E3 2010 Preview: Sonic Colours

Let’s face It, Unleashed was not a perfect game, even in its daytime segments. It had annoying QTEs, which became huge, overbearing insta-death button mashing sessions in the later stages. It was easy to send yourself careening off an edge by doing a mid air boost by accident, because a homing attack was slightly out of reach. The game play was linear, with very little in the way of hidden secrets or multiple paths.

In Sonic Colors, Sonic’s latest outing, this has all changed. It takes the best of Unleashed, such as the fast paced game play, and huge, twisting levels, and adds layers to it. The QTEs are now gone, replaced with simple “press the A button to gain altitude”, and the mid air, target-less homing attack is gone, replaced with a simple double jump that you’ll need to get wisps that are slightly out of reach of the normal jump.  The linear level design is gone, replaced with large, multilayered levels that, according Takashi Iizuka “doesn’t have one or two paths, but several”. During my hands on preview I saw people accessing areas of the level that I still have not seen, so there is most definitely some truth to that.

Control wise, the game controls much more closely to next gen version of unleashed, except you now have more control over Sonic while he was boosting. You drift with the nunchuck, which works surprisingly  well.

The first level of Colors, the entrance to the Egg Park, is fairly barren, with a few enemies here and there. The main focus of the level is to ease you into the game. The first level is most definitely more easy then a lot of past “first levels” in Sonic games.  There were lots of secrets to explore, the yellow wisp drill especially opens up a lot of alternate paths.  The second level is where things get fun, though! The second level features a lot more platforming, and there are even more areas to explore. There are more enemies (my personal favorite being one with an Egg Beater…get it? XD).

The wisps, so far, are fun and unobtrusive. There are three available in the demo: one simply fills up your boost gauge, another, the laser, acts as both a super fast boost and a spin dash of sorts. The third one, the yellow drill, is by far my favorite. Yes, it lets you dig through levels. But it’s used far better then it was in Super Mario Galaxy 2. This level is your key to a lot of this game’s exploration. You can use it to not only find hidden items, but whole new LEVELS. I found several paths through this method alone, and it REALLY opens up the game’s levels.

I’ve often heard that “Sonic is back” or “this is the big return!”, but I will forgo these oft used phrases. Instead, all I’ve got to say is this: Sonic Colors is a genuinely FUN game. It’s got loads of high speed hijinks, and no excess gimmicks to slow it down. It’s like Unleashed in a lot of ways, but with more thoughtful design; the speed isn’t quite as fast, but it allows for better control. The homing attack is limited to targeted enemies and items, but this prevents you from throwing yourself off the edge. The wisps add an all new dimension to the game play, without slowing it down (unless, of course, the purple one turns you into Big). The levels are multilayered, offering more optional exploration than any other Sonic game I have ever played, 3D or 2D. Simply put, it’s the Sonic game I’ve wanted since Sonic Adventure 2. Whether it’s the Sonic game you want or not, that’s up for you to decide, but if you ever liked any of Sonic’s past 3D games, be excited; because this is one of the good ones.

This isn’t all of our Colors stuff. We also got to meet and briefly interview Takashi Iizuka after he demonstrated the game to us. You can expect a transcript and audio of the interview (which includes music from the Sweets level and menu music) which outlines some nice game play details I didn’t detail here, off screen movies, and a more in depth, analytic “second take” preview later in the week, after I’ve logged more time on it.