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Sonic Colours gameplay preview

Hands-on: Getting fresh with the hedgehog...

Sonic's had some difficulty making the transition from 2D platforming. With the concept of super-duper speed alone wearing thin, zipping along a 3D path with a feeling of being sucked towards the end goal rather than really having any control over you actions just wasn't satisfying.

Too much time spent on rails and none of the charm of the original 2D side-scrollers has meant a fall from grace for the spikey blue one.

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There were a couples of good ideas in the overall mess that was Sonic The Hedgehog Next Gen, and Sonic Unleashed was a solid adventure if nothing spectacular. Neither, however, have managed to capture the blue magic that made Sonic a star in the first place.

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But it's no-use just re-creating the past brick for brick either. The challenge Sonic Team have been faced with recently is how to maintain the essence of Sonic The Hedgehog, while at the same time taking advantage of next gen capabilities and pushing the franchise further.

How do you combine the two? Well, you combine the two, apparently. Each zone of Sonic Colours is a mash-up of a third person 3D platformer and a luscious side-scroller, thanks to a dynamic camera, with all the pads and corkscrews you'd expect in the world of Sonic and a few new ideas thrown in as well. We got our hands on two zones of Sonic Colours, with two acts a piece and a nasty but entertainingly colourful boss at the end.

GOT THE BLUES
First the premise: The diabolical Dr. Eggman is at it again with another fiendish plan to take over the world. This time he's built an interstellar amusement park around Sonic's home planet. Oh...Erm...Damn you Eggman!

It turns out that Eggman's fair ground is just a front and he's actually abducting colourful aliens called Wisps and harvesting their powers to carry out his evil plans. When Sonic gets word of this he's really, really angry about the whole ordeal.

Colours is an attempt at adding variety and new dynamics to the traditional Sonic experience and it seems that a massive fairground is a good start. Apart from the 3D platforming, side-scrolling crossover, levels have a number of different challenges packed between beginning and end.

The usual platform hopping and baddie-bouncing action remains at the root and features a homing attack that lets Sonic shoot from one enemy to the next with multiple taps of A.

And there are still times when you're put on rails, but this time they're deliberately placed mini-games where you need to jump between actual rails to collect maximum rings or avoid time-wasting drops.

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A similar challenge takes Sonic's speed out of your hands but ups the onus on control by sending the blue one around a Mario Kart style track with timed twists of the Wii remote resulting in drifting to maintain speed.

The biggest addition is the inclusion of the Wisps. Sonic can harness their power and thankfully they're scattered around the different levels ready to be utilised.

Different coloured Wisps provide Sonic with extra abilities. The blue Dash Wisp, for example gives Sonic a boost with the B button on the Wii remote. We also came across the yellow Drill Wisp, which allows Sonic access to underground chambers and alternate routes by giving him the ability to drill through the ground of side-scrolling sections. Finally the green Laser Wisp gives you the power to freeze time, aim up and zap through multiple enemies at once.

The general difficulty of Sonic Colours will suit younger fans; zones still fly by and you'll wonder at times just how much control you actually have. But each level is crammed, throwing you from one experience to the next. Couple that with the vibrant, colourful new world though and hopefully older Sonic fans will have enough to go at too.

Could Sonic finally be entertaining again?

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