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Sonic Colours

Back to black?

Sonic Colours, then. It's another return to the hedgehog's roots, but in a different way to Sonic the Hedgehog 4's elaborate sprite tribute to his Mega Drive days.

Evidently taking its inspiration from the relative success that was Secret Rings and not, thankfully, from Black Knight, Colours strips away periphery characters and desperate additions like talking swords and werewolf transformations to focus on speed and tight design. There's no Arabian or Arthurian theme, no Shadow, just platforms and bright colours and plenty of things to cheerfully jump on and rebound off.

It jangles our nerves at first, though, by calling itself SONIC COLORS on the E3 demo's title screen. We're hastily reassured that there'll be an extra U in there in time for the European release.

Sonic Colours' stages are sprawled across a six-armed planet map not entirely dissimilar to Mario's galaxies. Colours also pulls the same trick of transitioning you between 2D and 3D without much warning, in such a way that you don't always notice it's happening. It's partly on-rails, but not to Secret Rings' extent - you use the nunchuk's analogue stick to guide Sonic around tight corners with your own capable thumb without the game wresting away control.

If you've ever been to Smile Burger in Kyoto, you'll recognise that burger.

Stages are bright, sugar-hallucination arrangements of corkscrewing pipes, spring pads, primary and pastel-coloured blocks and hovering robotic enemies, with trails of golden rings leading from one mini-segment to the next. The two levels on show - Sweet Mountain and Tropical Resort - are stylistically very different, but equally colourful.

Sweet Mountain is an icing-daubed, candy-coloured stage constructed mostly from cake, sending Sonic loop-the-looping around donuts and boring through layers of pastry. Tropical Resort is a blue-and-green paradise. Both are a mixture of familiar audio and visual cues - the blue-and-red spring pads, the discordant chime when Sonic is hit by an enemy and scatters his rings - and fresh level design.

There are plenty of alternate routes, vertically-stacked in the 2D sections. Sonic barrels along at such a relentless pace that you're not always sure why you've emerged in a new area - zipping left and right across parallel rails on different playthroughs sends the hedgehog in different directions, soaring through a series of rainbow-coloured hoops or skating down onto a fast-disappearing bridge.

Wisp pickups cower inside their little UFO capsules until Sonic smashes them and consumes their souls for special powers.

Sonic's homing spin is, once again, as much a form of conveyance as an attack, propelling him from enemy to enemy, exploding them into rings and speeding up his path through the levels. Stages are peppered with bright balloons, too, which you can lock onto and burst with a satisfying pop and which occasionally lead to shortcuts.

There's a mix of destructible obstacles that Sonic can run straight through and barriers that stop him in his tracks, ruining his momentum. Trial and error is the only sure way to tell between them, but it's generally obvious that you can run through a crowd of barrels but not through a steel block.