GAME NAME: Sonic Lost World
DEVELOPER(S): Sonic Team
PLATFORM(S): Wii U. Also on 3DS
RELEASE DATE(S): Europe: 18th October 2013, NA: 29th October 2013
Just when Sonic starts to take a step in the right direction after Colors and Generations, he appears in his new game that it is ‘really’ unlike any other in the main series so far. The blue hedgehog takes a ride on the plane towards something resembling a mixture of Sonic CD’s ‘little planet’ and a beehive, and discovers some planet-like lands, vivid colors and giant creatures and fruits within that honeycombed place. It’s more – should I say – “down to earth” than Super Mario Galaxy, but it’s actually trying to look like, play like and frustrate like Super Mario Galaxy, as suspected by many people. As much as I want a true sequel to Sonic Generations and not have Sonic Team mucking around too much for once, this game may actually be something worth looking into.
Sonic Lost World is a brand new game, where Sonic explores a new world and face off against the Deadly Six; a group of Zeti’s set for world destruction. Without referring to Mario’s Wii masterpiece, this game is a departure from the speedy ventures through extreme landscapes, as the levels are split into several anti-gravity sections. Some of those levels can also resemble tunnels, so it’s not all planets and flat lands. It’s actually quite similar to the cancelled game Sonic X-Treme, which also contains some anti-gravity sections. They’re all presented via a fixed camera path, allowing for a simple view of levels without the need for the camera control, much like Crash Bandicoot. There are even some 2D perspective levels for players to speed through the gravity-warped slopes and take on several obstacles. All and all, it’s rather quite trippy.
I may argue that this game is not a complete copycat of Galaxy, as it doesn’t have a lot of planet-shaped level sections, and I have not found a level that’s set in space yet. But the fact it uses a heck lot of bright colors, orchestrated music and Mario-like features illustrate that Lost World is clearly asking for trouble. If Sonic Team wants to build a Sonic and Mario crossover platformer, then why not do so? We all want it!
Along with ‘Looney Tunes’ style animations and nostalgia from the SEGA Genesis games, they all make up for a vibrant game, especially that they run at 60 frames per second
When I wrote about the experiences of playing the demo of Lost World at this year’s Eurogamer Expo, I praised on the attractive level design and said on how lovely the game is. I admit that it’s a bit of an overstatement, but I’m not going back on my word as the levels are still nicely crafted. Bewildering at first, the opening stages set the standard of shortcuts, platforms and clever gimmicks. There’s even a return of color powers for added fun, as well as a bell that can be hit at different places many times, in order to turn it into a red ring for players to collect.
There are a lot of woodland-based levels in the game, but they still show some spectacular designs and puzzles. They even come with fantastic music, some of which are memorable and capture the similar dreamy style of the other Sonic Team game NiGHTS into dreams. Along with ‘Looney Tunes’ style animations and nostalgia from the SEGA Genesis games, they all make up for a vibrant game, especially that they run at 60 frames per second. I think it runs on the Hedgehog engine too, as it features some nice shaders including ‘Global Illumination’. That makes it look likely as one of the best looking games for the Wii U this year.
However, as I went further into the game, I found more of the frustrating flaws in the later levels, which scrambled up its difficulty curve. Don’t get me wrong, the levels seem to be designed well, and the ones from first two worlds don’t seem to have any major issues. But they still have pits for cheap deaths, and some of them can be awkward to explore around for shortcuts and collectibles.
The flaws get worse in the later levels, as they even throw in more sections where players have to figure out on solving puzzles, and finding ways to defeat enemies without losing rings or dying. They don’t leave a lot of helpful clues around, and the helpful tips have to be tapped on the gamepad touchscreen, meaning they get easily ignored by players. If they are not difficult, then the levels happen to rely too much on trial and error situations, which can easily frustrate many players, even if they have played the 3D Sonic games before.
