Sonic Lost World
- Street Date:
- October 29th, 2013
- Reviewed by:
- Trevor Ruben
- Review Date:1
- November 13th, 2013
- Game Release Year:
- Wii U
- Sonic Team
- ESRB Rating:
- E10+ (Everyone 10 and older)
Version reviewed is for Wii U, though the game is also available for the 3DS.
'Sonic Lost World' is a Nintendo exclusive Sega title. When introduced by Nintendo, this Sonic was billed as another in a wonderful collaboration between the former rivals, and one whose concept seemed to echo recent Mario forays while making strides to give Sonic his own room to run. And that at least, is where the ambition lies. In creating a clash with a new set of villains, The Deadly Six, the Sonic Team has once again taken Sonic into the third dimension, an area where Sonic has both succeeded and failed.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
Sonic games, by their very definition, are two things. They are platforming and they are speed. During his 2D days the blue hedgehog excelled, figuratively and literally, at engaging players in a kind of experience few other games even attempted to replicate and the keys were platforming and speed.
As we all know, his 3D adventures haven't quite capitalized on his uniqueness in the way sidescrolling thrived on it. 'Sonic: Lost World' does not represent an exception to the ongoing hiccups of his never-ending transition, a transition an as-yet unnamed plumber hit in stride on his very first try, but there is an undeniable freshness to the title that may mark a brighter future.
Like any platformer, it starts with control, which has always been a tricky thing in conjunction with Sonic's quick feet. He has three modes of movement. Push the stick and he walks, pull the right trigger and he runs and, finally, hold the left trigger and let it go to perform his infamous spin dash, rhythmically doing it over and over again to maintain momentum. Let's remember, past games had Sonic either running or spinning, and this new middle ground makes all the difference in the world, which is net gain for this 3D Sonic.
For better, of course, comes a sense of empowerment over Sonic's movement. Slowing down to pull off intricate jumps is a wonderfully simple option to have at your disposal, but even then I wish his slow mode wasn't such a drastic alteration from the more comfortable right trigger pull. Sometimes he doesn't quite jump the distance you expect him to, which wouldn't be so bad if his homing attack wasn't frustratingly unreliable. For a game that often requires you to home in on enemies to achieve progress, you'd think the team would have prioritized consistent functionality. Clearly, this consistency eluded the team in terms of the homing attack. As a matter of fact, many of Sonic's other moves also lack consistent operation.
If you are running, a parkour system happily keeps Sonic's momentum in stride by allowing him to run up and across walls at will, but the precision of his movements are lost in favor of arrested control, a sentiment that bleeds into almost every aspect of the game. These are those peeks at innovation that argue in favor of Sonic's 3D form, begging for another year's work of refinement. Similarly, the spin dash rhythm took some getting used too, resulting in my rarely using it outside of required moments.
Level design, on the other hand, is less of a grey area, which brings me to an important influence. 'Sonic: Lost World' would not exist in the way it does without it's spiritual precursor: 'Super Mario Galaxy.' The comparison is unavoidable. Nintendo's influence is inescapable. In the past few years Sega has flown the white flag in favor of Nintendo's unfaltering support of the company, and the two have done wonderful things together. But even with Sonic in 'Super Smash Bros.' and the teams of characters going at it in the Olympic games, 'Lost World' is the most blatant display of subjugation yet. Arguably it's the most fruitful too.
Over the course of the game's most expansive levels, Sonic springs from one floating island to another, often requiring the completion of different objectives, much in the way Mario launched from planet to planet. It's in these moments when, ironically, the promise of Sonic is realized in surprisingly satisfying fashion. Unlike Mario, Sonic's islands are often long stretches of space that emphasize speed over agility, embracing those fast feet like never before. When you're dodging the blur of an enemy while anticipating the next leap or dashing across desert land in favor of favorable ground, or just trying to stay alive when the game won't allow you to stop moving, you then begin to comprehend the essence for whihc the tema must have be striving.
On the downside, as sort of a crutch, control of Sonic is often stripped away as he makes his most impressive leaps and bounds. It feels as though, with a little more time, the team could have found a way to give these sometimes appalling stretches of disengagement back to the player without the on-rails feedback.
Even so, the lifting of Mario's best games then becomes forgivable, seeing just how fun the experience can be in Sonic's shoes. More importantly, it's unique. But those moments, while not infrequent, are neither encompassing.
Just as likely as you are to play a level of that sort, you might be grinding rails or dragging your feet through some bland and uncreative side-scrolling levels, and that numbing feeling of constant disappointment starts to seep back in. The worst are poorly fleshed out gimmicks, like navigating a snowballed Sonic (one of those negative effects of ripping off the 'Galaxy' series) in an absolutely abysmal, pace-crushing attempt to recreate the glory of Sonic's past casino/pinball moments and the Whisps from 'Sonic Colors,' random oddities placed within levels that grant temporary, pointless abilities.
The give and take between greatness and sloppiness is ever tugging at 'Sonic Lost World,' but at least it's not stuck on one end.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
An absolute strong suit and another game proving the Wii U's unforeseen graphical prowess, 'Sonic: Lost World' is perhaps the most vibrant and enjoyable visualization of the hedgehog's unique world. From delightful recreations of old favorites - Green Hill Zone (here called Windy Hill) – to compelling new areas – Lava Mountain – whenever the gameplay gets rolling in those aforementioned expansive arenas, the visuals are sparkling along. Sonic's expressive movements are captured in promotion of his newfound innovation and the worlds are as intriguing as they are appropriately and compellingly detailed. Cutscenes, while not compelling from a plotting standpoint, are beautifully rendered. It makes me kind of want a new Sonic animated series. But just a little bit.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
Here's another place where the 'Galaxy' influence is strong. The tunes lean in the uplifting, encouraging direction, while more visually compelling areas are complemented nicely with equally compelling audio twists. In other words, the stranger the world, the stranger the music. I particularly enjoyed the soothing, ethereal score during an underwater rail-grinding level, which helped me get through the frustrating gameplay. You've got to appreciate a favorable offset like that.
As always, Sonic's stock sound effects are both nostalgic and compelling. In my mind, the rivalry between Mario and Sonic is alive and thriving in this area.
The best reason to go back to any level, of which more might have been appreciated, is to tackle the time attack. I found reentering my favorite levels with a time limit upped my enjoyment greatly, so anyone with tolerance for the iffy controls is going to find worth in heavy repetition.
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
With the Deadly Six Bonus Edition comes a single level themed after the Sega Saturn classic 'Nights into Dreams…' What is essentially a collection of reskinned boss fights, only gamers with a fondness for the past title will find redeeming value here.
Outside of the Bonus edition are a couple of multiplayer twists. Cooperative play sees one player tailing sonic with remote-controlled vehicles of varying abilities. Sega is using vehicles as a way to link the Wii U and 3DS versions of the game, but their addition to the actual gameplay is slight. The competitive racing mode plops dueling players into campaign levels, but is plagued by a poor frame rate. It might be entertaining if precision was all but eliminated.
Past 3D Sonic games have ranged from absolutely dismal to infrequently entertaining, but 'Lost World' represents something outrageously new for the Sonic Team over at Sega. They are finally making a real step in the direction of that original vision: translating Sonic's platforming and speed into 3D, thrills and all. But the number of levels that take advantage of Sonic's new movement systems are equaled by the number of levels that don't, which makes 'Sonic Lost World' a grab bag of success and failures, frustration and elation. Fans should seek out this game for its intermittent success and, more importantly, with great anticipation for potential sequels. More time and refinement could see this new vision as a great platformer, not just a great start.
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