Modern Review: Sonic: Lost World (3DS)

lostworld

After three wonderful games that show SEGA do know how to make a quality 3D Sonic game, along comes Sonic: Lost World which changes the recipe that was so successful in Unleashed, Colours and Generations. So, does this new formula improve Sonic’s gameplay or does it drag it back to 2006 territory? RetroCollect dons a pair of Speed Shoes to find out…

The first thing that needs to be said about Sonic: Lost World is that it will be a game that is divisive. Some are going to find the changes the games makes welcome. Others are going to claim that SEGA has again destroyed Sonic’s reputation. This diversion can be illustrated in the mixed-to-positive reviews the game has been receiving in the games media. It's an interesting reaction that I truly hope doesn't see SEGA throw out what they have introduced in this game.

Sonic: Lost World on 3DS is a beautiful looking game. The graphics are crisp and vibrant with inventive worlds to explore. Sonic moves wonderfully and at no time is there any awkward breaking movement or animation as seen in some past titles. Enemies too look great, most being re-interpretations of classic badniks from the Mega Drive era. The new villains, the Zeti, are somewhat less impressive in their design as they could potentially be from any manga or anime, however, they are still fun characters and fit the game well.

The game opens to a scene of Sonic and Tails aboard the Tornado in an airborne chase with Dr. Eggman. Eggman has been stealing Sonic’s forest buddies again and Sonic demands they be released. Eggman complies, releasing the cage the animals are in, sending them falling to their doom. After a quick rescue attempt and a laser blast from Eggman, Sonic and Tails are forced to make a crash landing upon the mysterious floating planet The Lost Hex. Thus, their adventure begins.

Round World

As you've probably seen by now, many of the Zones in Sonic: Lost World are based on a tubular or spherical design. This allows for some very interesting level design that really lends itself to the speed-based nature of Sonic. Running around and through these tube-like levels is great fun, although the more sphere-like moments are not quite as enjoyable. The levels on presentation here also allow for a bit more exploration than most Sonic games and unlike, say, Sonic Adventure it is rather rewarding to do so. There are plenty of varying paths to explore in each Zone and exploration often leads to the discovery of extra lives, Red Rings or quicker routes for improving your time score. I have read some reviews saying that it is unclear as to where the player is supposed to go during certain levels. In my whole time playing the game I only found this once, and it was only a short moment before I realised what I was meant to be doing. I'm not sure how these reviewers missed the ques, but I had no trouble navigating Lost Hex’s various lands.

Given that the game is set on a floating planet above Sonic’s own planet of Mobius (it seems Lost Hex is actually a planetoid, as it appears in Mobius’ atmosphere, but never mind the details, right?) it offers up some wonderful platforming moments. This is probably the most platform heavy of any Sonic game since the 16-bit era, and would even give those a run for their money. Every Zone of every level is filled with wonderful platform hopping that will test out the skills of even the most seasoned platform gamer, especially in the later levels.

Past Sonic games have often felt that instances of their platforming has resulted in cheap deaths that could have been avoided with better level design or clearer indication of what was expected from the player. This is not so in Sonic: Lost World. At no point did I feel the game was “cheating” or that I somehow missed a jump that I should have made. Every time Sonic fell to a violent death it was because I had messed up. I’d missed an indicator telling me I could home in on something, I’d miss timed my jump or I’d fumbled the controls. It was always my fault thus I never felt angry, just a bit of a noob. Dimps, the developers of the 3DS version of Sonic: Lost World, have put together some of the best platforming levels yet seen in a Sonic game.

