The portable part of a hedgehog double whammy, Sonic Colours is – you guessed it – a high-speed 2D platformer. But wait, there’s more: this time Sonic is joined by a range of unique power-ups that help to refresh the standard formula.
If you’ve played either of the hedgehog’s previous two outings on DS, the very enjoyable Sonic Rush and Sonic Rush Adventure, you’ll be right at home. Sonic has his usual move set of homing attack and the spin dash, but the boost gauge from the Rush series carries over too: charged up by defeating robots and collecting power-ups, a press of Y sends Sonic bursting forward, smashing just about anything in his path.
As boost is the first of the Wisp power-ups you unlock, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s so far, so Sonic Rush 3, but with each new power-up the game changes slightly. The rocket ability makes great use of the DS’s dual screens to bring a new verticality to the gameplay, and the fiery burst power-up is essentially a multiple-jump, letting you cross wide chasms and, of course, blow things up.
With a new power-up revealed in each Zone, going back to previous stages opens up access to different routes, something that previous Sonic games on the platform have struggled to offer. It’s not to say that there’s multiple exits and stacks of tucked-away secrets, but the new abilities actually encourage you to slow down and explore your environment rather than blasting through at top speed. Whether you think that’s a good thing or not likely depends on your view of what constitutes a good Sonic game.
The zones themselves also stray from the classic templates laid out all those years ago in the hedgehog’s formative 16-bit days. The game’s theme park setting offers mountainous cakes, skeletal roller coasters and flooded Japanese pagodas, so there’s no shortage of imagination, but the sights are rarely memorable, with the exception of the boss stages.
Played out in 2D but presented in 3D, each boss follows a set pattern with patience, timing and skill all required to take them down, with judicious use of that Zone’s particular Wisp power-up required to succeed. Later encounters offer the kind of palm-sweating tension that characterises all great boss battles, with the final standoff borrowing elements left, right and centre from Sonic Adventure, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and more.
In between all the Wisp-collecting and boss-bashing is a lot of dialogue between Sonic, and almost every side character going – yes, even Big the Cat. Thankfully such cutscenes are completely skippable, although should you find yourself missing out on a piece of vital information you can revisit any scene from the main menu.
Generally such cutscenes act as a prelude to a particular mission, which vary from passing a stage in a certain time limit to defeating a number of enemies. Whilst it’s not necessary to complete the missions in order to proceed, their short bursts are often perfectly pitched for “one more go” score attack sessions that tend to eat up more time than you might realise.
An overhead map view ties each world together, with different nodes within each Zone representing missions and Acts. It’s a simple and efficient way of presenting the stages, and means you’re never more than five seconds away from heading back into the game.
There’s also multi-card multiplayer modes for two players to face off against each other and a CPU race mode included for solo players, but this predictably fails to captivate in the same way as racing a human opponent. Unlike its Wii counterpart, there’s no cooperative mode here, just flat-out racing, which may disappoint some.
Graphically the game’s greatest asset is its pace, which is absolutely unrelenting: there’s never a trace of slowdown in the regular stages, and the 3D bosses hog the whole screen to lend a palpable trace of menace. The rainbow effect that accompanies the boost is pleasing, and the transformations all look the part – our favourite being the terrifying “Purple Void” – but on the whole there’s not a whole lot of improvements made here since 2008’s Sonic Rush Adventure.
Whilst the majority of the gameplay will feel familiar to Sonic veterans, particularly those who’ve enjoyed his previous DS outings, the Wisps genuinely refresh the gameplay by adding new routes to spice up each stage. It’s fast, loud, bright and bold, and a recommended slice of high speed action.