I've just clocked up 25 hours worth of play time on the latest preview build of Sonic Colours – that's a lot of time when you consider that this is a version with the last three Zones locked out. Even more impressive is that I actually wanted to spend the time playing it for that long. A Sonic the Hedgehog game hasn't held my attention like this since Sonic Adventure 2 in 2001.
And you know what? I absolutely loved it.
, after some deep investigation, is looking like the game that will really set the series back on track. Gorgeous scenery and colourful landscapes make this one of the best-looking titles on the Wii (only the Super Mario Galaxy
games look better). The level design is vastly improved over the 'hold right/forward to win' methodology of recent Sonic
games. And perhaps best of all, the story doesn't seem to be an absolute facepalm.
You can read my last preview of Sonic Colours
to learn about the plot and initial Wisp powers in the game. Here, I will say that the dialogue and writing is a dramatic change to the cringe-worthy 'Power of Teamwork' nonsense that polluted the last few games.
The American writers behind Platinum Games' Madworld
– yes, that rather violent chainsaw'em up on the Wii – are reportedly behind the script to Sonic Colours
, and the result is refreshing.
Couple this with new vocal talent, including Roger Craig Smith – also known for voicing Chris Redfield in Resident Evil 5
– as Sonic, and you have a presentation that appeals to both kids and adults in its delivery and humour.
The cutscenes are pretty good in themselves, but what seals the deal in the writing department is the frequent tannoy announcements from Dr. Eggman as you play through the stages.
“Please don't be concerned if you hear any aliens screaming. The screams are how they communicate. Really. I promise,” says one announcement, while another calls out for Sonic to visit the “security office” to pick up his “lost keys.”
The Zones (or worlds, as Eggman's chained them all up to build an amusement park) in the game are all made up of six Acts (stages) and a boss battle. You start your adventure in the central hub, the Tropical Resort – a crazy Aztec-themed stage that features palm trees and jazzy music against a starry backdrop.
From Tropical Resort, you venture onto four other announced worlds. Sweet Mountain sees you run through popcorn and grind on candy canes to reach the goal marker, with one Act having Sonic run around a giant hamburger. Starlight Carnival is undoubtedly one of the prettiest, dashing along celestial pathways and platforming around Eggman's fleet of starships.
Planet Wisp is a beautifully green stage, marred with scaffolding and construction workers as its transformation harks back to the classic Sonic the Hedgehog with its environmental messages. One Act here has a chasm to cross using the homing attack, but if you fall you enter another segment of the level where Sonic is free-falling. Makes a change from dying.
Aquatic Park is an indoor water world bound with a Samurai theme, and is the first time a true water level has appeared in a modern Sonic game.
Level design gives a gentle nod to both modern and classic games in the series – you can zip through most stages as brainlessly as you like, or use the Wisp power ups to really think about opening up alternative pathways.
Whichever way you decide to take, there's some mean platforming elements waiting for you. Rotating platforms, climbing vertically up a huge starship, dodging massive jellybean rockets in midair... this is a platformer first, and a speed-based game second.
That doesn't mean there are no speed elements. The boost from Sonic Unleashed
returns, but you feel less compelled to use it thanks to the numerous opportunities available to take higher paths and tactically use Wisp powers. Add the hidden red Special Rings in each Act, and you'll find yourself exploring every nook and cranny as a result.
Having said that, long stretches of road, grind rails and free-falling areas are great speed-based rewards for getting past a time-consuming platforming section.