Even though it is suggested that Sonic can run faster than the speed of sound, it hasn’t saved the blue blur from suffering some rather scathing criticism over the years.
With SEGA’s Takashi Iizuka having confessed that it was a struggle for Sonic Team to determine how their famed hedgehog would face a 3D future. That saw some troubled missteps, most notably in the Xbox 360 exclusive Sonic the Hedgehog, but what we’re now able to enjoy is years of refinement and toying with gameplay concepts finally coming to fruitful conclusion.
Sonic Colours and Sonic Generations saw SEGA’s chilli dog-chomping hero finding himself striving once again toward brilliance, and Sonic Lost World successively slings the hedgehog further in the same direction.
With a script filled with a quota of cheesy lines that once peppered Sonic’s classic 90s cartoon series, the narrative remains as joyously frivolous as ever with Dr. Eggman once again troubling the world by kidnapping animals to build his robotic Badnik army. With Sonic and Tails in pursuit, he makes a lucky shot that sees the duo forced to make a landing on the nearby Lost Hex, on which they eventually reveal that Eggman has taken control of a group of Zeti known as the Deadly Six. It’s hardly Lost World’s greatest success but regularly paced cutscenes, each brimming with humour, help to connect an experience that otherwise sees players flit from level to level.
Whether Lost World intentionally took inspiration from Super Mario Galaxy is unknown – even if SEGA themselves noted the similarities – yet the end result is a concoction that blends Sonic’s speed with the spherical and whimsically gravitational design of Nintendo’s critically acclaimed Wii title.
But first, you will navigate The Lost Hex itself, traversed as a hexagonal overworld comprising of separate worlds that are each further divided into four separate zones for you to clear. A minimal amount of animals must be rescued before you can tackle the final zone that leads the way to the next world, although I never found need to return to previous zones to recover more meaning that you can safely run through the experience from start to finish regardless.
It is in the many moments of fluidity that see Lost World’s Zones shine spectacularly, chained blitzes that see Sonic pinging between springs, racing around loops and scuffling along walls in pursuit of the end level Capsule. Yet for all the wonder that these occasions provide, it is the lapses in consistency of such thrills that can be seen as the game’s more prominent flaw.
Sonic’s moveset is extended through the introduction of Parkour actions, wall climbing, hanging from ceilings and jumping between walls adding further dynamics to your progression, whilst continuing to neutralise foes through his Homing Attack and deflective kick.
Whilst Sonic Team switch up gameplay concepts frequently, it’s often to the detriment of the experience. Joyously speeding around the insides of a tubular track ending abruptly and sending you to an untimely demise, or a moment where you’re unknowingly supposed to hide behind bushes from the glaring presence of a robotic owl – Sonic being carted off by bats if you don’t. It wouldn’t have been such an obvious criticism – games often tasking us with discovering solutions as we play – if it weren’t for the fact that you can get through the four lives the game provides you with ridiculously quickly under such circumstances, with hardly any opportunity to recover those lost.
Wii U GamePad integration, aside from Off-TV Play, similarly detracts from the experience too. Largely used for the returning Colour Powers, their somewhat awkward implementation will be the most divisive feature of the Nintendo exclusive. Some work well, one seeing you tap musical notes on the touchscreen for Sonic to progress, yet more often than not they prove entirely unwieldy – even those that worked well in Sonic Colours, such as the Cyan Laser, not being as well implemented. Which is all an inevitable shame.
Your game time will be extended through obscure challenges issues to the player by the robotic Omochao – jumping 30 times, run along a wall for a set distance, or using certain colour powers – which reward you with item bonuses such as shields and invincibility.
Lost World’s use of Miiverse is far more practical, inviting players to “Wisp Away” any items that they have gathered to other playing the game with the chance that they may be returned as stronger versions, whilst tackling each Zone in Time Attack mode will easily attract much competition in the game’s online rankings.
Co-operative play will allow you to race through Zones with the aid of another player, suitable for families with younger players that want to join the experience, which also offers interaction with the 3DS version through sharing new RC Vehicles (which include Stealth Jets, Hovercrafts and balloons) that can be used. Whilst those looking to display their more competitive edge can delve into the two-player races – either seeing you each race for the finish as quickly as possible, or seeing who can collect the most rings within the given time limit.
The jubilant vibrancy of Sonic Lost World’s opening fanfare is perhaps representative of the experience. A mirthful and upbeat adventure for SEGA’s star that at its climactic best easily rubs shoulders with the greatest that the series has ever had to offer, yet one that still remains troubled by issues that chip away at an otherwise delightful assault on the senses.