It has been a long time coming, but finally Sonic Colours has been officially released on the Nintendo Switch. Unfortunately, it’s by no means perfect. The gameplay is largely the same as the other Sonic games and the stages and levels are nothing new, but it does introduce a new speed/manoeuvre mechanic, and pretty much all the tracks and characters from Sonic Mania and Sonic CD.
After the successful release of the Sonic timeline last year, I am pleased to hear news of Sonic Colours, the latest game of the Sonic chronology. It is an attempt by the people at Sonic Team to hit the ground running on their new game, Sonic Lost World, which will release around the same time as Sonic Colours, assuming they release on time. Being the first Sonic game on the new Wii U, the game is naturally designed for the system, but not necessarily exclusive to it. It has also been altered so that it plays nice on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, but not so much on the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One.
Sonic Colors: Ultimate is a collection of the worst of Sonic’s games (pic: Sega)
Is this former Wii exclusive, widely regarded as the finest contemporary Sonic The Hedgehog game, still relevant today?
It’s a mystery how Sonic The Hedgehog has made it this far that not even the most devoted fan can explain. Sega definitely doesn’t get it, and neither would anybody else looking at the series objectively, especially given the fact that it hasn’t produced a good game in over two decades. Despite this, Sonic can be found on children’s lunchboxes and T-shirts all over the world, and a successful live-action film was released just last year, demonstrating that even casual fans are willing to overlook 20 years of pain in favor of reminiscing about the series’ glory days during the Mega Drive era.
Nostalgia is a strong addiction, but there’s no denying that Sonic’s array of characters and the basic joys of going very fast in one direction are both enjoyable. With just two exceptions: 2017’s Sonic Mania (which doesn’t really qualify since it’s half remake and was basically created by fans) and Sonic Colours on the Wii, post-Mega Drive games have consistently failed to capture this joy.
Sonic Colours, which was published in 2010, includes 3D aspects but is mainly a 2D platformer in the manner of the originals, but with a little more contemporary twist to the graphics and gameplay thanks to the Wii. Colors is widely regarded as the greatest game of the 3D period, so Sega’s decision to remaster it for Sonic’s 30th anniversary makes perfect sense, especially since the pandemic has forced them to postpone their plans for a completely new game. However, knowing that Sonic Colors is the greatest just emphasizes how awful the others are…
Being dubbed the greatest contemporary Sonic game is probably the mildest kind of flattery, but when Sonic Colours originally came out, it provided a glimmer of optimism that the franchise might emerge from its quagmire. Excited chatter about Sonic once again challenging Mario for the title of platform mascot was obviously exaggerated, since not only was there no sequel, but the series quickly degenerated into games like Sonic Lost World and Sonic Boom. Sonic Colours, whatever else you may say about it, is unquestionably superior than the two.
The bulk of Colours’ gameplay is fairly similar to other Mega Drive games, but since it uses 3D graphics, the camera may swoop and move about the play area while your finger is firmly pressed on the control stick. The camera also travels behind Sonic for some more contemporary into-the-screen racing portions, with the apparent goal of combining the best of both worlds in the game.
As is customary, there’s a major gimmick, in this instance the Wisps, which have subsequently appeared in a few other games and function as Super Mario Galaxy-style power-ups that change Sonic into various forms for a limited period. These must be obtained one at a time, and they vary from a drill to a rocket to a laser that pinballs you between jewels.
Wisps are often employed to either make a difficult part easier or traverse a shortcut, and the game encourages you to revisit previously completed levels to try them out with a new kind of Wisp that you didn’t have the first time around. Wisps don’t contribute much to the game, but they also don’t subtract from it, with the narrative fortunately avoiding needless melodrama and, surprisingly for a Sonic game, being rather amusing at moments.
The game’s into-the-screen portions are, predictably, the worst, despite being by far the most beautiful. As usual, you have very little control over what you’re doing, which makes the fact that just moving left or right looks so annoyingly inaccurate all the more frustrating. However, the controls are too complicated, with too many powers assigned to the same buttons and too much auto-aim, in which the game believes it knows better than you where you’re attempting to go.
Other long-standing problems include leaps of faith and other unexpected challenges that you couldn’t reasonably foresee the first time around, which most other platform franchises abandoned decades ago. The difficulty is moderate in general, but it is uneven, which adds to the irritation.
Sonic Colours: Ultimate – the game has the potential to be visually stunning (pic: Sega)
The only significant differences in terms of being a remaster are 60fps graphics and 4K resolution, as well as better lighting and a reworked soundtrack (though you can’t manually choose between). All this does, as is frequently the case, is to make the game consistent with your recollections, so it hardly seems like an upgrade.
There are a few new features, but they’re small. The most notable is a single new Wisp type: a ghost, which isn’t nearly as entertaining as the others since the rest of the game wasn’t built with it in mind. With Metal Sonic, there’s also a new time trial mode, although there are only six of them – one for each planet – and they’re not very long.
Minor problems and glitches abound in the pre-release version, which seem to be much worse in the Switch version. This strongly suggests that the game was hurried released as a last-minute anniversary celebration, particularly because the cut sequences haven’t been updated and now appear significantly worse than the in-game visuals.
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Strange as it may seem, while playing a vintage game for the first time in years, you never know what to expect. Will it still appear and play the same way you remember it, or will its antiquated visuals show that it was never truly as amazing as you thought?
Sonic Colours is a good compromise between the two extremes. It hasn’t aged well, especially since Sonic Mania was released in the meantime, but for what it’s worth, it remains the finest of the 3D games. However, it means even less today than it did in 2010, and if you’re playing it for reasons other than nostalgia, it’ll just serve to exacerbate your dislike for the series.
Sonic Colors: The Ultimate Review
In a nutshell, if you exclude Sonic Mania, it’s still the finest contemporary Sonic game, but time hasn’t been kind to it, and neither has this unambitious remake.
Pros: Good level design, and the Wisps are generally entertaining without being overbearing. The visuals of the game stand up quite well, and the writing is sometimes funny.
Cons: The controls are imprecise and too finicky, and there are too many 3D portions. There are just too many leaps of faith and inevitable stumbling blocks. There isn’t much to the remaster, and there are a lot of problems.
6 out of 10
PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC are the available formats. Cost: £34.99 Sega is the publisher of this game. Release Date: 7th August 2021 Developer: Blind Squirrel Games and Sonic Team Age Rating: 7
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