I'll get to the main reason why I've racked up 25 hours on Sonic Colours
now, besides the fact that I'm enjoying it quite a lot ? S Ranks. Like most Sonic
games before it, your gameplay is rated at the end of each Act based on your score. Past games have either been too glitchy (Sonic 06
, Sonic Heroes
) or too tedious (every other game) to want to better your past Rank.
makes you want to go back and attain that elusive S, thanks to the way it constantly informs you of your score progress. A tally just below the total score area tells you exactly what's giving you the big points ? you get bonuses for drifting, grinding, collecting Special Rings, quick-stepping and for using Colour powers.
Your time bonus and ring count help a huge deal at the end of the stage, but is no longer the key factor in acing a level. Because of this, you're not only taking your time to learn the level to find new routes and collect Special Rings, but also to find the way to maximise your score before you reach that goal marker.
The Wisps can help a great deal in achieving that ? for every few seconds you're underground using the Yellow Drill, for example, you get a bonus. The Drill can also be used to 'swim' around the huge underwater areas in Aquatic Park (and gives you unlimited air while you're at it) so you're not slowed down by all the H20.
Using the Cyan Laser with similar-coloured diamonds can set you up for a massive enemy-destroying combo or send you higher up the level, while the Orange Rocket has the added bonus of sending Sonic into a free-fall to collect rings and items. Green Hover Wisps can follow a trail of rings, and Pink Spikes lets you stick to almost any surface ? which means almost the whole level is your oyster.
The newly-announced Wisp power, the Blue Cube, isn't all that exciting in comparison, but it's perhaps the best one in terms of platforming potential. Shake the Wii Remote and Sonic transforms into a ground-pounding cube that switches blue coins into solid blue platforms and vice versa. Sonic then turns back to take advantage of the change, and you can use the Cube power for as long as there is still charge in your meter.
For an example of just how much of a difference a Wisp makes, take one particular Act in Starlight Carnival, set inside one of Eggman's ships. With a level full of destructible blocks, you can either take a top route using the Cube, or a lower route using Spikes ? with each route containing its own number of Special Rings and bonus items.
Enemies in a stage range from the familiar orange Egg Pawn robots from Sonic Heroes
to classic badniks from the Mega Drive games, re-imagined in 3D. Motobugs chase you in Starlight Carnival as you run along an intergalactic pathway, Burrobots try to drill your face in when digging underground in Tropical Resort, and Crabmeats fire homing rockets at you in Aquatic Park.
Even the Egg Pawns ? usually a symbol of 'meh' for me ? have character here, with certain enemies themed according to the world they reside. Some wield 'Welcome' banners, others carry trumpets as part of a marching band. Egg Pawns are easy to defeat with the homing attack, but most classic badniks won't let you use the homing attack, making them a real challenge to overcome.
continues the classic theme right down to the two-player co-op mode. Many of these are inspired by levels from the original Mega Drive Sonic the Hedgehog
too. I say co-op mode, but it sort of has elements of a 'frenemy' mode. Playing as a robot version of Sonic, you ?and a pathetic friend? (cheers Eggman) play through some short levels against a digitised backdrop and 8-bit renditions of the main worlds' themes.
Although you're playing 'together', you can jump on your friend's head and render him unconscious for a few seconds ? if he falls off of the screen or fails to catch up to you, he loses a life. You only have two lives each, so you have to be excellent to each other to stay alive. You keep a joint score, so there's no reason to be a dick ? it's just fun. A friend once managed to make me plummet straight down a bottomless pit after smacking me on the bonce and pushing me downwards. The git.
isn't out until November, so there's a good few months where things can get polished up to perfection. And as much fun as I had in those last 25 hours, I did come across a few niggles. Jumping alone is not the best way to deal with enemies ? there's a split second as you're jumping where Sonic is not a spinning ball, leaving him open to attack. Once you're reached the apex of your jump, you also stop spinning ? again, leaving you open to attack. For enemies where you can't use a homing attack, that can get frustrating.
And last time I played the game, I was pleasantly surprised to see a little Hazard warning appear at the bottom of the screen whenever I was about to encounter a bottomless pit or some other sudden death area. Later levels don't have this neat feature, making for a few choice phrases to be yelled out when I fell down a gap that appeared out of nowhere in Aquatic Park. Old habits like that need to be dealt with.
But make no mistake, this game is looking extremely solid. For most of us, November can't come soon enough, and with ample reason ? Sonic the Hedgehog is back.