Exclusive: Video of New Area In Planet Wisp

So yeah, apparently a level I took video of weeks ago at a public event still hasn’t been uploaded on the internet. Who knew? You can read my complete hands on of the game here. To say the least, I find the game fun, and this stage was no exception.

The footage of the new area starts at 4:46. It’s played from start to finish of course, though I did screw up the drifting a little.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfI34y7izBE[/youtube]

PAX 2010 Sonic Colors Hands-On

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfI34y7izBE[/youtube]

I think they’ve finally got it.

That about sums up my second chance to play the game. They’ve cut the gimmicks, cut the fat, fixed the camera, tightened the controls, and done just about everything else you could ask of a development team. Indeed, I don’t even recall seeing any of the random frame rate chugging like in the E3 demo. The jumping feels perfect. The homing attack has been fine tuned to the point where using it will never accidentally send you careening off into a chasm. Controling Sonic feels great and fast, with no collision detection bugs or odd glitches. The endless chasms appear to be gone, and while the levels have so far proven easy enough to get through, it still takes some skill to play them well, just like in the classics.

The wisp power ups are also a sight for sore eyes. Replacing the endless gimmicks and alternate play styles of past 3D games, the wisps are not only non-intrusive, but are a true joy to use. Whether it’s blasting through a level as a rocket, drilling through a cake to find power ups and otherwise inaccessible areas, or floating above spikes to reach otherwise unreachable areas above, these little aliens are probably the best thing to happen to Sonic since the elemental shields. I’ve yet to encounter a wisp that didn’t add something to the experience. Sure, the creators have pointed out that you don’t need to use them, but why wouldn’t you? For the first time ever in a Sonic game, I think this game would be a lesser experience without these gimmicks.

Of course, things aren’t perfect. At times the game can feel a little too automatic, to the point where it restricts how much control you have over Sonic in certain areas where you need to  drift or sidestep. These moments are rare, and out of the three levels I’ve played they where most prevalent in the newest level, Planet Wisp. Sonic is also just a little too fast now. I personally preferred the speed in the E3 demo, but after I got used to it the extra speed didn’t detract from the experience. That said, there are far worse things I could complain about in the other 3D Sonics, even in the Adventure series.

When last I previewed this game, I said that this was the best 3D Sonic game since the Adventure series. Well now, I rescind that statement. This game will outdo the Adventure series. Just going by these three levels, I don’t see how it can’t. The game has superior level design, superior programming, far fewer bugs and glitches – I encountered none in the PAX demo – and the gimmicks are far, far superior. I haven’t even had a chance to check out the co-operative mode, which looks like it’s going to be an experience in and of itself. I can’t believe that this game is from the same team that brought us such disasters as Shadow the Hedgehog and Sonic and the Black Knight. I can’t believe, for the first time ever, I can whole heartedly recommend a 3D Sonic game, without warning about its flaws and things you need to “get over” to enjoy it. I can’t believe I can say with confidence, that those people who post the Sonic Cycle for every damn announcement, should cram it and buy it on day one.

Of course, while I’ve raised my expectations, Iizuka’s raised the stakes, claiming that the game will be equal to or better then the classic Genesis games. From my playtime, I am not yet ready to make that same claim. That’s the sort of thing even I refuse to say until I’ve played this game over at least a year’s time. We’ll see soon enough.

Don’t be reserved. Don’t be cautious. Sonic Colors is a great game. Come November, go buy it. Sonic is back.

