The situation with Sonic Colours appears to be an odd one. It seems that people have either never heard of the Wii and DS-exclusive title, or are fans who've been following coverage proclaiming it to be the best 3D Sonic game ever. Whichever group you fall into (if you fall into one at all), you should know that Sega haven't cracked it yet. Sonic Colours on Wii does a lot of things right, but it's the things it's still doing wrong that hold the game back, and keep Sonic's return to glory from happening for a little longer.
On the bright side, Sonic Colours is much lighter in tone and much easier to follow than some other recent 3D entries in the series. There's no time travel, romance, dark overtones or unnecessary characters. Dr. Eggman, claiming to be remorseful for his past evil behaviour, has built a giant amusement park in orbit, accessible by space elevator, that has several planet-sized attractions chained to it. Obviously, something's up, so Sonic and Tails head up to investigate, and discover Eggman is really trying to drain energy from a species of aliens known as 'Wisps'. Sonic naturally leaps to their defence.
The script, penned by the writers of Happy Tree Friends, is better than the series has been in the past. However, despite a handful of minor laughs in the game, and the occasional clever line, the majority of Sonic's dialogue is embarrasingly awful. Small children may find some of it amusing, but running jokes like Tails' failure to translate the aliens correctly fall flat on their faces for older players. At least there's no attempt to shoe-horn in the chaos emeralds, or Super Sonic, who's nowhere to be found by the end of the game (unless you choose to unlock him through collecting red rings and completing bonus levels).
If you've played Sonic Unleashed two years ago, you'll be familiar with the style of gameplay present in Sonic Colours. Melding 2D and 3D gameplay together in the same way Unleashed's daytime stages did, Sonic Colours tries to return Sonic to his speedy roots by focusing on him as the single playable character. This is what fans have been crying for, and the game is better for it. Sonic races along in 3D, grinding on rails, attacking enemies, freeing Wisps and using their power to fill his own 'boost' bar that allows him to speed even faster through the level. It's all very linear and there's no confusion as to where you're meant to go as you're always being barrelled down a single narrow pathway with little room to move. Nevertheless, they're fun to play through as the speed boosting keeps the flow of the level at a great pace. Also, Sega have finally changed Sonic's homing attack. You know, where you press A once to jump, and the another tap sends Sonic flying into an enemy (or into a bottomless pit if nobody's in sight). Finally, the homing attack will only activate when enemies are in range, and at all other times two presses of the A button will result in a classic double jump, as seen in the original games. It's a nice touch.
The 2D sections, which you think Sega would be able to nail by now, come off a little worse for wear. You can control Sonic using the Wii Remote/Nunchuck combo or with the Classic Controller, but no matter what you choose, Sonic's platforming is going to feel just a little bit off. The gravity never feels quite right (maybe because he's in space) and as a result Sonic feels a little 'glidey' during jumps, and he slips along some platforms causing much frustration. When the level design takes this into account by utilising the Wisp powers (more on them later) along with Sonic's abilities, then you'll hardly ever notice this. But after a couple of zones, you'll come across some shocking level design that results in unending cheap deaths, as well as some 'gimmicks' that are less fun than Sonic Team may think. An example is a twist on the old 'continually moving platform that Sonic must stay on' chestnut, where the platform is now bouncy and is forever launching Sonic into the air. However, it also follows him to an extent when he moves ahead of it to catch him, and this extent is never really that consistent. This means that you'll try to move ahead of the platform, expecting it to catch you, but it won't. In short, some aspects of the game don't work the way you think they should, either due to poor design or poor introduction, and this results in you playing it safe and slowing down in the game during certain levels.
One of the better aspects of the game are the Wisp powers which Sonic can activate. By freeing different coloured Wisps, Sonic gains the ability to turn himself into a laser, destroying everything in his path and rebounding off crystals, drill into the ground during 2D sections, rocket into the sky to freefall to access other areas, hover, attach himself to walls and ceilings, and go beserk and destroy everything in his path. All of these powers work pretty well and are sensible and fun additions to the game. We could get nitpicky, like the implementation of the laser power, as cool as it is, is a little frustrating as you cannot change the direction you're facing while aiming it (which is a problem more than you'd think), but these really are the best power-ups the series has seen in a while. Another power-up which doesn't fare so well turns Sonic into a cube that can crush enemies and change the state of blue blocks, much like the '!' blocks in Mario. It's not used frequently, and when it is it's confusing where to use it so as to avoid instant death. Actually, most of the powers aren't implemented enough in the game. There are so many creative things that could be done with the powers on offer, and they're just not capitalised on enough.
Other problems from older Sonic games arise in Colours as well. As in Unleashed, Sonic Colours recycles sections of its 'acts' to artificially lengthen the game's playtime (around 5-8 hours). Other games do this too, most notably Mario often sees you return to the same level with different objectives. However, it's really noticeable in Sonic Colours when you blast through a well designed first act, then have to play through three or four acts where you just play through a slightly re-designed section of something you've already seen. It just feels like padding. There are also times in the game where Sonic just takes over control and does everything for you. On a couple of occasions we started out a level with a good 10-20 seconds just watching Sonic run through the level, speeding along with nice-looking graphics, with absolutely no input on our part. These sections have been in every Sonic game, and they certainly haven't disappeared yet.
Sonic Colours has some great presentation, with some of the prettiest graphics that the non-HD Wii has to offer. Character models are expressive and fun, levels are detailed and the thing moves at a great framerate. However, sometimes the levels can get a little too detailed, and by that we mean too busy. In some levels, such as Space Carnival, there is so much stuff happening in the background with fireworks, ships buzzing around and asteroids, you can literally lose track of Sonic, especially when the camera pulls back in the 2D sections. Nevertheless, the game also has a good soundtrack with some fully orchestral tracks - the best of these being the orchestral rendition of the otherwise horribly Owl City-like main theme, and the symphonic 'running out of air' tune that has been in the series since the first game on Sega Mega Drive. The voice cast has also been changed with Sonic Colours, and Sonic has gone from sounding like an insufferable poser to a somewhat older affable kind of guy, while Tails no longer sounds like a little girl with a helium inhaler. This is good. There's also plenty of replay value, with Red Rings to collect and 'Sonic Simulator' levels to unlock that really test your skills.
With all this said, Sonic Colours is easily one of the best 3D Sonic games, more focused than the Adventure titles, and faster than the similarly-themed Sonic Heroes. Sega have gone a long way to shedding the baggage that was holding Sonic back - reducing the characters, making Sonic and speed the focus, and throwing in some fun power-ups. However, the game still suffers from some shonky level design, floaty controls, under-utilised powers, cheap deaths and moments where the game just plays with itself while you watch. When Sonic Colours works, it works really well. It's just unfortunate it doesn't happen that often. The game seems aimed at kids, who will most likely enjoy the game the most, but if you're a Sonic fan in need of a fix then Sega has been far less kind to you in the past.