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The Ten: Updated Wednesdays-Fridays-Sundays

Sunday, October 30, 2011

"Not So Fresh" Review- Sonic Colors

Reach for the stars, baby.

So, it may sound weird that I'm posting this as one of my first video game reviews, though I'll certainly be moving on to some more critically acclaimed games and offering my opinions on them. I'd like to do some playthroughs, as well... but this was one of the first game reviews I found while looking through my "archive" (forum posts. -.-), so I figured I'd post it. It's being added to the video game page, as well! Let me put a disclaimer up: While I'm an avid Sonic fan, I'm also an appreciator of "quality" games. I dabble in and enjoy Mario, Kirby, Zelda, James Bond, Monster Hunter, Smash Bros., Final Fantasy, and the like. While I may be a little optimistic, I can say, without a doubt, that Sonic Colors is a great game. A success. Also, I played this goddamn thing for 6 hours and I have every right to say that I am pretty damn good at it.

Sonic Colors was the (at the time I made this post) latest Sonic game released- a Wii exclusive that promised to bring the character back to form. Sonic has had quite a rough spell as 3D games have been on the rise- after all, how do you take a character that's supposed to be fast and put him in 3D rendered worlds that you zip through in a second? Shadow the Hedgehog and Sonic 2006 are considered his low-points, both featuring terrible storylines and gameplay. But Sonic had a sort of revision as of 2008- with the release of Sonic Unleashed, SEGA redefined what 3D Sonic experiences should be- an obstacle course that is filled with traps and gizmos that require precision and planning to pull off just right. Of course, Unleashed also had a weird half of a game dedicated to a beat-em-up style, God of War ripoff. Sonic Colors took the idea that Unleashed started with and added a classic idea to it- powerups. LISTED BELOW.

Boost- Um, not much needs to be said about this, except that boost is not a toy to be spammed nonstop. If you don't realize that you'll reap the rewards. Boost works well even as an exploratory function, as you are able to push yourself a little higher through orange rings and ramp off of things with a little more ease. Also, chains of enemies appear frequently, and you'll find that your boost has run out when facing them, which can result in some awkward homing attack chains. Trust me, the difference between going down one path and taking another can simply be boosting. (Note, with the advent of Unleashed, Sonic went from being "game where you jump on enemies" to a "game where you ram into things at top speed", so the homing attack became a secondary function to the Sonic Boost.)

Laser- The concept was a little difficult to grasp at first, but I got it. Where ever you want the laser to point, you have to press in that direction for it to aim there, and then let go to shoot. It works very well, and the angles can be fun to play with. Only problem is targeting the prisms, it's a little difficult. The most frequently seen Wisp in my opinion, it is used so often because the mechanic, like drilling, works so well. Ends up giving a lot of platforming fun.

Drill- Definitely one of the most fun to play with and very well thought out. Speeding up and slowing down works well, and precision is required for some tricky sessions- but some of the pathways I've opened up have been a BLAST to play with. Also, the difficulty in using the Drill for some underwater and underground segments is pretty high, and you'll have to check up on your meter to make sure you don't run out of juice. A vast improvement on Mario's Drill from Galaxy.

Spikes- Difficult to get accustomed to, though certainly fun. It's a great homage to the now-defunct spindash (defunct in 3d games, at least) and the pathways it opens up are interesting and high-speed. However, be sure not to miscalculate where you'll be ending up if you run out of spike power, and make sure you're aimed in the right direction when you prepare to dash. Also, you must understand that pressing forward does not make you go up on a wall- pressing up does, and down vice versa. It's a weird scheme. Makes for some great platforming.

Cube- Works immensely well, and is a fun method of opening up pathways and revealing little secrets. some of the Cube segments have been my favorite to try out. Be warned, if rings start as rings, once your cube meter runs out, they'll return to rings unless collected, and vice versa. Makes for FANTASTIC platforming. An improvement on the Mario concept of switching coins and blocks, as it is a "one-time use" device that is portable. No, scratch that- a "Sonic" version of the Mario concept- as this version forces the player to think about their timeliness.

Rocket- Rocket is simple, and interesting to use. The skydiving is a fun ending to any rocket trip, and a lot of precision is usually required. Not too much to say about this one, really, but you'd be surprised to see how many unique platforming challenges come from it. Be prepared for open spaces when one shows up. A less exploratory version of Mario's Rocket function of Sunshine. Also, a little disappointing when you realize it can only be used in 2D sections.

Hover- A lot of fun to play with, but if you press the dash button at the wrong time, you'll end up only absorbing one ring. Make sure you time it correctly. Still, hover platforming is a boatload of fun. Keep Hover on reserve as much as possible in levels where it appears- it will come in handy. Hover makes the best use of the old "light dash" concept- by giving it exclusivity, it gains new appreciation. Also, fun to play with in 3D!

Frenzy- is a little weird to use. Make sure you don't try to change direction with it as you're chomping down, because you need to finish the bite before you move another way. This problem occurs mostly in 3D, but it works like a charm in 2D. That's pretty much it. Platforming frenzy sections usually just has to do with beating the clock. Still, watching your destructive self wreak havoc on the badniks is a treat. Not much of a platforming powerup, so think of it as "invincibility". With sharp, pointy teeth.

Here's a personal runthrough of all the levels:

Tropical Resort: My oh my, is this one pretty! Awesome platforming in both 3D and 2D, and a surprising amount of depth to be found in a lot of the areas. Even the stage repeats in this feel fresh because they open new areas. A fantastic way to begin the game, it introduces all the elements you'll need without any trip ups. The best place to Drill, hands down- that may come as a surprise, but Sweet Mountain has too expanse areas while Tropical Resort gives you platforming challenges with its drilling. Yay!

