In the height of Sonic the Hedgehog's Mega Drive reign, the term 'gimmick' was used lovingly to describe the little gadgets and gizmos that could be used to traverse Angel Island Zone, Hidden Palace and the Mystic Caves. These days, it's become a bit of a dirty word.
Now when you hear the phrase 'Sonic gimmick' your mind instantly conjurs up images of Hedgewolfs (I refuse to use the terminologically incorrect official name, Werehog), medieval swords, guns and broken physics.
So when SEGA announced Sonic Colours
, a platformer that heavily revolved around aliens that provide special powers, as an exclusive on the Wii (another product that has been sadly been given the negative 'gimmick' kick), the heads of many a fan exploded. True story. Blew right off.
Then those fans got better, and realised that this time around, using Wisps as power-ups wasn't as ridiculous a notion as some of the ideas in past Sonic titles. Indeed, as a whole package Sonic Colours
is a fantastically enjoyable game, but specifically the inclusion of these creatures goes a long way to enhance the traditional 3D platforming action we've come to know and... well, we've come to know it.
Sonic collects these floating critters in capsules lying around the beautifully decorated landscapes in each level, and when activated can change the blue blur in such a way so that he can take advantage of some cool level-manipulating abilities. Take control of the Cyan Laser and you'll be able to dart off in a straight line, bouncing off of reflective diamonds along the way and allowing you to reach higher routes.
Grab the Yellow Drill and go spinning underground to explore secret tunnels and see just how deep some of these stages really are (seriously, try digging all the way to the bottom of one of the later Acts of Tropical Resort – mental!), use the Orange Rocket to shoot skywards and follow trails of rings with the Green Hover. There's also a Pink Spikes power up that lets Sonic grip onto any surface and a Purple Frenzy that turns the hedgehog into a strange block-chomping monster.
It's this last Wisp that had been kept suspiciously quiet from press and fans alike ahead of the game's release, and mentioning their presence is a good opportunity to tell you about the story. Sonic's zooming along various planets that are home to these different Wisp beings, and these worlds have been chained to a suspicious metal hub by Dr. Eggman under the pretence of building an intergalactic amusement park.
The stages are clearly themed to suit – the 'green opening' Zone, the 'space' Zone, the 'water' Zone, the 'environmental message' Zone, and the 'dark and creepy Hallowe'en' Zone. Between them, Sonic Colours
presents some of the most impressive and imaginative backdrops I've seen in a Sonic game since 1994. Each level is colourful, vibrant, wacky and out of this world, just like a Sonic game should be. None of this real-life influenced, human-starring crap.