PAX 2010 Preview: Sonic Free Riders, Part 2

As mentioned in part 1 of my hands-on preview, Sonic Free Riders was only set up at the very end of the show and, as a result, was only demoed by about ten people at the show. What was surprising, though, was that the opinions of everyone who got to play it were universally positive. Given the small number of people who got to play the demo, I decided to record their impressions just as they got off of the demo for the compilation video you see below. I regrettably wasn’t able to record the first two people to try the game, but they shared the positive opinions of the people below. Be sure to stay tuned for more videos later in the day of some of these people in action!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-FHNVPLyNk[/youtube]

Update: I’ve uploaded some game play I took at the event.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YzVRj04q7v8[/youtube]
This next video highlights a problem many people – though not everyone – had with the demo: the menus. I might be doing one more preview regarding these menus, provided I still have the video I took of someone having serious problems with selecting their character.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7cX6x-2deY[/youtube]

PAX 2010 Preview: Sonic Free Riders, Part 1

We’ve got three Sonic games coming out at the end of the year, and between the three, the one SEGA’s kept closest to its chest has been Sonic Free Riders. Unplayable at E3, the game was only made available to the press about a month ago and made its first public appearance at Gamescom a few weeks ago.

The Penny Arcade Expo marks Free Riders’ first public appearance in America… sort of. Despite SEGA’s intention of bringing it to the show floor, those plans were cancelled at the last minute. So, how am I writing this preview? During the last 45 minutes of the Sunday show, some of the good people over at SEGA closed the Sonic 4 booth and set up a Sonic Free Riders demo. Only a few people, aside from myself, were able to play it and I’ve compiled their opinions for the second part of this preview.

So, how does it play? Well, allow me to start by saying that despite this game being on a “casual gamer focused” peripheral, it’s probably the least user-friendly game I’ve played for the peripheral so far. There is a certain way you need to stand, a certain way you need to move to activate certain attacks, and if you don’t do it right, the game won’t control properly.

When you do, though, Free Riders is probably one the best titles on Kinect’s holiday line up, but that’s not really saying much. It’s also looking like being the best game in the Riders series, though again this isn’t really saying much. In order to play the game properly, you need to stand as if you where on a skateboard. If you stand with your body facing the screen, you will have absolutely no control over your character. You also need to throw the different weapons in different ways, with a certain amount of exaggeration in your movements.

So with this game, much like Sonic Riders and Zero Gravity, there may be a lot of early frustration depending on the user. While I was watching others play, I noticed some of them picked it immediately, while others needed some time to get used to how the game played. Once you do get it though, Sonic Free Riders can actually be rather exhilarating. For the users who do get it right away, they’re in for a pretty neat motion game. It cuts out a lot of the fat that held down its predecessors; you no longer need to refill your air, turning is a lot easier to pull off then it was in past titles – at least once you figure out how to stand – and the difficulty is more forgiving.

However, with the removal of many of these elements, the game itself has become simpler, which may have its drawbacks in the long run. Even compared to arcade racers likes like Sonic and SEGA All Stars Racing and Outrun 2, the game feels a little shallow. The handful of weapons that were shown in the demo – the rocket and the bowling ball – aren’t anything we haven’t seen before.

Of course, this is all based on a single race; about 3 minutes of playtime, and at the end of the day the experience was definitely a positive one. Sonic Free Riders is fast and it stands as a testament to just how immersive the Kinect peripheral can be when it’s applied to the right game. While you play the game, you physically throw the weapons, scoot your back foot across the ground to activate the boost (as you would on a real skateboard), jump in the air to jump, swim with your arms to move through water segments, and twist your body left and right to make the turns. All of this makes for a great – although somewhat exhausting – racing experience.

So, will Sonic Free Riders turn out to be a great game? I’ve played too little to say. As I said earlier, the game is a little shallow and there is no telling whether the final product will offer enough to keep you playing for a long time. It is most certainly not a bad game, though.

While I am personally expecting more from Sonic Free Riders when it’s released than I was before, it still didn’t excite me enough to actually buy the Kinect. If you’re planning on buying Kinect for this game alone, I’d advise you to try before you buy, if you can. While it was fun, I’m not sure it’s worth Kinect’s $150 price tag.

We’ll bring you our thoughts on the full game once it comes out this holiday season. Stay tuned for part 2 of this preview, which is a video compilation of what other players thought of the game.