Review: Sonic Lost World
Developer: Sonic Team - Publisher: Sega - Platform: Wii U - Release Date: October 29, 2013
Concept: Reinvigorate 3D Sonic gameplay with a heavy injection of Mario Galaxy mojo
Graphics: By far the highlight. The eye-catching worlds are colorful and creative. This is a good-looking game
Sound: The soundtrack is both energetic and pleasant. The voice acting is predictably cheesy
Playability: Having two jump buttons is confusing and platforming lacks polish overall. The touchscreen only comes into play for the wisp powers or co-op
Entertainment: Both the 2D and 3D gameplay suffer from unintuitive, unresponsive controls and questionable level design
Replay Value: Moderately High
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Each Sonic release has me hoping that it'll be the one that lifts the blue blur out of the abyss of mediocrity he's been trapped in for years. Sonic Lost World immediately grabbed my attention with it's striking similarity to arguably the greatest 3D platformers ever, the Super Mario Galaxy series, and I hoped some of that quality would rub off on Sega's ailing hedgehog. Unfortunately, instead of putting Sonic back on track, he's managed to veer even further off course.
Lost World makes its inspiration abundantly clear. Colorful, spherical worlds allow for 360 degree platforming and they look great, featuring some creative areas such as a dessert-themed level and a cool rendition of the obligatory casino zone. Super-sized versions of classic enemies look as impressive as the worlds they occupy.
Sonic now has a new punt attack, but I can count on one hand the number of required uses for the move, making it feel like a unnecessary addition. Determining when to use the kick versus the standard homing attack is tricky as they're both represented by the same reticle and choosing the wrong move can cost you rings or even a life. Using the analog stick alone moves Sonic but holding the new run button causes him to sprint, giving players more control over his speed. The wisps from Sonic Colors return and are controlled via the gamepad but are generally an afterthought more than a staple.
Despite these changes, Lost World retains many of the issues that have plagued Sonic's previous console outings. Speed boosts still send you rushing straight into ill-placed hazards more often than not. The lock-on attack is wildly unreliable, homing onto an enemy one second and ignoring the same foe entirely the next. A boss fight late in the game relies entirely on the lock-on and kept destroying me since the mechanic seems to only work when it wants to. Even with the increased jurisdiction over Sonic's movement, he still feels slippery and out-of-control. The worst cases are during the half-pipe/slide stages where the slightest nudge will send Sonic flying off the edge.
2D is where Sonic has always shined brightest so I'd hoped the side-scrolling levels would be a savings grace of sorts. Sadly, these levels are just as bad and, at times, worst than the 3D areas. Jumping feels floaty and imprecise; many successful leaps made me feel more lucky than skilled. Wall running can mess you up during tense sequences when you accidentally trigger the move while trying to platform quickly and get too close to the borders. I kept getting the two jump buttons mixed up and would accidentally perform a homing attack instead of a normal double jump, usually resulting in a frustrating demise. Once you hit your last life, a warp item appears that hotshots you to the next checkpoint; a recurring source of relief.
Trial and error is the theme for most of Lost World's stages. Platforms will be destroyed or break apart without warning; this scenario cost me several lives during a particularly irritating boss fight. One winter themed stage makes you navigate a snowball through precarious terrain in the vein of the motion-controlled balancing ball levels in SMG yet somehow controls even more unwieldy despite utilizing the analog sticks. A rail grinding level is absolutely hellish thanks to unfairly placed obstacles that give little opportunity to react. An end-game boss battle ends with a parting shot that kills instantly, ensuring multiple attempts at him unless on you possess incredible luck and reflexes.
As for the plot, it's refreshingly simple but also boring. Sonic faces off against a new batch of enemies known as the Deadly Six and I'm hard-pressed to think of a less interesting rogue gallery in a video game. The game never elaborates on who these guys are or where they came from; most of them aren't even acknowledged by name and I don't remember the names of the ones that are. They're a collection of one-note personalities (the fat one, the crazy one, etc) whose blandness is drilled into your head . For example, the emo one annoyingly spouts generic lines about the futility of life, how dumb happiness is, and all that jazz. I am glad that the story isn't complete nonsense (for once) and doesn't try to take itself too seriously like in past Sonic games.
Two-player races offer limited fun, but don't bother with Lost World's shallow excuse for cooperative play, in which a Wiimote-wielding second player controls a variety of mini vehicles to assist Sonic (despite barely being able to keep up with him). Sonic could definitely work within the Galaxy template, as Lost World can provide glimpses of genuine fun, but he needs to rethink his approach before tapping Mario's well again.
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