Sweet Mountain: Between it and Tropical Resort, I'm not sure which I like better. The 3D sections in Sweet Mountain are actually amazing- I found myself delighted by so much of it. 2D sections are good and very innovative too, but sometimes I wish there was less going on. This is the best place to Hover, and probably also the best place to run around and be merry. Also, has the best platforming section involving Spikes. Features an almost-perfect mix of 3D/2D.

Starlight Carnival: Mostly just a spectacle, there are a lot of fun game mechanics here, but unfortunately, too much of it plays out in 2D. I was hoping to have a bit more fun with running around on those battleships, and also on those light paths. This area is largely overshadowed by its elder brother, Asteroid Coaster, but it features a good chunk of platforming fun. Introduces the yellow spring, which is a great addition- Sega nailed it with this one. Definitely the best place to use Cube.

Planet Wisp: I initially thought this was going to be my favorite planet, but it has been overtaken by a few of the earlier ones. Planet Wisp is pretty and features a lot of platforming joys, but it can be a little frustrating at times. Still, some of the best platforming areas are in this place. The aesthetic for this level is by far one of the most successful, the green and red mix fantastically. Has one of the most fun quickstepping portions in the game (DON'T COMPLAIN, IT'S AWESOME) and also one of the best vertical platforming areas. Best area to Rocket and Spike.

Aquarium Park: Truly a visual treat, no doubt about it. Awesome visuals and great design, all around. However, water has never really been my favorite, and while this level had its fair share of above-ground action, I was not very much a fan of the underwater platforming. I think I need a little more time underwater before I warm up to it. Heh heh. Puns. Surprisingly, not my favorite place to drill, nor was it my favorite place to swim. Best soundtrack, hands down. Also, I think this was the best place to see how the Sonic franchise has developed. Also, the MINIBOSS IS A BITCH IN THIS LEVEL.

Asteroid Coaster: DAMN. This is like Starlight Carnival on steroids, with a lot more 3D, a lot more difficult platforming portions, a lot more control, and a lot more space! So much room to run around! Great level design and a boatload of branching paths, this might be the most solid level. Also, this place has GREAT use of cube, spike, and frenzy. I honestly can't say which part I liked more, the 3D or the 2D portions of this level- but both have great moments, and this level makes Motobug races AWESOME. Kudos to Sega for thinking that one up! This was my favorite area to swim in, because it used the idea SO well, and even the roller coaster portions are fun. This one gets thumbs up for being that "last level" where difficulty is upped but never to a point where the deaths feel cheap. Definitely the best place to frenzy!

Won't go any further then that. But, the final "zone" is a great 3D climax of action. Now, I do have a few things to say about co-op.

They should make your partner a non-homing-attacked object OR get rid of the stun function. Too many times I've accidentally hit my partner or hopped on his head, causing him to sit there stunned while an obstacle barrels towards them. It's a little aggravating. However, each level has it's quirks, and it's great to play on your own. The levels feature a good deal of double pathways but they shine brightly when only one person has to deal with what's going on. Also a playground for the wisps, this place has some fun platforming in both 2D and 3D. I gotta say, the Motobug race was a level that my friend and I enjoyed immensely. Collecting the red rings is a challenge, but its worth it for these extra levels! Also, proof that Sonic is an enjoyable two player experience.

Actually, if you're worried about the red rings being too difficult to handle or being unfairly hard to obtain, stop right there. The red rings are literally the best part of this game. They will take every act you play through and warp your image of each until you have a completely new appreciation for them. Tropical Resort seemed shallow to me upon my first runthrough, and I wasn't sure if this game was really designed well at all. But upon obtaining enough Wisps, cracking my knuckles and having a go at each act, I fell in love with it. Same with Sweet Mountain. Being the only levels I have 100% in, it doesn't surprise me that they're my favorite. I have a feeling I'll be coming back to this post and editing it once I 100% the other levels as well. The exploration you'll uncover as you run through the levels again and again is magical.

Yes, if there's one word I'd give to Sonic Colors, it's "magical". Anyone can run through these levels and say "wow, they're pretty!" but when you really challenge yourself to uncover every nook and cranny within them, you'll see how much hard work and dedication Sega put into this game. It's a little on the short side if you decide to blast right through it, but underneath, there's a plethora of platforming joy to be had. A word that has popped up many times in this post is "platforming" because Sonic Colors is, first and foremost, a platformer. It is not a test of reflexes, as some levels in Unleashed would lead you to believe, and it is not a race from start to finish with little deviation, as Heroes and Shadow the Hedgehog, and (gasp) dare I even say Mario would have put it. And it feels fast, much unlike Sonic 06. The Wisps do not burden you, like a sword or a gun or a Wiimote tilt would. You relish in each opportunity they present to you, expanding the already visually beautiful playground. I found myself disappointed and upset when there was a platforming puzzle I came across, but did not have the proper Wisp to achieve (That soon switched to elation as I obtained it!). There's also a brain-wracking feeling you get when you realize a challenge has been set before you, one you must finish before your wisp power runs out. I found myself in awe at the amount of challenges eight relatively simple powerups could give a game, and yes, I include the White Wisps because of their importance to quite a few puzzles. If you truly look underneath the surface you can see a bright and vivid future for Sonic, one that takes everything this game can throw at you and adds on even more. Instead of hope that Sega can redeem the Blue Blur, I'm excited to see what new ideas they add to this winning formula. I'm almost surprised when I think that Unleashed came directly before Colors, because though the two have similar game mechanics, you would think a game would have to come between them! Unleashed was a test of keeping Sonic's speed relevant to modern standards, but this is a test of keeping Sonic's platforming relevant. Believe me when I say that it passes, with flying... well, colors.

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