Earlier this year, SEGA and Nintendo announced Sonic Lost World as part of a special collaboration between the two companies, which sees 3 exclusive Sonic titles coming to Nintendo platforms. At this year’s Summer of Sonic event, we were lucky enough to be able to get hands on with one of the latest demo builds for Sonic Lost World for the Nintendo Wii U before its release in October.
Taking several visual and gameplay cues from Sonic X-Treme and Super Mario Galaxy, Sonic Lost World sees the blue-hued hero taking on a new adventure on the newly discovered and unexplored world known as Lost Hex while fighting against a new group of enemies, the Deadly Six. Departing from the established control scheme used in some of the most recent 3D Sonic games, Lost World changes things up by giving the player direct control over how fast you can move at any time. Before, holding forward (or left/right) on the primary control stick would make sonic walk for a few steps before quickly accelerating into his signature full speed sprint. Now, holding forward on the control stick in lost world will make Sonic stroll along at a leisurely pace, which could be described as probably a brisk walk at best. Holding right trigger will allow sonic to run faster and when you need more speed, you use the left trigger to initiate sonic’s spin dash. Accompanying the new control scheme, Sonic has a new ‘kick’ attack he can use on enemies, which can inflict more damage on certain enemies than the standard homing attack.
In the demo SEGA had brought along, 4 different acts were available to give fans a taste of the different stages they can expect in the final version of the game later this year.
The first act, Windy Hill is essentially the Green Hill Zone of Lost World. Here you get your first glimpse of Lost Hex and get to experience the open, tube-like level design that you will see in some of the levels in the game. Classic badniks such as Motobug (the ladybird-type one) and Chopper (the Piranha fish robot) make a return as long-time staples of the Sonic series.
As the first stage in Lost World, Windy Hill provides an easygoing area for players to get to grips with controlling sonic and his new features such Sonic’s new kick attack or using the ‘parkour system’ to run along walls and run up walls and trees to reach higher platforms. Being able to take on these kinds of obstacles without loosing momentum really helps to retain the sense of speed you would want to expect from a sonic game experience. By roaming around the level, it’s not hard to encounter some of the multiple paths you can take by going to the sides or underneath the level, or using the parkour system to get up to paths that would usually be out of reach.
Desert Ruins 1
In this dessert and sweet themed stage, the majority of the gameplay takes place in 2D, similar to the 2D gameplay sections in Sonic Generations and several other recent Sonic titles. While you don’t have as much freedom to move around and deviate from the main route, there are still a few sections where you can take alternate paths to reach secret items, extra rings or red star rings hidden away.
Desert Ruins 1 is noticeably more challenging than Windy Hill, with turrets, a plethora of enemies, and filled with bottomless drops you can fall into if you’re not careful when managing your jumps from platform to platform. The new control scheme allows you to manage sonic’s speed at will, which I found helpful when trying to focus on the platforming rather than simply holding right on the control stick til you get to the end of the stage.
Desert Ruins 2
This next stage looks more like a forest rather than a desert, and doesn’t even seem to use the desert/dessert link from the previous stage. Here, you control sonic as he’s automatically running along another tube-shaped stage at full speed, somewhat similar to the ‘mach speed’ sections from the infamous 2006 Sonic the Hedgehog game on PS3 and Xbox 360.
Thankfully, this version plays much better than the Mach-Speed sections since you have better control over sonic’s movement while he’s running. The stage has several areas where you can find alternate paths past an obstacle and you’ll also encounter enemies you will need to defeat with your homing attack to keep moving. There were also multiple groups of enemies, where you’d have to use the homing attack on the closest one to start a chain attack and quickly destroy all of them without stopping. While playing through the level and controlling sonic the top running speed, I felt that it seemed like sonic was moving much slower than the maximum speeds you could achieve in titles like generations or unleashed. This will probably be worrying for some, but I was quite comfortable with the speeds you could achieve (mostly), especially since the majority of levels I have played so far feature quite a few obstacles to avoid in addition to secrets and alternate paths that could be easily missed.
UPDATE – After the event ended, the organisers of Summer of Sonic 2013 and the Sonic Show, have uploaded the exclusive gameplay preview which was debuted at the event and on the live stream during the day. Here, you can see a first look at the Silent Forest zone and a new Desert Ruins act.