Another aspect of 3D Sonic that has been greatly refined here is Sonic’s homing attack. Even in later games such as Sonic Generations, the homing attack could occasionally send you off into oblivion. This isn't an issue in Lost World. Sonic will target an enemy or object and spin directly at it, dropping to safely on the ground below if no other button is pressed. Even in the enemy-bridge sections in which Sonic has to chain together homing attacks on enemies to make it from one platform to another there is always something - a pile of rocks, an item container - on the end platform for Sonic to lock onto so that last step isn’t messed up by not having any more targets. Sonic can now lock onto three targets at once, making these sections much easier and it also makes taking out groups of enemies much quicker. The three-lock-on can sometimes surprise you when Sonic locks onto an enemy you didn't realise he had, but I never experienced it resulting in death.

Got Moves Like Hedgehogs

Of course, the main alteration is the way Sonic moves along the ground. Sonic is now noticeably slower than previous games that provided breakneck speed and while some may feel this is un-Sonic like it is actually at the benefit of gameplay. Sonic now has three speeds he can move at, four if you count his Spin Dash. Pushing the thumbstick forward slightly makes Sonic jog. Push it all the way and he'll start running. Hold down the R button while running and Sonic will hit his top speed which while the fastest un-aided speed he reaches in the game (again, apart from the Spin Dash) is still slower than previous games have had him move at. The Spin Dash now works more as another tool to Sonic's speedy tool belt than a way to vanquish enemies; providing a short burst of breakneck speed Sonic is able to zip long straights, up walls and through loop-the-loops with it. Of course there are still speed pads and Speed Shoe pickups that will give you even more speed as well.

The result of slowing Sonic down is that he becomes a lot more controllable. In past games in which Sonic's regular running speed was close to insane it could often be hard to keep the hedgehog running along the path you wanted. In worst case scenarios it would send you careening into an enemy or bottomless pit. While some may argue that that is all part of the gamepay of Sonic, it did occasionally feel that Sonic was just too fast for his own good. Lost World's more steady pace helps to alleviate that and makes some of those more precarious sections a little less stressful.

This isn't to say that Lost World is a slow game, however. The sense of hurtling along at mad speeds is still conveyed wonderfully and there are some areas that require the reflexes of a cat to get through. It's simply that, like Sonic CD to Sonic 2, Lost World takes a more considered approach to the use of speed rather than just hurtling along with abandon.

SONIC LOST WORLD 3DS top RGB v2 2

Sonic's other new bag of tricks are his parkour moves. While Sonic has been able to run along walls for a while now, it's never something that was able to be instigated by the player. Now Sonic can move around the levels like a spiked blue Prince of Persia, never having to stop running due to a wall in his way. It certainly helps keep the gameplay flowing and as an extension of Sonic's repertoire really makes sense. Someone who moves as fast as Sonic isn't going to let something like a wall get in their way.

Something else that has a much larger presence in Lost World than previous games are puzzles. While they are all quite basic and mostly involve the Sonic version of block-pushing puzzles, they do add an interesting element to the gameplay. However, these puzzles do slow the gameplay down and will irritate some gamers. They also appear perhaps a bit too frequently with whole Acts being puzzle-based rather than just a single section. One Zone in particular which requires Sonic to use a certain Wisp so that he can move around the level at any kind of speed is quite frustrating. Not because it's hard, but because it takes sooo long. While puzzles in a Sonic game are not something I'm adverse to, and here most are implemented well, I think that Lost World has an over abundance of them and some could have been considered more carefully.

Like Generations and Colours before it, Sonic: Lost World is broken up into 2D and 3D areas. However, this time around the 2D sections just don't feel as enjoyable as the 3D. That isn't to say they aren't fun - far from it - but I did find myself wanting to get back to the more open 3D worlds whenever a 2D section would appear. After some consideration I think this is due to the 3D sections offering a greater sense of freedom than the 2D's smaller, slightly more linear arenas. This really speaks to how much the new movement system frees up gameplay. I also felt that you could never see quite enough of what was coming ahead in the 2D sections...

...Which is a nice segway into discussing the game's camera. The camera in Lost World is fixed and will move automatically around Sonic and the Zone he is in. 90% of the time this works fine and you are provided a good view of the action. The other 10% however will obscure objects that you may need to see or the camera will move in front of Sonic so he is running toward it, making platforming sections very tricky. However, for the most part moving Sonic around a bit usually fixes the situation.

