Sonic is a franchise that I haven’t touched in years. Sonic Adventure 2: Battle for the GameCube marks my last outing with the blue blur. Subsequent entries in the franchise never managed to pique my interest, and even SA2 hasn’t aged especially well. If I want to play a Sonic game, I go back to the four classic Genesis entries. However, my Sonic dead spell might come to an end with Sonic Lost World.
Jonathan Higgins wrote about the Wii U version here, and while I did watch him play, I decided to give the 3DS version a spin instead. Both versions start in similar settings (what I assume is the Green Hill zone), but a SEGA PR rep assured me both versions of the game have different levels and exclusive features. For a quick overview of the differences, you can check out the game’s website.
Sonic Lost World’s level design is reminiscent of the Sega Saturn Sonic game, Sonic Xtreme, which was cancelled before release. There’s also some Super Mario Galaxy mixed in there, too. Players guide Sonic across cylindrical islands while moving forward. You can scale up walls, spin dash, and sprint. The ability to scale walls keeps Sonic’s movement surprisingly fast and fluid, and his targeted attack works better than in previous iterations. A target appears over nearby enemies or items, so there’s little doubt to where you’ll head when you use it. Unlike every other Sonic game that’s used it, I never sent Sonic to his demise through a misguided targeted attack. Even if you do manage to throw yourself off a cliff, you can still try to save yourself by running up the wall. Sonic himself controls and animates well. His movements aren’t slippery like in adventures past and it all feels quite natural.
Sonic Lost World feels more Sonic-y than most recent Sonic outings (not withstanding Sonic Generations, of course). It’s like the developers took the best parts of his recent adventures (notably his moveset and the Wisps), combined them with the classic aesthetic of the Genesis titles, and mixed it all together with the level design of the dead Sonic Xtreme and Super Mario Galaxy (you’ll guide Sonic to separate islands off in the distance by spring). As soon as I picked it up, it felt just like a Sonic game should – fast, smooth, and fun.
Despite the change of venue to smaller islands, Sonic Lost World is still Sonic at its core. You’ll still dash, spin, and run just like you always have, but the level design mixes up the classic gameplay. At one point, I hit some sort of speed zone that forced Sonic into a sprint, leaving me to dodge enemies and collect rings. Later on, I hit a speed boost that allowed Sonic to run across and jump between walls Prince of Persia style. I also bounced off of clouds to reach higher areas and watched as Sonic soared through rows of red rings that provided short bursts of speed. These might be minor additions, but they spice up the gameplay and certainly keep your attention.
At about midlevel, I encountered my first Wisp, Indigo Asteroid. Wisps are broken out of item boxes and added to the touch screen where they can be easily activated. Once activated, the Indigo Asteroid turned Sonic into a purple Saturn-shaped creature that, while relatively slow, could hover through the air. This Wisp also has the ability to shatter obstacles and enemies into cubes, which then form a barrier ring around you as long as you’re in asteroid form. It’s a nice effect; most objects and enemies completely break apart into cubes and then circle around you, and I enjoyed trying to add every enemy and obstacle to my shield. You can even break apart sections of the land.
I also enjoyed exploring the level, which I didn’t think would happen. In most Sonic games, you can run from Point A to Point B and call it a day, but I found myself dropping to lower sections of the islands just to see what was there. There are also five red coins in each level to collect. I’m not sure what they do at this time, but they’re placed in hard to reach places and require a fair amount of effort to get. One red coin was placed at the apex of the aforementioned wall-running section, which I never did manage to get.
Level one’s boss only required me to outrun a giant robotic worm while jumping over obstacles in an almost 2D view, but the design of the animal cage at the level’s end is taken directly from the original Sonic the Hedgehog, which is a nice touch for fans of the series.
Sonic Lost World features a slightly stylized look. Most textures are smooth and rather detailed, and the color palette for the first two levels was bright and colorful, just like a Sonic game should be. The area under the levels and the sky off in the distance is pixelated, though. It doesn’t detract from the overall experience, but it’s in sharp contrast to the smooth look of the levels themselves, which is unfortunate. I can only speak of the first level’s music, but if it’s any indication, we’re in for classic Sonic fare. An energetic piano is the centerpiece of level one, and its jovial tune definitely helped set the tone of the game.
The 3D effect of the 3DS is well utilized in Sonic Lost World. It adds depth to the environments and I found it easier to navigate the world with it slightly on. I can’t handle the maximum level of 3D in any 3DS game, but even having it slightly on adds to the experience.
The second level I played took place in some desert ruins. I didn’t have the chance to finish it, but what I played took place in 2D, similar to the original Genesis titles. Sonic’s move set remains the same in this view, and from my experience, it felt like classic Sonic at his best. The special stages, multiplayer races, and gadget creation mode weren’t available at the time of this writing.
Some of you might be wondering which version is better, but I can’t answer that at this point. However, you shouldn’t discount the 3DS version for lacking a few of the bells and whistles of its Wii U counterpart. It stands well on its own and deserves a look, too.
Sonic Lost World marks a departure from the missteps of the series previous entries. Sonic Team has built a solid foundation into the game, and I’m excited to see how the final product turns out. Regardless of which version you choose, Sonic fans should definitely give this one a shot. The blue blur is back in fine form.