There was a time when Sonic The Hedgehog was a real contender. For years he went toe to toe with Nintendo’s own Mario, across 16bit platforms where they each set the tone, Mario bright and colourful, Sonic fast and cool. Their rivalry epitomised the battle between Nintendo and Sega, and caused intense pre-internet arguments in playgrounds around the world.
Times change, and just as Sega are no longer at the top of their field, no longer console makers, no longer quite the boundary pushing company of old, so to Sonic has slipped from his pedestal. There have arguably been high points like Sonic Adventure 2 and Sonic Colours, but fundamentally the hedgehog has never truly recovered from making the transition to 3D, losing something from the extra dimension while his main rival effortlessly defined it. Oddly, with Lost World, Sonic is now being drafted in to help Nintendo through a holiday season which is likely to be dominated by new consoles and games from Sony and Microsoft. As likeable as the hedgehog may be, it seems a curious choice.
First impressions count, and Sonic: Lost World’s first impression on 3DS comes from the lowest resolution cut-scene I’ve seen since the PS1 era (or perhaps more likely the Sega Saturn). I literally had to hold my 3DS at arms length to view it properly. Producer Takashi Lizuka stated that the aim was for the 3DS and Wii U versions to be virtually identical, but I would argue that some major concessions have obviously been made to squeeze it onto the handheld. All of the following cutscenes are as bad, so I got into the habit of putting the 3DS down and watching them from further away whenever they appeared.
Things pick up as you hit the title screen, with the music cheerily blaring out in an energetic manner, while reminding me slightly of TV themes from the 70s and 80s. You arrive at the overworld map screen, which is really just window dressing as you progress across it in a linear fashion (no alternative routes or shortcuts here), and make a start at the Windy Hill tutorial stage.
As with many tutorials there’s a little too much handholding, particularly if you’ve played a Sonic title before, but with the likelihood of younger players coming to the series for the first time, it’s understandable. The tutorial points continue to appear through the game and at times are important, which makes it all the more annoying that they can be bypassed so easily (and accidentally) when you’re rushing about a level.
In classic Sonic fashion the first levels are very Green Hill zone-esque, and with plenty of red and blue starred bumpers, capsules and bunnies and birds appearing from defeated enemies it feels like a proper Sonic game. That is also however, a proper 3D Sonic game, which means that there are plenty of times where Sonic isn’t really under your control, he’s just running or bouncing around of his own accord. Dr Robotnik returns, as both an enemy and later on an ally against ‘The Deadly Six’; six miscreants who are frankly amongst the most tired and banal character designs I’ve seen. They don’t even fit into Sonic’s world properly, lacking texture detail when everything else at least has some.
Sonic: Lost World on the Wii U begins with a hint of promise, cheesy cut-scenes aside. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take too long to find something that it simply can’t do well enough.
The 2D sections of this game are reasonably good. They’re reminiscent of Sonic the Hedgehog. We see glimpses of the Sonic of a bygone era, not as fast or responsive and mildly unwieldy with the Wii U GamePad’s left stick (the D-Pad doesn’t work for movement) but promising. Hopeful.
That hope is dashed when Sonic is thrust into the first of his ill-advised forays into a 3D world. This is the Sonic game that desperately wants to ape Super Mario Galaxy but lacks the charm or the deftness of design to pull it off. So we’re left with slightly above average 2D levels – stages that stir near-dormant memories of how good Sonic used to be – and slow, confused 3D sections that are an all too visceral reminder of how far Sonic has fallen since those early days of quality.
It looks okay and it plays just about well enough, if you’re not looking for much in the way of speed, but it doesn’t do anything to return the blue blur to his now-forgotten position as a true platforming contender to the undisputed dungaree-clad king of running and jumping.
While Mario leaps from strength to strength and Rayman mounts a serious challenge for the title of Best Modern Platformer. Sonic: Lost World on Wii U simply isn’t as good as many other games you could be playing on the console.
Returning from the last Wii game are Sonic’s ‘colour’ power ups, which grant him a range of new abilities, the first of which, Asteroid, turns Sonic into a small asteroid that gathers the debris of fallen enemies, growing bigger each time. The first level to use this power is genuinely exciting, as you float across chasms of nothingness as a steadily growing asteroid of spinning death.
The excitement is tempered sadly by the introduction of an annoying giant purple worm, and some poor platforming sections, where it starts to become evident that sometimes the controls just aren’t quite up to the tasks asked of them, particularly when heading into the screen. They’re not horrendously inept, but for this type of game you really want the little blue chap to do what you want him to do exactly when you ask him to.
A special mention should also go to the giant purple worms, which are the most aggravating enemy I’ve ever faced in a Sonic game. The first main level where you go up against them, I continually died until the game took pity on me and gave me a special power up. It didn’t help. The level finally timed out after fifteen minutes. I repeatedly tried to beat the level before turning the game off, and when I returned I’d magically got past it. I’m not sure whether I’d become so annoyed that I’d blanked out beating it or if the game just lets you past rubbish bits if you fail.
The special stages are activated in the classic fashion of obtaining fifty or more rings before reaching the end of the stage. The new sections see you floating in space collecting the required number of orbs before the time runs out. They’re relatively fun, if a little rudimentary, but they use the 3DS’s gyro controls which sees you spinning around, looking at the floor, looking at the ceiling, etc. This is not something you’re likely to be able to do on the bus, but they do unlock for you to tackle later.
There are thankfully a few 2D stages, and it’s here that the spirit of Sonic is closest, as you whizz through loops and across bridges. My only real problem with these levels was that at times you were going too fast for the comparatively cramped view and needlessly bumped into enemies and obstacles. I’ve had this problem with the DS games too, so perhaps my reactions simply aren’t as good as they were when I had a Megadrive.
- The 2D stages.
- Bright and colourful graphics.
- Cheerful music.
- Control Issues.
- On rails sections where you’re not in control.
- Poor design of ‘The Deadly Six’.
At times there are genuine moments when this game sings, where you’re going fast, in control, bouncing off enemies in succession and grabbing rings. Or indeed when there are some lovely moments such as having to fill a giant juicer with apples you roll around the level. Even that though is still cribbing from the moustachioed plumber’s playbook (and there are even some very familiar green pipes in a couple of the stages). Sonic: Lost World has enough of these moments to be worth playing, but its issues keep it from being a must-buy, particularly for the 3DS and its broad catalogue of games.
Such a pity. I used to look forward to a new sonic game on the Mega Drive and Dreamcast. Seems like they just cant get it right now
That is probably the most frustrating thing about it – particularly when you can go “this bit is really good!” but then you hit another annoying enemy.
That’s a shame. I was looking forward to this. Now I might just skip it.
It doesn’t seem like a bad game. It just doesn’t seem to be good enough to pull me away from FFXIV.
The only this gen game left that will be able to do this before the PS4 comes out will be Zelda:A Link between Worlds…
I know the tone of the review isn’t always indicative of the score but I was so surprised to see a 7 out of 10! It sounded quite a bit worse than that.
Regardless… a good read. Thank you. :-)
I think on reflection that’s me as a Sonic fan probably pushing it despite it’s flaws. If you’re not much of a Sonic fan, or particularly not of his 3D games then it’s probably a 5 or a 6. I hadn’t realised that I’d been quite so negative!
Lost World looks okay and easily not worth the price as usual but all I desire is Sonic Adventure 3. I don’t get it how Sonic Team keeps failing to get it right. Sonic Adventure 2 worked really well yet the series bombed after it.