If there is such a thing as “un-jumping the shark” Sonic the Hedgehog just might be doing it. Earlier this year, Sega released Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode 1, which took the series back to its 2-D roots. Episode 1 was a good game, but it played it safe and didn’t experiment with the formula any. Sonic Colors, on the other hand, tries something different by giving Sonic some new color-based powers.
In a thinly-veiled attempt to atone for his past transgressions, Dr. Eggman has built an amusement park...IN SPAAAAACE! Suspicious that he is up to no good, Sonic and Tails go to investigate the new facility. Sure enough, Eggman is capturing floating aliens called Wisps and draining their energy. Upon unlocking new worlds and discovering new colored Wisps, Sonic gains new powers.
Sonic Colors consists of six worlds with two Acts and a boss fight in each. In addition, optional missions are available that have specific requirements, such as collecting a certain number of rings or freeing a number of Wisps. The story is mostly told with pictures and text and the occasional FMV cutscene.
Classic Sonic Gameplay - Unlike their console counterparts, the DS Sonic games have stuck to the side-scrolling gameplay that the series is best known for. Sonic Colors continues the trend and except for the bonus levels, the game stays in 2-D.
Fast - Sonic Colors maintains the visceral thrill of blasting through its levels at top speed. The first new power Sonic gets from the Wisps is the ability to boost, and the urge to not keep the boost button held down throughout the whole level is hard to resist. The DS does a good job of keeping up, pushing out the pixels with not a hint of slowdown to be found.
The Colors, Man! - As new areas are opened, Sonic rescues different colored Wisps that give him new abilities and provide new ways to get around the levels. Completed levels can be replayed using new powers access new areas.
Lots To Do - In addition to the optional missions, single, multi-card and online multiplayer are also available. Time attack mode is also present, and times can be uploaded via the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection. Players are scored upon finishing levels, and higher scores unlock music and artwork.
Done In A Flash - With twelve acts and seven boss fights, the main game is fairly short. While the levels are large and have plenty to see, players that don’t replay acts or do optional missions will be finished pretty quickly.
Slow Ahead: Color Crossing - There are parts where Sonic’s color powers have to be used to get past certain areas. The gameplay slows down during some of these bits and while playing them I found myself itching to get back to the running and looping and jumping.
Maybe Too Much To Do - There are easily over one hundred different events, sounds and illustrations to unlock in Sonic Colors. While some gamers will be delighted by this, many others won’t bother.
Sonic Colors was a blast to play and a portable dose of speedy Sonic fun. While the new color abilities do slow down the gameplay every so often, at its core Sonic Colors is about blasting through the levels as fast as you can. The game is challenging without getting frustrating, and gamers that like to get ‘S’ grades on each level and unlock every in-game item will find plenty to keep them busy.
While it is not my place to declare Sonic’s “Fat Elvis” period over, I can say that the two Sonic games I have played this year were fun, and that’s not a bad place to start un-jumping the shark.
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