Sonic Unleashed did a remarkable job of pissing people off. Despite reasonable sales, the Werehog gimmick ruined an otherwise competent platformer with unwanted and cumbersome combat; it literally tried to turn Sonic into something he's not. Unleashed wasn't completely devoid of enjoyment, though. The 2D sections offered some of the best platforming the series has seen in recent years, and fans were vocal about the fact they wanted more. Thankfully - and surprisingly, given their track record - Sonic Team were all ears. Sonic Colours makes a whole game out of the good bits in Sonic Unleashed - there are no Werehogs, talking swords or uninvited friends to spoil things.
Perhaps taking a cue from a certain Italian plumber, Sonic Colours is set in space. Consumed by guilt and remorse for his previous misdemeanours, Eggman has put his evil plans to one side to build an intergalactic amusement park; a place of balloons, rollercoaster's and trumpet playing Badniks. As the title alludes, it's a very colourful place. The map screen is effervescing with colour, with the entire spectrum of the rainbow covered in glowing neon and flashing lights. With the wrong frame of mind it could be considered brash or garish, but it's hard to complain in an age where most games are painted in a medley of browns and greys.
Suspecting an ulterior motive behind Eggman's foray into the entertainment and leisure industry, Sonic and Tails decide to check the place out. Their suspicions are quickly confirmed; the theme park is nothing more than an elaborate guise for another of Eggman's crazy plots to take over the world. It happens to be his most diabolical plan yet; to kidnap, kill and harvest the power of an endangered alien species. These aliens – Wisps as they're known – are not only central to the plot, but also the gameplay. By rescuing these Chao-like creatures from each level, they'll rather graciously lend Sonic their powers. With a quick shake of the Wii-mote (or tap of the R button, if you're playing with the classic controller) you can turn Sonic into a rocket or an airship, or something altogether more ferocious. The purple wisp, for example, transforms Sonic into a little purple shark of sorts, which chomps its way through anything in its path, growing in size as it does so.
Despite these new power-ups, Colours is a pure, gimmick-free Sonic game. In streamlining the experience, Colours achieves a much better sense of speed than previous games, putting the recent Sonic 4 to shame. Each level plays out on a combination of 2.5D and 3D planes, with the perspective flitting back and forth as Sonic bounds along. The controls are tight and simple, and even the camera is on its best behaviour throughout. All the criticisms levelled at previous 3D Sonic outings have been ironed out.
Each zone – or planetary system as it's represented in Colours – plays host to four or five Acts and a boss, meaning you'll spend far more time in each zone than you would in previous Sonic games. There's not a green hill, ice-capped mountain or other generic-platform-level in sight either, with thematic inspiration coming from far more interesting places.