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Nintendo DS Review: Sonic Colors

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Sonic attempts to return to form in the latest franchise release, Sonic Colors. While there’s a Wii version available, the DS brings back the classic side-scrolling blue-blur we remember many years ago on the Sega Genesis. Is it a smooth transition for the title? Or does this handheld version leave something to be desired?

In many ways the answer to both those last questions is yes. The game is a very worthwhile port of the Nintendo Wii title, but it comes with its own share of problems that hold it back from greatness. Still, if you were ever a fan of Sonic games from the past, Colors is definitely worth a spin.

The game features a story that brings Dr. Eggman’s robots back into action along with a host of aliens, intergalactic travel, and plenty of things for Sonic to do. Basically Eggman has created an interstellar amusement park of sorts as a way to capture and utilize the energy from cute little aliens known as Wisps. These Wisps enlist the help of Sonic to liberate them from Eggman’s clutches.  Eggman’s ultimate plan is to use their energy to create a massive weapon. Naturally, Sonic has no problems going toe-to-toe with his nemesis.

The narrative is relatively straightforward and there’s not much in terms of plot exposition — it’s basically a rudimentary set up for cute characters and action, and it’s effective in that regard. It’s the charm and personality of the characters and gameplay that really drive home this experience, however.

Sonic Colors is truly a return to form for the franchise. Each stage is set up to allow Sonic the chance to flex his speedy muscles as he races from one point to the next while collecting rings along the way. The sense of speed is great and the move-set is familiar with a spin move leading the way. Other combat comes into play as well, but primarily the actions in Colors revolve around fast running, perfect timing, jumping, and spinning. It’s simplistic to a fault, but if it’s not broken, why fix it?

Colors does introduce a couple new elements in the form of Wisp abilities. At certain points, Sonic will come across aliens that will help him through areas. Whether these aliens turn him into a laser, an arrow, propel him through their air like a rocket, or make his sonic speed even faster, they are available in full force. These powers gel with the classic gameplay formula and it’s quite seamless in its effect.

Each stage is meticulously designed as well, with various loops, rails, and pits through which to navigate. Cheap deaths abound and the game is punishing on those who ill-time jumps or aren’t paying attention around enemies. To that end, the lock-on system the game gives players is utterly useless. When Sonic gets near an enemy they will have a red reticule above them which lets Sonic attack them. Unfortunately, correct use of this is spotty at best and it’s only available at certain distances and angles. Try tying those together while running at 80mph. It’s not easy. Boss fights are a prime example of the faults of the combat system as each has a certain weak-point and target. These targets often aren’t clear enough and one can expect to die frequently while experimenting in each battle.

Now, as far as the game’s length is concerned, Sonic Colors on the DS will take a while to beat. Worlds are broken down into several acts and there are side missions and bonus stages aplenty. The single-player campaign boasts plenty to do along with galleries to unlock. There’s also a multiplayer feature that is rather robust.

Sonic Colors is a charmer on the Nintendo DS, but it’s not exactly the best looking game on the handheld. While in motion, everything looks great with vibrant colors and environments that appear lively as you whiz by. Unfortunately, once the action stops, sparse details become evident and the game doesn’t pop quite as much. The cut scenes are brilliant, however, and the game exudes personality in nearly every frame. Colors really retains the classic look of the Sonic franchise, but gives it a slight facelift for the modern gamer. Likewise the audio in the game is good, but not entirely memorable. Classic sounds abound, though the music is merely mediocre.

Ultimately Sonic Colors is a solid outing for the DS. The gameplay retains a classic feel and successfully integrates new elements. The experience lasts a while and the title has plenty of charm to it that should appeal to all ages. Some flaws are present, however, and players can expect spiking difficulty and inaccurate targeting. These aren’t game-breaking issues by any means, though they do add some frustration into the mix. Overall I’d say this game is strongly recommended.

Sonic Colors is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Mild Cartoon Violence. This game can also be found on: Nintendo Wii.

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