Most of you will know that I’m a long time fan of the Sonic series. The Master System version of Sonic the Hedgehog is the first game I can remember playing with any clarity, and remains a game I will happily play to this day.
Sadly, the Sonic series hasn’t really come close to the bar set by the early games for quite some time. In fact there’s an established path for Sonic titles now: new game is announced and looks good, early impressions are hopeful, some awful sounding twist is announced, ultimately game is not really that good when released.
At present Sonic Lost World is at the second stage of this process, with the preview build that Sega have been showing looking pretty good. Of course we’ve been at this point before so I’m remaining cautious, but there are hints that this could actually be rather good.
Oddly, the most important change that’s been made is that Sonic now moves more slowly. As a long time fan of the series this feels like it’s against everything that Sonic stands for, but slowing him down works far better when you’re in a 3D environment.
Don’t worry though, Sonic can still pick up the pace if you want him to. Simply holding the right trigger brings him up to a speed you’re probably more familiar with, allowing him to navigate levels at pace, as well as scale vertical walls and wall run, utilising the game’s parkour-like system. It’s certainly nothing like the parkour we’ve seen in inFamous or Assassin’s Creed, being far more speed focussed, but it does give Sonic a nice feeling of freedom.
When you first look at the game it’s pretty obvious to see why comparisons have been drawn to Super Mario Galaxy. The levels have certainly got a Galaxy feel to them, but add in the kind of speed and precision that you’d expect from a Sonic title. The mixture works better than I’d expected it would, although the levels when the camera locks behind Sonic as he runs up cylinders can feel a little gimmicky initially.
Fortunately it does look like there’s a good mixture of levels in Lost World, so even if you don’t like watching Sonic up and around grass covered cylinders there’s still something to enjoy. Some of the levels have fairly competent 3D platforming elements in, while others will revert to a more traditional 2.5D style. Each of these variations has something to be said for it, and hopefully Sonic Team will mix them up in interesting ways.
While many would expect this kind of thing to be the purview of the Wii U version of the game, the 3DS iteration of the title more than holds its own against its big brother on Nintendo’s home console. Although most of the levels from the Wii U game won’t appear on the 3DS, the general structure of the game remains the same (featuring the same zones and their accompanying themes), and the portable version is really is worthy of your attention.
In fact given the last Sonic title I really enjoyed was the DS exclusive Sonic Rush, I’ve actually got slightly higher hopes for the 3DS side of Sonic Lost World. Although what I’ve seen of the game on the Wii U certainly looks very good, the slightly more stripped down nature that the 3DS forces on the developers might help to create a simpler, more focussed game.
Regardless of your platform of choice, this Nintendo exclusive Sonic title does seem like it could be the real deal. Given the somewhat troubled history of the series I don’t want to give a definitive verdict yet, but the changes that Sonic Team have made do really seem like they’re for the best, and might even breathe new life into the series.
Now we’ve just got to hope that there’s not some horrible twist waiting in the wings to bring the whole thing crashing down.