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Sonic Colors preview: Wisp you were here


We can all agree that Sonic Unleashed had some pretty deep lows -- specifically, the Werehog. But the daytime segments in the game showed promise; almost a return to form. These areas of the game, for the unaware, combined Sonic Adventure-like 3D free-running elements alongside more classical, 2D elements from the series' past. It was easily the highlight of that game.

And Sega knows it, which explains why Sonic Colors is pretty much nothing but those portions of gameplay. That alone would make for a pretty serviceable Sonic game, but Sega has also added Wisps: small alien creatures who imbue Sonic with one-time-use powers.

Gallery: Sonic Colors (E3 2010) | 10 Photos

At E3, we saw the Wisp that turns Sonic into a laser and the other that turns him into a drill, but here at PAX, we got to check out the newest level, Wisp Planet, and its new power-up: the orange Rocket Wisp. As its name would suggest, it turns Sonic into a rocket, sending him straight into the sky. The transformation fits into the design of the Wisp Planet nicely -- plenty of rails in the sky to grind and different paths to take by ascending higher and higher.

As far as controls go, Sonic Colors has plenty of options. You can use the Wiimote and Nunchuk; you can use the Classic Controller Pro; you can use a GameCube controller; you can even use the Wiimote on its lonesome. The only two methods I was able to try were Wiimote and Nunchuk, as well as Wiimote turned sideways. The latter felt way more natural, especially when the game switched to 2D.

It happens quite a bit on Wisp Planet. You'll start off in 3D, running forward, hitting speed boosts and dodging enemies, grinding rails and drifting, only to suddenly be pushed into more classic, 2D segments. Oh yes, you drift with Sonic -- holding down the 1 button when sliding down winding half-pipes, it was very reminiscent of sliding in Mario Kart. Sparks shoot up from Sonic's shoes as he slides downhill, but, honestly, these segments don't particularly add any value to the game. It's just a means to break up all of the speed segments, which is kinda counter-productive to a Sonic game, so hopefully Sega tweaks these portions to make Sonic faster or at least place them somewhere more appropriate in the level.

As we said at E3, Sonic Colors is a real surprise. Naturally, we're distrustful of all 3D Sonic experiences, but Sega is finally beginning to understand what gamers want from a Sonic game. The Wisp powers aren't overused and there's plenty of speed here, with large set pieces and a few "wow" moments -- throughout Wisp Planet, at least. The interchanging paths certainly add some replay value to the levels, not to mention the standard "collect these things" type of replay value developers put into their games, but most important is the speed. Sonic Colors thankfully understands this.

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