Monday, November 15, 2010
Review: Sonic Colors (Wii)
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Developer: Sonic Team
# of Players: 1-2
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)
Despite its higher powered (and priced) HD competition, The Wii has had some of the more interesting (and fun) 3D Sonic the Hedgehog games over the past few years. Sonic Colors blows away all of these other games combined and in my opinion, even gives Mario a run for his money in terms of accessibility, challenge and replay value. From the amazing, super colorful visuals and excellent sense of speed to the ridiculous amount of well-hidden secrets, this one's a Sonic fan's dream come true as well as one of the best Wii games of 2010. There's a ton of game here thanks to a lengthy single player mode as well as some very tricky co-op action that requires pinpoint accuracy and timing for success.
This time out, Eggman (or Dr. Ivo Robotnik) has built a massive outer space amusement park that's tame and packed full of bright colors and fun times on the surface, but as usual, the big round boss-man has an ulterior motive that Sonic and Tails get caught up in when they come upon the supposedly non-threatening park. I'll leave that motive for you to discover, as it involves cute little alien Wisps and Sonic using them to gain some new and cool powers. Where a few previous Sonic games have fallen flat, Colors soars right off the bat and never lets up thanks to great level design, shortcuts galore and the fact that you need to play through levels (and the game) multiple times in order to see and locate everything. It'll take about a dozen hours to get through Colors the first time, but even then, you won't have explored all the game has to offer.
The combo of Wii Remote and Nunchuck controls are excellent and intuitive, however, while the game is indeed a complete blast to play (a Sonic Boom, in fact), younger players might need a tiny bit of assistance with some of the trickier moves. Fortunately, both the Classic controller Pro and GameCube Controller are supported and work just fine. Sonic has his trademark moves plus a few new ones along for the ride and thanks to helpful auto-targeting and hints galore, you'll rarely have time to breathe in some of the more hectic levels. As usual, collecting rings is a big part of the gameplay, but the Wisps and the powers they give Sonic truly open up the game world.
You'll gain the ability to gain bursts of ridiculous speed, drill shortcuts through walls, zap enemies with lasers, create or remove special blocks and more. The first time through most maps, you'll be initially stymied by unreachable areas or items that require certain Wisp powers to acquire. Once you gain these powers, you'll be back and able to zip and zap to the goodies and unlock even more cool stuff. There's rarely a dull moment throughout the game unless you're an expert gamer and decide to play on the easiest setting. The bosses are a pushover on that setting, going down in a minimum of hits despite looking a lot tougher and having some great introductions. Feel free to bump the difficulty up after you blast through the game one just so you get used to a few of its quirks.
Momentum plays a huge role in the game thanks to NVIDIA's PhysX shifting around everything from breakable objects to over-sized popcorn throughout the many different maps. When running to, then jumping on platforms, you'll need to let off the analog stick as you're jumping or Sonic's momentum can send him right off whatever you're leaping to. It may take a few tries for younger gamers or those expecting a game where every landing sticks no matter how you leap to nail some of the trickier parts.However, you won't have to worry about the "I can't stop running, whoops, there's a ledge!" issues that plagued Sonic in his PS3 and 360 debut. Yes, there are some areas where you'll need to NOT jump or look before you leap because that's a bottomless pit you're headed for. But these are in every Sonic game and you learn quickly in Colors to pay attention to every button press.
While there's a timer ticking away in one corner, and yes, blazing through stages for best times IS part of the plan, sometimes you'll want to stop and take in the gorgeous scenery. Sonic Team has really pulled out all the stops here with a game that's looks fantastic and can be as super-fast as it wants to be without any hitches in the frame rate. There's always something fun and bright coming at you and the diverse environments range from Tropical to Tron-inspired futuristic to a superbly eye-popping food-packed stage that made me crave quadruple-decker burgers, ice cream and way too much candy. Fortunately, I was too busy playing the game to give into those urges, but afterward i felt as If I'd gained five pounds from going through that stage a few times.
Sound design is great throughout with voice acting hitting all the right notes (finally!), some catchy tunes and plenty of great sound effects. I wasn't a huge fan of the airy but acceptable pop song in the game, but I really loved the orchestral main theme that lends a nicely epic feel to the game before it even starts. Overall, the mix of nicely nostalgic and next-gen work perfectly together both here and in the DS version (a review of which is going up shortly). the great thing about the game is that you really have to try hard to find major flaws with it and even with the few bumps in the road it does have, it's still a highly impressive achievement on the Wii.
Multiplayer takes place in a game within the game called Eggman's Sonic Simulator, a series of challenging stages where one or two players take on an increasingly tough set of levels that combine precision platforming and puzzle-like elements. Expect falling, disappearing or floating platforms, leaps of faith and a few wacky surprises that will test the most skilled gamer. It's not quite the torture-fest that the Mega Man games are, but you may be stumped for a few seconds as you try to figure out the best way past a few obstacles. With a second player, both of you need to make every jump or else you'll either go it alone to the end of a stage or have to retry until you get it done right. There's also a leaderboard for best times, and I'd imagine it's soon going to fill up with some insane numbers as hardcore Sonic fans get their hands on the game and start racking up faster and faster trips through this latest adventure.
Sonic Team is at the top of its game here and this surely bodes well for future entries in the Sonic series. I'd love to see some sort of sequel hit not only the Wii, but the PS3 and 360 (as well as long as the focus is on gameplay as well as visuals, that is). After playing through the game once for this review, I'm absolutely going back again and again once I free up some time (it's definitely too darn hectic at the moment with all the other reviews I'm working on). If you're a Wii owner, Sonic Colors should absolutely be at the top of your "must play" list. Trust me, folks - you won't be disappointed unless you're somehow deciding to pass this up.