Sonic Colors on the Wii is, in my opinion, the first wholly great console Sonic title in years, truly kick-starting a wonderful new renaissance for Sonic after his hideous dark age period from mid-2000's until the new decade. It was a lovely surprise! What wasn't a surprise was how excellent the DS version of Colors was. You see, Sonic games for handheld systems have never lost any quality from Sonic's early, glory days. The Sonic Advance series, Sonic Rush, and Sonic Rush Adventure have all been, for the most part, totally awesome Sonic titles that kept glorious momentum in Sonic's favor. Sonic Colors for the DS may very well be one of his very best handheld adventures ever, and when you consider how great all of his handheld games have been, this is high praise indeed.
The story in Sonic Colors is fun, quirky, and quite silly, which fits right in with the tone of the Rush games on the DS. Dr. Ivo "Eggman" Robotnik, in an apparent act of repentance and attempted redemption, has built an intergalactic amusement park in space, featuring several exotic planets with their own unique attractions, all so that others can visit and enjoy themselves in the festivities. Of course, Sonic and Tails are understandably weary and investigate this, only to find out that it's just another evil scheme of Eggman. In reality, he has been enslaving and harvesting the planets' citizens, called Wisps, for their energy! Surprised? Of course not! I must say though that I really enjoyed the lighthearted tone of the story, and the writing is quite excellent in this game. It's all very delightful to take in, and adds another element of fun into the overall experience. Unfortantely, the story is a lot harder to follow, as it features mere talking heads to further the narrative, as opposed to the Wii's snazzy cutscenes, but oh well. It's still nice, and honestly, the only purpose the story should serve is to introduce the gameplay, and then step back and let that take center stage. Thankfully, it does so here.
Sonic Colors was developed by Dimps, the company who has made portable Sonic titles since the Sonic Advance days (as well as helped on Sonic Unleashed's stellar daytime levels. They also are the guys behind the great Sonic 4 episodes I & II). This may be their best Sonic effort to date. The gameplay is fast, furious, stylish, and very intuitive. The level design on display here is quite great. Each zone has multiple paths and off-shoots and makes each playthrough feel fun and fresh. The bosses are also quite well designed. I cannot say the same for the Bosses in some of Dimps past Sonic titles, as they can be pretty terrible sometimes. Not so here. I enjoyed almost every boss fight in Sonic Colors. The touch screen Special Stage is similar to that of Rush's, and Sonic the Hedgehog 2's special stage, with a new "blue sphere" twist similar to Sonic 3 & Knuckles tossed in for good measure. As weird as that sounds, the special stages here are a blast! There's also an extra final story scenario if all Chaos Emeralds are collected, making it even more complete than the Wii version in that regard. Awesome.
Sonic's traditional "fastest thing alive" approach to platforming is as alive as ever in this installment and features some new "innovations" for a handheld title (up to the point of its release in 2010 anyway); innovations such as sliding, air stomping, and having an actual homing attack are here, adding a lot of variety to Sonic's repertoire. The solid traditional gameplay mechanics, such as Sonic's boost bar, are complemented by very fun, whacky new "Wisp" abilities. Fortunately for us, the wisps aid Sonic in his battle against the Eggman empire by giving him unique abilities via their energy. Some wisps are the same as the console version, such as the cyan one that turns Sonic into a light beam, or the yellow drill type. Others are brand new, such as a purple one that literally turns Sonic into a black hole that floats around the level, growing in size and pull as you devour everything in sight.
So the story is fun, the level/boss design is fantastic, and the gameplay mechanics are pure gold. Polishing it all up is the presentation, both in audio and visual. Of course, all of the sound effects you'd expect are present and that's all good. The voice-acting, as little as there is, is done well, and the meme-generating Wisp voice declarations are always enjoyable. The soundtrack is most definitely one of the best Sonic soundtracks of the last several years, in my opinion. Each composition is just spectacular, and thankfully not much was lost in translation to the DS here.
The visuals are just as high-quality as the sound design and music. Sonic and characters are 3-D polygons, as they were in the Rush titles, and backgrounds are intricate sprites. The art design in the game is incredibly imaginative. The places you'll go in this game are so specatuclar, ranging from a massive fleet of interstellar carnival space cruisers, to a planet made of sweets and junk food, to the incredibly beautiful and naturalistic planet wisp (complete with the massively epic chain holding the planet in place). The enemies all change depending on location too, showing an amazing attention to detail. It's great. The art design is fantastic as it is, but the execution of it is perfect here. I love it all.
I realize this review is long and gushing, but honestly, the game fully deserves it. Over the past decade, pretty much every Sonic handheld title has been a real treat, but even among those excellent games, Sonic Color for the DS stands out. It is one of Sonic's highest portable gaming pinnacles, one of his very best overall games of the entire decade, and is even a highlight in his entire 20 years of history. This is a fantastic title that really nails the "fastest thing alive" and "with attitude" approaches to platforming that Sonic is famous for. So buy it, boost and dash through it, and have a blast foiling yet another of Eggman's grand ambitions.