Sonic Lost World Review
As a dyed-in-the-wool Sonic lover, when I sat down to play Sonic Lost World, I was fully prepared to accept Sega feeding me anything and walk away reasonably pleased. My actual experience with the game, however, was not something that I was expecting. This review is a late one and the reason for this is it has taken me so long to get through it. I found myself having to put this game down after ten or fifteen minutes out of sheer frustration.
Sonic Lost World follows pretty much the same premise as most Sonic games before it. We control the eponymous blue hedgehog, run through various brightly-coloured levels, smash into robots, and give a mad scientist the ol’ one-two.
The game revolves around Eggman’s typical pattern of trying to control mysterious evil creatures – in this case, various telepathic monsters called Zeti – and this plan going horribly awry. In a plot previously seen in the Dreamcast’s Sonic Adventure, it’s up to Sonic to sort out the creatures that are now, unsurprisingly, running amok.
The overworld map uses hexagonal tiles to allow players to navigate between zones, as well as finding bonus lives and carnival levels scattered around. In an ordinary Sonic game, this map would seem entirely redundant but it is a necessity in Lost World to allow players to manage the various additional features. More on that later.
It is almost sad to say but the cut scenes are almost the best part of this game and even they feel too cheesy and childish to fully appreciate. Fair enough, it was probably designed to be geared towards children but Sega have gone to such lengths to portray Sonic as the devil-may-care “cool dude” he is nothing more than a repository of one-liners and catchphrases. There is nothing uniquely Sonic left in the plot and, while he may go over great as the hero with attitude, it begins to feel trite after a while.
Modern Sonic – that is to say, Sonic using the 2.5D graphical style – is difficult to control at the best of times and Sonic Lost World is no exception. The controls are wonky and the numerous additions to Sonic’s abilities only serve to make tracking your movement more awkward. The haphazard new move set and a cameraman that is barely paying attention to where he is supposed to be leaves a player often walking into a trap or off a platform.
This feels like Sega’s extremely late answer to Nintendo’s Super Mario Galaxy. Levels consist of a range of oddly-shaped planetoids with Sonic being able to run around them and even bounce between them. With his trademark speed, it can cause players to quickly lose track of exactly where they are. On the topic of speed, Lost World requires holding down one of the trigger buttons to actually run. An innovation that resounds with staggering pointlessness: finding ways to limit the speed you can run at in a game primarily revolving around speed – completely missing the memo about pushing the joystick slightly less hard. Given the need for speed (pardon the pun) the entire franchise is built on, you’re essentially playing down one finger.
A new element that has been added into Sonic’s repertoire is the ability to run on walls. This comes in handy when trying to navigate a fully round planet but serves no real purpose outside of getting us stuck up trees. This, combined with the new bouncing mechanism and overeager homing attack, makes navigating each level more of a chore than a joy. The zones are not hard, per se, but the control scheme and its relationship to the move set is just so awkward it becomes cumbersome to meander one’s way through.
From a gameplay perspective, Sonic Lost World offers veterans of the franchise nothing new. There are a few new abilities and you can run upside down but the bulk of the experience is mostly what players could find in Sonic Generations. In fact, the levels are caught somewhere between having too many things in one area for their awkward controls to navigate and having so much open space to run in there is nothing to do except hold Run and Forward. The trouble is they don’t sit at one place on the spectrum to create a balance; zones jump back and forth between the two and it generates a feeling of ambivalence. On one hand, frustration brews when your double jump turns into a homing attack targeting something far off stage but other times you can’t help but feel the game just doesn’t need you there.
Visuals and Sound
As you would expect from a Sonic title, the colours are vibrant and the levels are bright. Big blue skies and rolling green hills (again, pun unintended) are now staples of the franchise so again there is nothing new to see or hear. In actual fact, most of the scenery looks like they took a buzz saw to levels from previous games and threw the pieces into the sky.
On top of this, a lot of levels feel cluttered. It is hard to enjoy the look and feel of the admittedly gigantic levels when the foreground is so busy with all of Eggman’s robots desperate for screen time. There are so many traps, so many enemies, and so many things going on that it begins to feel more like the finale of a stage show than a platforming game.
The music and sound effects in the first Sonic games were iconic. The booming 1-up of Sonic 3 and the hyped up opening theme of Sonic & Knuckles made it clear what game you were playing and why. There is nothing really in this outing for the blue hedgehog that resonates nearly as strongly. The background music is fine but forgettable.
As a whole, nothing that is presented on the screen or through the speakers merits that much attention. There is nothing wrong with it but at the same time it feels as though Sega half-assed this part of the game. The opening fanfare is catchy but that is about it.
As mentioned earlier, Sonic Lost World brings a slew of new features for players to enjoy.
Items are now able to be stored in a suitcase on the overworld map for use while in a level. They range from extra rings if you need a boost to stored colour powers to rampage your way through a difficult part. If you have more than five, you can opt to discard one or “wisp them away.” What this does is send the item (along with a short message) to a random player. It is a fun and quirky idea but the frequency with which new items arrive and require attention (given using items is thoroughly pointless so one always has a full inventory) is just one more thing to have to do when you turn the game on.
There is a multiplayer co-operative mode that can be selected when you click on a level on the overworld map. The second player uses a Wii Remote to control a small helicopter or fighter jet and can fire missiles at enemies. On paper, it seems like a good idea but again a bad control scheme rears its head. By having to tilt the Wii Remote to steer, it already becomes awkward but add into this, Sonic (and therefore the camera) is moving exceptionally fast, by the time you track a target, you have already gone past it. The friend I was playing with actually refused to continue after half a level of feeling redundant and clunky.
Perhaps the biggest addition to Sonic’s abilities is that of the colour powers. These are a set of touch screen-operated skills that are activated by the wisp creatures from Sonic Colours including Laser, firing Sonic over chasms at high speeds; Drill, allowing players to draw paths on the touch screen and have Sonic burrow toward the stylus; and Rocket turns Sonic into a rocket. These are nice and add a bit of variety into the game but could have been better applied by using the inventory system as opposed to being found in item boxes. Having to select the power from the touch screen and then switch to the game pad to use it is cumbersome. Overall, the colour powers feel like something that was added to use the touch screen for the sake of using the touch screen. Either that or there is a mandate from Nintendo about games requiring some touch screen interaction on all Wii U games just to get their money’s worth from it.
I was genuinely excited for Sonic Lost World. Not being the biggest fan of 3D Sonic, I was a bit skeptical but feeling positive going into it. But after a while, the wonky controls wear your patience down. Bouncing off the stage or fumbling with icons on the Wii U game pad are only forgivable for so long.
At its core, Sonic Lost World seems like a good concept but the execution just is not there. Fans of the series would be better served with Sonic Generations but Lost World may still prove entertaining for younger fans of our heroic, blue hedgehog.