I don’t mind if these levels are hard, I mean they could have been worse in Sonic Unleashed and Sonic T.H. 2006. But throwing in the cruel lives system is not a good decision to make in the game. Once the player runs out of lives, the game is over, they have to repeat the whole stage, and they have to collect the red rings again. That’s right, you must beat the stage in order to record the red rings that you have collected in the stage, to your save file. It’s even worth mentioning here that it’s not easy for one to collect a lot of 1-ups in stages, and they have removed a rule where you earn an extra life for each 100 rings collected.
As for the story, it’s O-K. It’s got some interesting plot elements, and some of the Zeti come with good character aspects. Zawok acts as a cunning leader of a gang, while Master Zik follows an interesting Mentor archetype. But the overall narrative isn’t really brilliant and it’s often compared to a school-yard soap opera. Some of the dialogue can get irritating at times, where it often depicts Sonic as an obnoxious PSA mascot, and gives to Tails some teenager angst mood swings. The characters easily pick the awful lines, making the cutscenes – which otherwise they’re silly in a good way – somewhat dumb.
Now let’s explain about the controls. Sonic runs at the lower speeds than his previous games, but he can walk now and get to platforms much easily. There’s a trigger button, which can be held down to get Sonic running (like in Mario games), and another one to do a super spin dash, which doesn’t make Sonic any faster but definitely worth it. The A button makes Sonic jump and X does the stomp and bounce ability, and they respectively do a homing attack on a chain of enemies, and jump and kick a foe off towards other enemies. But there are more tricks with the buttons and homing attacks, which they need to be explained to the user more obviously in the game; otherwise I can beat some of the bosses easily without having to waste a lot of lives, figuring out which button works effectively for attack.
The touchscreen of the gamepad is used to show some helpful information and parts of the hud, including on how far Sonic is on the level. It switches over to show the action when Sonic uses his color power. The color powers in question return from Sonic Colors, in which Wisps give Sonic some special abilities for a short time. Crimson Wisp turns Sonic into a flying eagle, controlled by the gamepad’s motion sensor, Cyan makes him into a laser that bounce off diamonds, Magenta turns him into a music note that bounces off orbs, and many more of them can be found in the game. Unfortunately, the controls used to maneuverer them are pretty bad, as they are hard to control. The touchscreen power-ups – apart from the (ground) Yellow Drill and its trance music – are the worst, as they are not very responsive and often lead to errors and cheap deaths. Ironically, the game encourages players to use these awful functions, despite they can actually activate and control most color powers via the traditional buttons, so you don’t always have to rely on the classic controller to play the game.
Compared to other 3D platformers out there, Lost World is above average and seems to offer entertaining gameplay and challenging levels
I guess I have gone through an awful lot about the gameplay, but that seems to matter the most. Thankfully the game doesn’t have any RPG sections for Sonic to explore around in, and it features less challenges to complete, focusing more on the main stages. There are stages where Sonic rides on rails inside a tunnel, stages where our hero needs to direct large fruits into fans to make huge fountains, leading to the next sections, and stages where Sonic rolls up into a snowball and ride through platforms to absorb rings. It’s just the right amount of content and I’m fine with that.
Compared to other 3D platformers out there, Lost World is above average and seems to offer entertaining gameplay and challenging levels. It’s good that they have carried over the parts that worked from the previous games, including the red rings, and cuts out a bunch of cheesy stuff that got into players’ nerves. Like I said, it could have been much worse, so I would say this game is good, despite rather punishing for some.
Though I don’t think Sonic Team should be experimenting with different styles of gameplay, as Generations and Colors have nailed on the gameplay mechanics that most players would want the most from the Sonic games of today. I think there’s a saying that ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, well, it got layered on with a different kind of game, which doesn’t always work in some areas.
Sonic Lost World is not really a bad game. I was able to complete it within a few days and was a worthwhile visit. Though its qualities are not up to high standards, and they are not enough to prevent the game from being overshadowed by the likes of the latest Pokémon and Zelda games, which are releasing around its launch date. Generations and Colors still fare better in terms of gameplay, but Lost World still offers a vibrant, fun and challenging experience that Wii U owners can cater for. Some players may dislike the game for its punishing and annoying features, and having Sonic run slower than before, but as a 3D platformer, it’s pretty good enough for anyone to play on.