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Sonic Lost World - Review
Poor Sonic, modern gaming just doesn't seem to treat him all that well. Since the original trio of Sonic the Hedgehog games on the Sega Megadrive/Genesis in the 1990s, the blue hedgehog has had to put up with lacklustre sequels and embarrassing attempts to reinvent the character, resulting in horrible Werehog nonsense and the "edgy" Shadow the hedgehog. This latest addition marks the beginning of Sega's deal with Nintendo, which will see them release several Sonic games exclusively for the Wii U and 3DS.
Unfortunately, things haven't gotten off to a great start as Sonic Lost World attempts to ape Super Mario Galaxy but fails to understand what made that game work. The first issue is the controls, as is now mandatory for a platformer, Sonic is equipped with a double jump, along with his standard homing spin attack. The problem is it's incredibly easy to trigger the wrong move when things get hectic. Double jumping will leave you vulnerable to an attack in mid-air, whilst the homing attack might send you careering off the side of a platform to your death. It's an awkward system that maps too many attacks to too few buttons resulting in unnecessary frustration.
Which leads us on to the other major fault in the game's design: the difficulty. You're equipped with four lives and should you lose them, (which you certainly will), you'll be sent out of a level and forced to start it again from the beginning. Collecting rings doesn't reward you with any additional lives so there's very little imperative to have more than one at any time. Sure, having additional rings will get you bonus points but other than that it's not important. Super Mario Galaxy worked because it rewarded playfulness; messing around was expected and failure wasn't punished. Not every level was easy but the game made every challenge inviting. In contrast, Sonic Lost World has you inching through each level rather than racing through them, for fear that you'll fall to your death, or hit the wrong enemy.
Rather tellingly, the game's best levels are those on-rails. Avoiding the need to mimic Galaxy's level structure, Sonic is able speed along grind-rails, flipping around and dodging robots as he goes. It's not all that original, and Ratchet and Clank have done it far better, but it at least hides some of the flaws that plague the rest of the game. When the game does ignore all the Super Mario elements and focus on speeding through gorgeous looking environments, it's not all that bad, but these sections are few and far between and there's still the finicky controls to contend with.
The game's plot meanwhile, initially has Sonic fighting against Eggman before quickly switching things around and having both of them deal with the Deadly Six, a group of creatures known as Zeti. Story might not be all that important in a platformer but enemy design is, and the Zeti look like they belong either as breakfast cereal mascots or in some ToeJam and Earl reboot, but certainly not in a Sonic game. Each of these Z-list Saturday morning cartoon villains turns up as a boss in several levels but most fights end so quickly that they're rarely all that satisfying.
Even the game's hub screen seems designed to create frustration. If you're online, other players are able to send or trade items with you. Some, like a bunch of rings, are self explanatory, whilst others seem to have no use at all and just clog up the screen. It's rare to finish a level without there being a huge stall as the game throws a load of junk at you from another player. What's more, later levels are off-limits until you've freed enough animals by destroying enemies, leading to dull repeats of previous levels in order to continue.
In fact, most elements of Sonic Lost World feel contrived, there's even some touchpad functionality thrown in that's not needed, adding yet another element that slows down the pace of the gameplay. Sonic games have always, at their core, been about speed, and this game seems determined to slow things down and in doing so rob the blue hedgehog of his greatest asset.
Sonic Lost World is a big disappointment. It spends too much time chasing after other games to take notice of what once made it special. Nintendo consoles are rarely lacking in platforming games and, with the Wii U sporting the definitive version of Rayman Legends, there's very little incentive to try anything that's on offer here.
Sonic Lost World was released, in the UK, on October 18th for the Wii U.
© 2013 LudoLogic