Sonic Lost Worlds
It’s been a great few months to be a Wii U owner after a long rough patch, and now great to be a Sonic fan after over a decade of hit-and-miss titles. Sonic Colors was a bold step in the right direction, while Generations kept older fans of the series happy with a mix of old and new. Lost World has seemed like the franchise’s take on Mario Galaxy’s spherical environments. What wasn’t really shown off before release were the side-scrolling levels that also had a spherical bend to them. This means that just like Generations, you’ve got a game with 3D stages and 2D side-scrollers out to appease every possible Sonic fan out there.
The basic gameplay remains from past 3D and 2D games – guide Sonic through a stage until you find a giant capsule and free the animals within. The controls are about what you would expect, but with a twist – the ZL button acts as your boost button. This means that you have to untrain your brain to the old duck down and boost system. Similarly, Sonic doesn’t gain a ton of speed through just running with the analog stick – you need to use ZR in conjunction with the stick to get some major speed. This may seem like a downer, but it does give Sonic more precise controls than ever before. You can also aim Sonic while he’s spinning before launching the ZL boost, but it can be tough to tell exactly where you’re going because unlike a big jump, there’s no shadow. Perhaps a trajectory or aiming arrow would help here. The homing mechanic returns and also takes some time to get used to, as there’s more of a rhythm to it now than there was before. This means that there’s a bit of a delay, but it makes a bit of sense in action since that delay goes towards repositioning Sonic to best jump on the enemy or enemies in question. The pacing going from fast to slow-ish can be jarring, but reminds me more of Sonic 1, where you had speed, but also had to think about things a bit more than later games where you just sped along almost as if you were on a track.
New to the series are Dig Dug-esque sections that send Sonic deep into dirt with one of the power-ups. You can guide him around the sub-terrain sections with either the touch screen, which doesn’t offer up much precision, or use the left stick. Unfortunately, the left stick isn’t actually shown as a way to control it, so it’s easy to see people getting stuck on these portions of the game. Luckily, when you use the stick, the controls are far more precise and you’re able to make all of the tight turns you see in the ring-filled portions that you know you are able to hit – you just can’t figure out how it can be done with the touch controls. These sections can be a great way to farm coins for lives, but aren’t quite as fun as the crazy-fast on-rails sections. These areas bring back fond memories of Donkey Kong Country’s mine cart levels, but are far less controller throwing-inducing.
Off-TV gameplay is available and looks outstanding, but given how detailed the environments are and how accurate your platforming needs to be at times – especially while aiming the boost, you’re probably better off to only using this option when you have to. Going in and out of Gamepad play is as easy as pressing an icon for it on the pad itself, so it’s at least convenient to use when you need to use it. Even though the game can be a bit tougher using the Gamepad, it does at least give you a chance to replay earlier stages to farm for lives if you’d like to play it safe and not try a tougher level on the small screen.
As great as the game looks on the Gamepad, it looks far better on TV. The worlds have a ton of detail to them and when realistic flourishes are added – like a glisten to the tile in an early boss battle – you’ll be amazed. The Wii U may not be cutting-edge in some ways, but Sonic Lost World is a fine example of making use of the hardware to craft a stunning game. It’s very colorful, but not always bright – every color just pops off the screen. This really holds true in the water-themed sections, while no stage tops the sheer brightness of the candy area. There, you zoom around a bunch of sugary treats in a section that really makes me hope that candy levels become new staples for level themes alongside deserts and more tropical settings.
The soundtrack is diverse and a blast to listen to in the game. It’s a shame the OST isn’t available commercially, because some of the music – like the stuff used in the water-based world, is very relaxing. There’s the usual mix of fun, catchy Sonic tunes as well and while nothing sticks with you after the game quite as well as Sonic Adventure 2’s “City Escape” theme or Sonic Adventure’s opening cinematic, the music as a whole is better than any 3D Sonic game yet. The voice work is perfectly fine, but isn’t going to win any awards. With the tone essentially being a mashup of happy Sonic and the brooding SatAM cartoon, the cast did have to play things both light and fairly dark at times and they did a good job with the material they were given.
Sonic Lost World is the best original Sonic game since Colors, and topples that by refining the power-up idea, delivering more comfortable controls, and more inventive level design. Purists clinging to the past may not like the somewhat frequent changes in pacing, but they really wind up making this the most true 3D Sonic yet. You get the slower gameplay of Sonic 1, mixed with the faster play of 2, and the increased polish and stunning visuals of Sonic 3. Lost World looks incredible, sounds great, and is a must-have for anyone seeking a completely new Sonic experience in 3D with some 2D sprinkled in for good measure.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
This review is based on a retail copy of Sonic Lost World for the Wii U provided by Sega.