The creators of Sonic the Hedgehog are borrowing a more current page from Nintendo's Mario, giving the speedy blue mascot a galactic adventure and some super powered suits of his own to wear in Sonic Colors.
Why is Sonic the Hedgehog going to space in Sonic Colors? To check in on his arch nemesis Dr Eggman who has just built the Dr Eggman's Incredible Interstellar Amusement Park under the guise of an apology to the people of Earth for his frequent misdeeds. Sonic's gut tells him something's up with the multi-themed space park and - wouldn't you know it? - he's right.
Eggman (aka Dr Robotnik) has been kidnapping beings known as Wisps. They look a bit like the abstract creatures from the game Meteos and certain Wisps give Sonic super powers with a shake of the Wii Remote.
Cyan Wisps give Sonic the ability to use laser honed skills. He can aim with perfect precision at foes, travel through special fibre optic-like paths and speed burst through certain tunnels, destroying just about everything in his path. Laser Sonic can also reflect off of special crystals, unlocking new pathways and hidden areas.
Yellow Wisps give Sonic the ability to drill through the ground - or through layers of cake and fruit, as seen in that screen shot from the level "Sweet Mountain", a massive pastry factory - destroying enemies and burrowing into hidden areas, usually filled with collectible goodies.
There will other Wisps that will give Sonic the Hedgehog other special abilities, but Sega and producer Takashi Iizuka were keeping those details secret at E3 2010.
The rest of Sonic Colors, without all that super-powered gameplay, feels much like the daytime portions of Sonic Unleashed, which came to the Wii, PlayStation 2, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in 2008. Sonic has the same suite of moves, like his homing attack, and the action switches from side-scrolling to rear view third-person action as 3D Sonic games now do.
Given that Sonic colours takes place in a space station, expect some "gravity based shenanigans" to appear at some point.
It does feel like Sonic Unleashed, minus the Werehog gameplay, thankfully, based on my hands-on time with the game pre-E3. It's disarmingly enjoyable and the gameplay variety due to the Wisp gimmick feels like a natural extension of the series' trademark high-speed platforming. The game also looks outstanding graphically, thanks to bright cheery environments, with cool effects like motion blur filling the screen when Sonic's boost meter fills up.
The game also has massive hamburgers.
Like it or not, Sonic colours is getting a big emphasis on story, according to Sega reps at E3. Iizuka said the game will have a "stronger fantasy feel", with an emphasis on humour that will be "enjoyable for adults and children". Sega has employed Madworld contributors Ken Pontac and Warren Graff, writers on the show Happy Tree Friends, to sprinkle some jokes in there.
Sonic Colors, in addition to the Wii, is coming to the Nintendo DS. That version, which we did not demo at E3, plays like 2007's Sonic Rush Adventure, according to Iizuka.
Whether Sonic colours will be as brightly shining a star as Super Mario Galaxy was, we'll find out later this year.