, and Sonic's boost ability are all hallmarks of the series. It was also very fun to play, and had its own set of powers, although the only one we got to try was the red Wisp's 'flame' ability which turned Sonic into a fireball.
Sonic Colors is intended to be much lighter in tone than some of the past games, with Izuka agreeing that it's much closer thematically to Sonic Heroes than Sonic Unleashed. There's no dark storyline here, but even so, Western writers have been brought on board to keep the story as free as possible from cringe-inducing dialogue, and to make it fun to enjoy for adults as well. Both the Wii and DS versions are very fluid and fun to play, and while Sonic Colors may not be a revolution for the hedgehog, it most certainly is a step in the right direction.