Riding high on the success of Sonic Colours, Generations and to some extent, Sonic 4, many thought that the problem of glitchy, mediocre Sonic titles was a thing of the past and the infamous ‘Sonic Cycle’ had seen its day. Instead of continuing down the path set by games before it, Sonic Lost World seemingly abandons that progress and takes Sonic in a slightly different direction with changes to how a Sonic game plays. A risky move, but would it help to rejuvenate the series?
In his latest adventure, Sonic (& Tails) crash onto a mysterious world called Lost Hex and eventually teams up with Dr.Eggman to defeat the Deadly Six, a group of powerful ‘Zeti’ that have taken control of Eggman’s robot army.
Compared to other sonic games, Lost World shakes things up a bit and has made several alterations to the way you’d generally expect Sonic to move and react. Instead of accelerating gradually to mach 1, Sonic moves at a slower, more manageable pace as standard, which you can speed up by holding the R button. The familiar homing attack makes a return although with a few modifications and a new ‘kick’ attack has been added to Sonic’s repertoire along with a ‘bounce’ attack. Sonic has also recently become a practitioner of parkour, giving him the ability to dash along walls and run up ledges. For some reason, the wisps from Sonic Colours are also hanging out on Lost Hex and can imbue Sonic with multiple temporary colour powers.
Lost World marks first time that the main levels in a Sonic game have been playable in full 3rd person 3D as well as side scrolling ‘2.5D’ on a handheld, which actually looks surprisingly good on the 3DS. Each area of the map has a prominent theme or style which is incorporated into the levels via several gimmicks or puzzles, such as rolling snowballs to unlock gates in the snow area or rolling fruit into a giant juicer in the tropical area. Sonic’s new control scheme and parkour skills make traversing the platform filled levels an enjoyable experience. Being able to speed up and slow down at the press of a button comes in handy when trying to get across some of the more precarious platforming sections in the game while the parkour system provides a useful way to keep momentum while circumventing walls and obstacles in your way. With the average difficulty of levels in Sonic Lost World being slightly more challenging than previous games, you’ll want to use all the tricks at your disposal if you want to beat each level with a high score.
On average, the sprawling, vibrant levels look nice and feature multiple areas for you to explore to find alternate paths and hidden bonuses, but the design and level layout can range from fun, well-planned levels where the action flows smoothly to frustrating levels where your progress comes to an abrupt halt by way of unidentifiable hazards, poorly placed platforms or imprecise controls. The snow area, Frozen Factory in particular has several instances of this including a snowboard section that’s littered with obstacles, enemies and pitfalls that have to be avoided using the circle pad. If you’ve used the 3DS, you probably know that the circle pad isn’t exactly great for making quick, responsive changes in direction. This along with the clumsiness of the constantly moving board quickly turns that section into a loathsome chore. On the other end of that spectrum, the boss battles against the Deadly Six tend to be overly simplistic, posing no real threat or challenge except for maybe 1 or 2 battles very late in the game.
The attacks that sonic has at his disposal have a certain quirkiness to how effective each one may be at any given time. With the kick and bounce attacks mapped to the same button, I noticed that when attempting to kick, Sonic would bounce instead, which in some cases proved to a fatal mistake. The homing attack also has a certain hit-or-miss element to it mainly due to the auto lock on feature. If multiple enemies, or items are within close proximity, the homing attack will automatically lock on and hit the next closest target allowing for chain homing attacks. When it works as intended, you can clear out a group of enemies with little effort, but every now and then, when using the attack on a single enemy or item box, Sonic bounces off and goes into another homing attack aimed at another target off to the side you had no intention of targeting. Having that happen becomes particularly annoying when that target is positioned over a pit or trap leaving you to your doom.
The wisp colour powers you find along the way are generally unobtrusive and optional, only needed for taking alternate paths through a particular section in a level. Some levels however, feature sections that exclusively require the use of a provided wisp colour power and can not be passed without it. The ‘Quake’ wisp power is featured in one of these sections and can only be controlled using the 3DS’s gyroscope for motion control, making that area a bit awkward to play effectively if you’re using your 3DS in an enclosed space, like a rush-hour train. Motion controls are also utilized in the special stages of the game where sonic can collect the 7 Chaos Emeralds. Unlike the ‘Quake’ sections, the special stages are completely optional and aren’t necessary to complete the game.