Sonic Colours has the following: loop de loops, spikes and springs; a level with a giant metallic beef burger towering on the horizon; enemies that look suspiciously similar to the iconic Buzz Bombers; and the ability to transform (quite literally) into an orange rocket. SEGA has also been kind enough to put the required 'U' in the title for us speakers of British English, so they've already managed to earn more brownie points than EA's Medal of Hono(u)r.

The basic idea for Sonic Colours is thus: take all the levels from Sonic Unleashed that people said they liked - the Sonic levels - and make an entire game from it, locking the Werehog levels away in a hermetically-sealed vault, hundreds of feet underground, never to be seen again. This is Sonic by way of the Mega Drive's platforming delights, rather than via nonsensical takes on Arthurian legend or Arabian fables.

This means there's no Shadow, no silly hub environments and absolutely no talking sword with a penchant for endless Wiimote-waggling. While Sonic 4 might be funnelling a more direct extension of Sonic's sprite-based glory days, Colours is equally as indebted to the spirit of the bygone era and just as focused on taking the series back to basics.

What it does mean is inventive stages. Take Sweet Mountain, for instance - a gauche, sugar-dusted construction of metal disguised as candy. Lollipop posts, giant donuts and gingerbread men dot your trail, with sparkling sweets and biscuit borders ferrying you from one confectionery set piece to the next.

It's the kind of thing the witch from Hansel and Gretel might build if she had access to modern day construction equipment (or Sonic Team's art department), and it's also a showcase for one of the hedgehog's new colour abilities - given to him by some magical Wisps that Eggman is probably trying to kidnap and exploit. In this instance it's the yellow drill that allows our hedgehog to burrow through the ground - which just so happens to be made of delicious cake - and to ferret out power-ups and level shortcuts. It only lasts for a limited time though, which means death by cake is a very genuine possibility. That's a pretty good way to go, to be fair.

Sonic runs around a mix of 2.5D and 3D planes, with an emphasis on ramping up the side-scrolling segments from the series' other 3D-ish instalments. Sweet Mountain is one of the game's earlier levels; death-defying leaps and dangerous enemies are nowhere to be found.

That's one of the game's bigger problems. It's all a bit painfully easy. I was scoring S ranks on my first run of each stage, despite spending plenty of my time perforating Sonic's behind on sets of menacing spikes. SEGA is still tuning the difficulty, but at this stage in development it's lacking some necessary bite.

Another stage, Tropical Resort, is also a bit on the easy side. It's a mix of the tropics and an amusement arcade, all palm trees, hover cars and neon signs - Casino Night by way of Emerald Hill, if you will. There are plenty of opportunities to use the cyan laser power, too, which both pauses time and lets you plot out a trajectory for Sonic to fling himself forward.

The boss for the stage - a robot flower thing (he doesn't have a proper name yet, apparently) - exists in a circular stage, occasionally trying to pound Sonic with his flowery robotic fists. It's a simple boss fight: jump onto some platforms, then the head, then repeat two more times. But it's a standard first stage boss fight, and a lot more enjoyable than just jumping on Eggman's bonnet a few times as he drives at you in a car with a drill on the front.

Still, the fundamentals are all in place. Levels are fast, springy and packed to the rafters with secrets to uncover. In classic Sonic style, the game looks simple, smooth and elegant when being played by an expert - then you pick up a controller and run head first into a wall and fall down when trying to powerslide around a tight corner. You'll still manage to get an S rank, though.

A third zone, Planet Wisp, was shown, but not playable. It's from a later point in the game, and it certainly looks harder: it's riddled with perilous jumps, conveyor belts and certain death if you put a foot wrong. It's a twisting maze of industrial steel corrupting a luscious green landscape, with a massive chain (doing something evil, probably) on the horizon.

A simple world map connects stages, and there's an intergalactic theme running through the proceedings that looks more than a little bit like it was inspired by Super Mario Galaxy. There's a customary bit of fan service, too: a ship shaped like Eggman's face, bushy moustache and all, roams around the bottom of the screen and the menacing, metallic eyes of Metal Sonic blink red in the top right corner. There were 10 stages on the map screen in the build I played, though I'd expect bonus ones to show up as you reach the end of the game.

Sonic Colours runs solely on the Wii - though a DS version is being made by another team - which is a potentially risky move. The company is putting all its egg(men)s into one basket, dedicating themselves to ensuring an optimal version of the game by focusing solely around the strength of a single platform - the one they've seen the most success from with the franchise, basically.

We've been here before though, and that's the problem. For all we know SEGA will come out next week and announce the addition of Ralph the Sloth, and reveal that you have you spend half the game gently rocking the Wiimote to send him to sleep. As it stands, however, it's probably worth staying cautiously optimistic about Sonic Colours. Its desire to take the series back to its roots is clearly apparent, and the levels seem bright, imaginative and playful, qualities which have been the mark of an excellent Sonic game in the past.

Sonic Colours is due for release on Wii and DS later this year.

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