REVIEW: Sonic Lost World (3DS)

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

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Sonic Lost World 3DS | Cover Box Title: Sonic Lost World
Publisher: Sega
Developer: DIMPS
Release Date: October 29, 2013
Genre: Platformer
Platforms: Wii U, 3DS
Age Rating: E10+
Official Website

When I was offered (read: begged for) the opportunity to review the 3DS version of Sonic Lost World, I was ecstatic. But it turns out, this is a tougher than I thought. Sonic has been a big part of my gaming life. My first big console game was Sonic Adventure 2 Battle on the GameCube, and I’ve followed every adventure so far, even if I wasn’t able to play all of them. I know my Sonic, so listen to me when I say, Sonic Lost World on 3DS is a fun, but flawed experience, much like its Wii U counterpart.

Sonic Lost World on 3DS is very similar to the Wii U game, making it the first handheld game to go fully 3D. I have no problem with this. While I enjoyed Sonic Rush and Sonic Rush Adventure, after Sonic Colors on DS and Sonic Generations on 3DS borrowed the same template, I grew tired of it. I was ready for something new. Don’t be concerned. While this borrows the same gameplay style as the Wii U game, the levels are different (I have played, though not fully completed, the Wii U game). While many levels are inspired by some of those in the Wii U title, they are designed with a handheld focus in mind. The worlds are broken into three stages and a boss, rather than four stages with a boss at the end of the fourth, as in the Wii U game.

Sonic Lost World 3DS | Level 1

And new it was. When I played the tutorial and first level, I was a little confused by the new control scheme at first, but overall I felt excited to play the rest of the game. As with the Wii U version, the goal for the developers seems to have been, “let’s get back to platforming,” thus utilizing the R button to bring out Sonic’s trademark speed. Otherwise, Sonic goes along at a nice trot (about the speed of Mario’s run, I think). And that’s not entirely a bad thing. Actually, when the developers make the game about forward momentum, it works great. The problem comes in when levels with a more action/puzzle oriented approach are presented. These levels feel like they take way too long. I should not be spending five minutes to finish a puzzle or beat enough enemies to continue in a Sonic game. Plus, the controls are too twitchy for precision platforming, and in desperate need of either a better camera system or a second Circle Pad. Mario this is not. But it shouldn’t be. I play Mario and Sonic to get different experiences. Going forward, the developers need to focus on Sonic’s strength: forward momentum. Not necessarily speed, but Sonic always needs to be moving forward. Want to do a more traditional 3D platformer? Give Knuckles the starring role. His skill set is better suited to it.

Sonic Lost World 3DS | Special Stage

Controls end up either working quite well (like moving at high speed) or an incredible hindrance. DIMPS (the developers of the 3DS version) implements the 3DS gyro controls in awful ways. Case in point, the Special Stages. The stages take place in full 3D, but you control Sonic by spinning 360 degrees to turn. This is why developers should think before they implement motion controls, especially when there’s a perfectly good Circle Pad to use instead (that would not take away from the challenge, especially in the later stages). I want to play my 3DS sitting down in my chair, and that is almost impossible with this control scheme (if you keep pausing the game, repositioning, and continuing, it sort of works). My cat was not happy sitting on my lap when I tried to play these sitting down. Fortunately, the Special Stages are largely optional in this game (even going so far as to ask if you want to play it), since the only reward for getting all 7 Chaos Emeralds is the use of Super Sonic in any level. No secret or final ending if you get them all. As fun as Super Sonic is, I wouldn’t have bothered if I had known. The new parkour moves are also a mixed bag. Sonic will do a parkour move if he is moving fast enough, based on the position of the camera. For instance, when the camera is behind Sonic, he will run up the wall you are looking at; otherwise, he will run along the wall.  When it does work, it gives one more forward momentum, and it’s actually fun. When it doesn’t, you’re lucky if it doesn’t kill you. I would have happier if parkour was assigned to the unused L button. I would like to see a more refined system in future games.

Sonic Lost World 3DS | Multi-lockon

The new multiple lock-on function needs to go. Here’s how it’s supposed to work. You know those enemies that are in a line? Well, this new feature will lock on to them all at the same time, so you only have to press the button once. More often than not, it doesn’t work when it would be convenient, and it will often lock on to an object that will take you backwards (that’s what’s happening in the picture above), and actually make it impossible to continue. I’m not sure why homing attack has been such a problem for recent games, since Sonic Adventure through Shadow the Hedgehog have all worked flawlessly. I also miss my Jump Dash. Double jumping really doesn’t help all that much, and a dash would be much more useful in many circumstances.

Sonic Lost World 3DS | Presentation

The presentation is really good for the most part. The 3D effect helps a lot, if you can use it. On the 3D levels that use gyro controls, I turned the 3D off (I have it on most of the time, personal preference). I found that the 3D was helping me judge distances far more than I had previously assumed. It’s a subtle effect (I could not tell how much it was helping until I turned it off), but it really does help. One more reason not to use gyro controls in future installments, at least on handhelds. The graphics look really good, and the music is well done. The one sore spot is the cutscenes. The story is exactly the same as the Wii U’s story, so the developers seem to have pulled the cutscenes from the Wii U directly, and the lowered resolution really shows. I’m not sure why they couldn’t have re-rendered them for 3DS resolution, but it’s not a deal breaker. Just a major distraction.

I beat the game in about 8 hours. Other than my issues with the controls, I felt that the challenge was just about right: compelling enough to not be too easy, nor difficult enough to be frustrating. The bosses are quite fun. I think that in some cases, they are better than in the Wii U version, in that I always know what to do. Plus, DIMPS planned around the multi-lock on homing attack doing more damage, and gave the bosses bigger health bars as compensation, making them more challenging in a good way (in the Wii U version, a boss that’s supposed to take 4 hits, only needs to be hit twice thanks to the multi-lock on, and it’s a bit underwhelming).

Sonic Lost World 3DS | Sonic

So, is the game good? Yes, intermittently. While there were times I wondered if my feelings could improve, I ultimately enjoyed the game. The Special Stages are nearly unplayable, but since they aren’t required to get the full story, they can be skipped. I hope that Sega doesn’t throw out this new style, since with a little polish, it could truly bring back Sonic as a gaming icon. Just leave motion controls out of handheld games, okay Sega?

Review Score

Review copy supplied by author.

This review is based on the 3DS version of the game.

About Guy Rainey

I’m Guy Rainey. I’m a hardcore Nintendo fan, a PC enthusiast, and a Sony sympathizer. Also an amateur/aspiring game creator. I love any game that puts story as the main focus of the game, so that means JRPGs are my favorite genre almost by default.