Some fast and fluid levels; Incredible graphics; Amazing music; A good vision for Sonic
Frustrating levels; Imprecise mechanics; Unnecessary gimmicks; Inconsistent gameplay
The “Sonic Cycle” is a stigma that the blue hedgehog has been trying to buck for the better part of a decade now. Sega announces a new Sonic game, it looks awesome, everyone is happy, the game releases, everyone shrugs and says “maybe next time.” Sonic’s last console game, Sonic Generations in 2011, had apparently broken this cycle, as it was arguably the best game since the Genesis days. Now, Sonic Team is back with a new offering, exclusively for Nintendo systems– Sonic Lost World, which features no mention of Jeff Goldblum despite its name. Has it proved that the Sonic Cycle is dead? That’s hard to say.
The Super Mario Galaxy comparison is inevitable, but you’ll be misguided if you keep thinking about that while playing with Sonic. Sonic Lost World is more akin to a traditional platformer, where levels are followed in a set order with preset goals. You’ll go back and forth between fast 3D levels and sidescrolling segments, just like Generations. All of the essential Sonic trappings are here: springs, ramps, loops, rings, and homing attacks.
Visually, Lost World is a juggernaut. It takes advantage of the strengths of Wii U for colorful and eye-popping worlds. Everything is bright and delicious to look at, even if you’re running around at the speed of sound. Sonic games have always had great music if nothing else, and Lost World doesn’t disappoint there either. I’m so glad that Sonic got over his punk rock phase from the 2000s and now features amazing orchestral music in his games.
They’re better villains than Shadow the Hedgehog, at least.
There isn’t much to say about the game’s story, which is a good thing. The evil members of the Deadly Six force Sonic and Dr. Eggman to team up in order to save their planet. Hijinks ensue. It’s not meant to be taken too seriously, and it’s not shoved down your throat. The Deadly Six actually prove to be amusing villains, if not cartoonish caricatures. Eggman’s begrudging alliance with his arch-nemesis leads to some funny moments as well. Yes, Sonic’s attitude still makes him fire insults at a fifth grade level, but it’s so cheesy it’s almost good.
Everything fits together nicely, until you actually play the game. I’m sad to say that Lost World probably won’t meet the high expectations everyone has, but damn it, it tried. The good parts are great, while the bad parts fall flat. Some 3D levels are truly a blast to play, and they make you feel like a formidable force of power. Then you realize that these levels are almost entirely on rails. In the areas where Sonic is given free rein, the end result is often confusion and frustration.
Sonic’s movement has been tweaked this time around, with mixed results. You now move at a brisk pace with just the analog stick, and the ZR button is required to run. It’s nice knowing that you won’t careen off an edge you want to just stroll by. Does pressing the trigger get old? A little bit, considering I had it held down for 90% of the game. There’s also a new parkour system, which allows Sonic to vault over walls while running. This feature could be completely scrapped, and it might make Lost World a better game. Sonic can run alongside walls like the Prince of Persia, but if you get near a ledge while the run button is held, he will stick to it like flypaper trying to scale the thing. Sometimes, Sonic won’t even run up certain walls at all. The parkour system isn’t so fleshed out, and the game barely explains it.
The game is gorgeous in motion, so it’s a shame that the gameplay doesn’t always measure up.
It couldn’t be a Sonic game without cheap deaths, either. For every area I thought was cool, there was another area that had me on the verge of snapping my GamePad in half. Some actions don’t work the same way twice. Some enemies jump out of nowhere when you’re running at top speed. A few levels revolve around gimmicks that are positively maddening (wait until you play the snowball level). Many obstacles and hazards lack contextual cues, leading you to death after death trying to figure them out. Checkpoints are sometimes stretched out too thin, leaving you to constantly repeat these exercises. I haven’t yelled so many expletives at my screen in a long time.
Lost World is such a mishmash of inconsistent experiences. Several levels are fantastic, while others are horrendous. The sidescrolling doesn’t feel as tight as Sonic Generations, and the Color powers aren’t very useful on the whole. The Wii U GamePad just serves as a regular old controller with the occasional screen use, and off-TV play works fine. Yet, Sonic runs on. I truly respect Sonic Team for attempting a new type of game. They weren’t satisfied to revisit retro memories forever like some other series. This vision of Sonic Team shines brightly at certain times in Lost World, and I can definitely appreciate that.
I really wanted Sonic Lost World to be a great game. I’ve been playing these games for a while, and after Generations, things could only go up. Not to mention that Nintendo could also use some good third party Wii U exclusives. Sonic Lost World is not a fundamentally bad game, it’s one that borders on greatness. If not for some fatal flaws, this could be a truly compelling experience– but it still has those flaws. If you’re used to the Sonic games by now, Lost World will probably be awesome. However, if you’re expecting more from the blue hedgehog, this may come up short. However, this game could be a fantastic foundation for more games to come, and that’s worth being optimistic about.
Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.