While I can’t say for certain that Sonic Colors was inspired by the Super Mario Galaxy games, there’s times when it certainly feels like it. A bad guy kidnaps a bunch of cute creatures (Wisps, Lumas) and tries to create a powerful weapon (mind control ray, galaxy generator), so the protagonist finds themselves on a space station-style hub world (Eggman’s theme park, Comet Observatory) and travels to a variety of different planets, letting the developers show off all the different aesthetics they can make, as well as some puzzles that would only work in space.
The difference is, Sonic Colors isn’t quite as competent. That isn’t to say it’s incompetent, it’s certainly leagues ahead of Sonic and the Black Knight and roughly on par with Generations, but it doesn’t manage to break the trend of Sonic’s subpar platforming.
We’re getting ahead of ourselves, however. What I’m sure we’re all really interested in is the story, which is as follows. Eggman apparently tires of his evil ways, so decides to build a theme park in space as an apology. Instead of selling his space elevator technology to NASA and retiring comfortably, he instead kidnaps a bunch of aliens called “wisps” and uses them as power to fuel the mind control ray that the theme park is disguising. In order to prevent him from firing the mind control ray at the Earth, Sonic has to free the wisps and defeat Eggman. Simple, but effective, better to stick to the basics than become a Forces-style mess.
I’ve already said most of what I’ve had to say about Sonic’s platforming back in my Generations review: it tries, but ultimately doesn’t work. Sonic has to move too fast, it’s the whole point of the game, and as a result some levels turn out to more of a memory game than a test of skill. A lot of levels weren’t that fun the first time around, because I hadn’t memorized when a tricky gap or enemy was.
However, to make up for not-so-great platforming, Sonic Colors includes mild puzzle elements. Throughout each level, you can rescue Wisps of different colors. Each cage you break open grants you a one-time power up use, whether that be the ability to hover for a little bit, drill into the ground, or turn into a spiky ball and roll up walls. Not only does this spice up the gameplay a little, it also helps create alternate paths that you can take if another one’s giving you trouble, or if you want to go hunting for red coins.
Because you unlock them slowly, there’s eight colors and you don’t get access to one until the last world, completionists will probably have fun returning to the early levels and playing them again using the new power ups to find new paths. For me, however, I think I’m happy enough with just the single playthrough.
I don’t have much to say on the controls, except that they’re vastly improved over Sonic and the Black Knight. There’s no single-lane levels, even the tightest of corridors giving you at least three lanes to hop between, if not full movement. Attacking has returned to the tried and true A button, and waggling the remote is now mapped to activating power ups, which happens with low enough frequency to be excusable. The homing attack is, for the most part, reliable. There were a handful of times where it just didn’t activate and would kill me, nowhere near as many times as in Shadow the Hedgehog (I’ll get to that one later, trust me). If anything, it would sometimes lock on too often, and I had to try to recover after accidentally jumping towards an enemy when I just wanted to double-jump.
Combat is lame and kind of button-mashy, as usual, but it’s not important enough to matter. All enemies (save for bosses), can either be boosted through, homing attacked, or outright skipped, and a lot of the time they’re more inconvenient than dangerous. Once again, the wisps help a little as some of them let you obliterate enemies in more fun ways, but they don’t come up as often as you’d hope, so the standard attack is more reliable.
I made a comparison to Super Mario Galaxy earlier, and while Sonic Colors is definitely its own game, there are moments when it definitely wants to be Mario. Remember those fantastic gravity puzzles from the Galaxy games? Where the arrows on the walls would indicate which way the gravity went, and you had to try to do platforming while also figuring out which way you’d be pulled? Well, there’s a level near the end of Colors that tries that, except it only inverts up and down instead of also pulling you to the left or right. There’s also no indication which way you’ll go, and when you throw in the fact that the platforming just isn’t as good, it really just reminds me that I have two other space-themed platformers I could be playing right now on the same console.
That aside, however, when Colors embraces its own identity instead of trying to emulate something better, there are a couple cool designs setpieces. It’s just unfortunate that since I’m playing a Sonic the Hedgehog title, I’m either holding forward or just running automatically through them. Yes, this isn’t the game that breaks free of Sonic’s autorunning tendencies. There’s a level in the third world where you spend over a solid minute just running down a path that requires no input whatsoever. It’s unfortunate, because there are scenes in this game that still give you cool setpieces and let you actually control Sonic through them, but a lot of the time you just sit back and watch the show whether you like it or not.
Fortunately, the presentation is fantastic. While the game didn’t release all that long ago, just a little before Generations, it still looks good and probably will for years to come. The cartoony style ages well, and will surely look fine for years to come. The music is also great, while it has a weaker main theme than some other games and not every track is a standout, a lot of the later-game compositions are excellent. It’s not as consistently fantastic as Generations or Mania and it doesn’t have big standout tracks like Adventure 2 or 06, but listening to the soundtrack is still worth your while.
Overall, while this is one of the better Sonic the Hedgehog games I’ve played, it’s still a bit rough about the edges and there’s a bit of unnecessary frustration throughout. However, if you’re willing to take some trial and error gameplay in exchange for a pretty fun time once you learn the levels, Colors is probably worth your time. If you haven’t liked any other Sonic game, however, while Colors is among the best, it’s probably not going to win you over.
Max is a student at Rutgers who likes writing fantasy and playing video games such as Zelda, Mario, Undertale, Earthbound, and Stardew Valley.