Wisp-ed Out

Returning in Sonic: Lost World are the alien Wisps from Sonic Colours. While they are, for the most part, enjoyable enough to play they do feel a little gimmicky this time around. Severl Zones see you spending more time in Wisp form that as Sonic with levels designed so that you have to use the Wisp powers to reach the end. While the inclusion of the Wisps doesn't bother me particularly, I do wish they were used more sparingly. The Wisps had their day in Sonic Colours, a rather good day too, and it seems strange to have them featured so strongly here when Lost World is trying to introduce Sonic's new movements. Surely it would have been better to concentrate more on Sonic than these little guys?

The Wisps also bring up the topic of perhaps the weakest aspect of Sonic: Lost World, one which could arguably have been avoided if the game was not a Nintendo exclusive; gyro control. Throughout the game you'll come across several instances that require you to use the 3DS' gyro controls to move; certain Wisps, certain items and, perhaps worst of all, the Special Stages require it. The Special Stages require you to move the 3DS 360 degrees and up and down. While I'm personally on the side of feeling that most of the various "innovations" Nintendo has put into their recent consoles are more gimmicky than successful, I do understand they are trying to move the technology of gaming forward. However, I really do wish we at least had the option of using the traditional controls rather than being forced to dance around like idiots. While serviceable enough, the gyro controls jut add a needless amount of frustration.

Tell Me A Tale...

Another of the impressive aspects of Sonic: Lost World is the way in which the characters are presented. While the story line is still fairly basic and whimsical in keeping with previous Sonic games, the characters are really shown in a different way here. Sonic, while still very much the hero, is fallible and in fact one of bit big events in the game that leads to he and Dr. Eggman having to team up is due to Sonic running into the fray without thinking. Even Eggman is given a few heroic moments. Showing Sonic to be brash and impatient isn't anything new, but showing the danger this puts others into and the trouble it causes is. It's a wonderful way of exploring Sonic's character and builds the relationship with the player more than any game since his 16-bit foot-tapping days. Scenes between Sonic and Eggman are wonderful and voice actors Roger Craig Smith (Sonic) and Mike Pollock (Eggman) give amazing performances. Unfortunately Kate Higgins, who lends her voice to Tails, doesn't have as much to play with as Tails ends up in the "damsel in distress" role. Still, the game offers up some of the best cut scenes since Sonic went 3D and really brings the level of story telling up a notch.

Way Past Cool!

While there are a few issues with the game, Sonic: Lost World on 3DS continues the trend of quality 3D Sonic games that we've seen from recent releases. It's a shame the game has received such mixed reviews in the press as there really is a lot here to like. One wonders if the negativity stems from Lost World introducing so many new elements into the Sonic series and people just not liking change. As far as this reviewer is concerned, however, Lost World is a wonderful and exciting game. Wonderful because to continues to prove that 3D Sonic can be a lot of fun, and exciting because it proves SEGA aren't scared to experiment with their flagship character and that the elements introduced here could lead to some truly amazing games in the future.

Sonic: Lost World (3DS) Trailer


Last Updated ( 02 November 2013 )  

Joe Douglas

A lover of comics, sci-fi, fantasy and dusty old video games, Joe is a Sega man through and through. Combining his love of collecting and blue hedgehogs, Joe runs the site SonicCollectors on which he attempts to build a database of Sonic merch. He is tolerated by one cat, two dogs and his girlfriend.

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Comments 

(Link to this comment) ollie809 2013-11-09 22:23
fantastic review on my wish list this christmas
(Link to this comment) Turricanx 2013-11-15 14:35
Wanted this since playing it at Eurogamer, although I've got a long list of 3DS games I want, so might have to wait a bit for this one. Great review!
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