Developer: Sonic Team
Platform: PC [Reviewed], Nintendo Wii U
Release Date: November 2, 2015 [PC], October 29, 2013 [Nintendo Wii U]
Now, the title of this review would imply that I would like the game to get out of here, scram, scat! But, that’s not the case. The PC version of Sonic Lost World comes to us as a port from Nintendo Wii U. Seeing prior trailers for the game on home console, I admired its presentation of colorful, bouncy levels that rivalled that of Super Super Mario Galaxy. This seemed to fit the Nintendo narrative as it showed off more family-friendly gaming, aligned with Nintendo’s brand of titles. The Wii U version of the game released in 2013 and seemed like just the third-party beacon of light for the struggling console. While I own a Wii U, Sonic Lost World was one game that I kept telling myself I was “going” to buy at some point. Well, that time never came, but the opportunity to review the game did. So, fast-forward to current day, 2015–and here we are.
This Sonic title incorporates elements from both the 2D and 3D gameplay realms. At times you may enter a level having it completely run its course in 3D. Other times, it mixes the two styles, offering some traditional Sonic platforming, with 3d elements. Even though many of the areas focused specifically on the depth of 3D environments, I did feel that the 2D levels offered more challenging gameplay that was not only more fun, but more fluid in its execution. Ramps flung Sonic to the next obstacle, dodging and striking enemies in a path. And, the platforming was on par with previous entries of Sonic games. There was a feeling of disconnect at times during 3D levels, frequently disrupting my attempts to finish a given level.
The game produced a sense of cognitive dissonance. The game looks fun, and I felt like I should be having fun, yet wasn’t. I was having an inner-debate, tyring to understand how a game that looks this great and seems fun to play doesn’t quite deliver? The levels were damn near perfect in design, colorful, and showed off some amazing polish in character models. But, when it came down to the core gameplay, it just wasn’t as fun. As mentioned earlier, there was a sense of disconnect in terms of 2D to 3D level execution. An even bigger disconnect was felt in the gameplay.
Even if you are a seasoned veteran of Sonic games, or platformers for that matter, you are usually introduced to the button mapping at story inception. This isn’t the case with Lost World as you figure out the buttons as you go. When you hold the right trigger, Sonic will run faster than his normal pace. Holding the left-trigger causes the traditional burnout spin that can be charged and released. I would have liked to see this speedball move enacted during longer runs as was present in previous titles in the franchise. This was likely excluded as Sonic can run up walls and to taller platforms, but falling victim to missed cues in sequences when running often leaves him falling to his death.
Sonic also has a lock-on feature that highlights enemies as a target. Pushing the “jump” button a second time will slam those enemies and bounce off. However, when pushing the other attack button (indicated on the Xbox One controller with X) a ground-pound occurs. When enemies are highlighted, the ground-pound turns into a kick action. This should have been explained in the beginning with a tutorial. Many of the abilities, such as the wisp power up, feel out of line with the rest of the game. They tacked on, much like the overall story of the game.
The story loosely follows Dr. Eggman and his fleet of minions known as the Deadly Six. I say “loosely” because each level takes Sonic to a different area of the Lost World, and plays a cinematic that occurs in each of those disparate settings. It was hard to staple each scene to the other, leaving me wondering why I was dashing through factory halls, then bouncing on fluffy clouds, then sprinting along doughnut glazed runways. Yes, doughnuts. But, unlike the levels of the game, the characters and dialogue proved engaging and coherent.
Each character has their own distinct personality, delivering some freshness to the traditional cast of woodland animals. Zazz was outfitted like a punkrocker with his mohawk and horns, Zor brings the emo, and Zeena brings the prissy. The diversity that was introduced was one of the best parts to the game. The banter amongst these characters, Dr. Eggman, Sonic and Tails was very well done. I found myself laughing at the jabs at Dr. Eggman, and even his robot soldiers. If I could ask for anything more, it would be more games that included this type of dialogue and writing as it was just the right amount of comedy needed.
It’s impossible for any game not to borrow ideas from other games. However, at times, I feel like Sonic Lost World unnecessarily tried to appease Nintendo or its fans in some aspects of its development. From gameplay mechanics, to simpler things like Super Mario Galaxy type world design, it seems like Nintendo might have had influence on the overall outcome of the game. This is particularly the case as Nintendo published the title in some areas it was released. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but does reemphasize feelings of familiarity throughout gameplay.
The Bottom Line
Sonic Lost World really is a shame. The game boasts some of the best assets in terms of character models and colorfully designed levels. The boss battles were well-executed, and were actually fun to play. However, there was definitely more to be desired in terms of the story, particularly having it less muddled, and tying more into level progression on the honeycomb-type grid. The controls require a great deal of trial and error, adding more confusion to the overall experience.
The dialogue and characters are woven together quite nicely, offering something fresh to the franchise. Unfortunately, the game falls short in many other aspects, inhibiting its ability to really find its groove even at later levels of play. At the least, Sonic Lost World looks as though it would be fun, but the actually gameplay isn’t as thrilling.