Sunday, 13 March 2011

Sonic Colours: I Approve

I don't even like skittles, but if I were in the US when these were out...

It's safe to say that I'm a big Sonic the Hedgehog fan. The first home console game I ever played was Sonic the Hedgehog 2 at my uncle's house on his new Sega Mega Drive. Prior to this, the only games my family had were for a not-so-reliable C64. Needless to say I was hooked. I would dream of my family's bi-yearly, six hour car drive to see my relatives in Tyneside with the phenomenal image of Sonic and Tails hurtling through the “3D” half-pipe special stage at the forefront of my mind. For the longest of times, or so it seemed, my younger brother and I begged my parents for a “Sega”. Finally, once the Mega Drive II had come down to a reasonable price, my dad bought a £70, unboxed display model from our electric board electronics shop.

That was the start of my Sonic obsession.

I had the pyjamas, T-shirts, novels, comic books and even a pair of awesome Sonic & Knuckles boxer shorts that I've shamelessly kept to this very day. Once I had all the must-have Sonic games on the Mega Drive, i.e. Sonic 1 through 3 & Knuckles, my Christmas lists would feature the other games necessary to complete my collection, Sonic Spinball, Sonic 3D and Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine. However, these games did not satisfy my craving for the blue blur and, even at a young age, I was uncomfortable with the direction Sonic games were taking with regards to the nauseating Sonic 3D.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2006, Sonic Unleashed, Sonic Heroes, even Sonic Adventure, are all rubbish to varying degrees and pale in comparison to Nintendo mascot Mario's equivalent ventures in the 3D world. However, a good 20 years after his 16-bit debut, the puberty-reminiscent, roller-coaster ride that has been Sonic's adaptation to modern gaming seemingly has it's end in sight.



In a blog post made soon after New Years I mentioned getting a new Wii game as a present. What I received was the limited edition of Sonic Colours, in Dutch. Aside from the manual being unreadable, the game itself seems no different to what a UK PAL version would be. Either way I was extremely grateful as I didn't think I'd be playing the game until it had come way down in price second hand, let alone get it brand spanking new. Of course, it also comes with the super-fun Sonic toy, which I've played with a bit and is quite cool aside from Sonic's strangely piercing glare. I'd definitely say it's a toy rather than an “action figure” and I enjoy the idea of a some little boy or girl also getting it for Christmas and playing around with it as a child does.

LASER!


I myself am really pleased with how this game has turned out; really, really pleased. I've played Sonic Unleashed quite thoroughly and have found, as most others have, that the best, and only good parts of the game were the short but sweet Sonic levels, specifically the parts played on two dimensions. It's obvious that Sega incorporated such feedback into the new game. The first thing I noticed when playing Sonic Colours is that it felt very much like Sonic Unleashed. However, I soon realised the numerous improvements made to the Sonic formula.



Sonic Colours sees Sonic and Tails investigating Dr. Robotnik's newly built interstellar amusement park which orbits “Sonic's planet”. Sonic and Tails quickly realise that Dr. Robotnik has enslaved an alien race called “Whisps” from five of their home worlds, which he has attached to his theme park. The aim of the game is to get through the six acts and boss which comprise said worlds, using the powers of the Whisps along the way. No new annoying characters, no old annoying characters, no hub worlds, no forced replaying of previous levels and no planet Earth. This last point really used to bother me as newer games made me try and fit a talking, blue, anthropomorphic hedgehog into the world I live in, which never made any sense at all.

In de RUIMTE!


The Whisps are a welcomed addition to the mix. I was at first sceptical of Sonic having numerous new abilities, but their use doesn't dominate the majority of levels and either way it's actually quite fun to use them. The Whisps are also necessary for finding each of the six red rings hidden in each act (think Mario and red coins) and allow acts to be played in various ways. Said red rings open up more bonus levels which can be played 2-player, however all I have to say about the 2-player mode is that it's co-op, it's rubbish, and it was a waste of time putting it in the game.

The yellow Whisp allows transformation into a drill, an excellent exploratory tool.

The controls have tightened since Sonic Unleashed, with jumping being especially easier thanks to the new double jump. In addition to this, Colours is considerably slower than Unleashed which is defiantly a good thing, as Unleashed had you running so fast you often had little time to react to obstacles which on a lot of levels would result in a one-hit death. Speaking of which, while there are design flaws in a few of the acts resulting in what may seem to be cheap deaths, I get the feeling that they aren't deliberate i.e. this game is a lot fairer than previous 3D Sonic titles.

Even on the Wii, Sonic's looking pretty good.

I only play the Wii on a portable CRT at the moment and don't think I can comment on whether or not the graphics of the game are “good”, however I must say something about the style of the game compared to previous titles. Sonic 2006 and Sonic Unleashed both had the majority of their levels set in more realistic locations, e.g. towns, cities, jungles, snowy places, none of which were very imaginative. Having Sonic Colours set in space has allowed for some more interesting areas to dash around in, all of which are distinct from one another and visually pleasing. With my favourite world in the game being Starlight Carnival, a neon-infused fun-fair in space, the first act of which has so much going on in the background that I still sometimes miss the prompt to homing attack my way to safety after being launched off a ramp. Lastly, the music, on the whole, is a much more light-hearted and boppy affair with a fast tempo that mirrors the core gameplay mechanic; speed. The tunes are memorable, enjoyable and far more befitting of a Sonic game.





The best thing about Sonic Colours compared to my experiences with the majority of previous 3D Sonic games is that I actually wanted to play the game more once I had done the main story. It's a bright, noisy and simple adventure which can be easily played in small bursts. The collection of red rings, while seemingly daunting at first, isn't too difficult and is an excellent reason to revisit the game. I'm so pleased with how this has turned out and I believe that it is a definite step forward for Sonic games and, with that in mind, I'm not afraid to say that I like it more than I liked Sonic 4 which, while being a good game, was simply an attempt to re-create a classic Mega Drive Sonic game in order to appease unappeasable fans.

Books I'm borrowing from the library.
As usual, I apologise for not posting as often as many bloggers do, but I tend to write such long posts which I work on over a week, usually longer. Also, due to situational and familial issues I've not been in the right frame of mind to sit down and write without distraction. I'm going to write shorter and more informal posts from now and I have a few things in mind that I'd like to write about.

As for me, I've scaled down my gaming quite a bit, having recently finishing Red Faction 3 on hard mode (a dumb idea) as well as finally beating Sonic Unleashed and beating the first gym leader on Pokémon SoulSilver. In fact, I've been spending my time doing something I've been wanting to do for a while, reading shit-loads of graphic novels. It's true what they say about comic continuity being a barrier to new-comers, but I've taken the plunge and survived. I do stick to really old origin stories or new continuities, such as Marvel Noir, as I've found newer stories of old series being confusing and unenjoyable (I'm looking at you, Red Hulk...).

So please, don't give up on me yet, I'll be posting again soon. Thanks for reading.

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