You Sonic the Hedgehog fans are a hard bunch to please, aren’t ya? You spend all those years begging for Sonic to return to his 2D glory days after a series of unpopular 3D efforts (Sonic Heroes, Sonic and the Black Knight etc). And recently, when SEGA caves and finally releases a 2D throwback in the form of Sonic 4, no one likes it! Maybe, then, Sonic Colors is more your speed (pardon the pun) as it effectively blends the best elements of both approaches. The game will often transition seamlessly between the 2D platforming mechanic that made Sonic famous and a fast-paced foray into the third dimension (with the camera trailing Sonic from behind) as he collects rings, loops around loops, and drifts around corners.
Make no mistake: this game, like most of the recent Sonic titles, is aimed squarely at young kids, with the cutscenes in particular reminiscent of the old Saturday-morning cartoon. But there’s enough familiarity – be it in the game mechanics or the visuals – for the appeal to stretch to those who cut their platforming teeth on the SEGA Master System or Mega Drive. This is Sonic essentially back to basics with some contemporary visual polish and impressive 3D effects. You run (fast) and jump, relying mostly on quick reactions and accuracy to negotiate a level. Sonic has a few additional manoeuvres: he can slide under obstacles at speed (a la Megaman), perform a jumping stomp, and he can home in on targets while mid-jump, bouncing from one to another in quick succession.
The major gameplay addition is the use of ’Wisps’, which are the alien life forms Sonic is tasked with freeing in the game’s plot. Rescuing certain Wisps gives Sonic a temporary power-up depending on its colour. These include a Wisp that allows Sonic to drill through the earth, a Wisp that boosts him upwards like a rocket (followed by a free-fall skydive) and more.
It’s simple, effective, a visual delight to behold, and the best evolution of the Sonic franchise since his 16-bit glory days. If you’d given up hope on seeing a great Sonic game ever again, let Sonic Colors restore your faith.