Sonic games over the years have tended to be hit or miss, at least when it comes to the console games. The portable games however have tended to remain pretty good since the Sonic Advance series, with one or two games not doing quite as well, but still having a decent showing. Sonic Lost World is Sonic’s 3D debut on a portable system, but can it hold up against other 3D Sonic games as well as the previous portable games?
As Sonic Lost World begins, Sonic and Tails are chasing Dr. Eggman in the skies when Eggman shoots down Tails’s plane which crash lands on a mysterious planet known as Lost Hex. While Sonic and Tails work to free some animals enslaved by Eggman, the evil doctor has enslaved a group of Zeti known as the Deadly Six. It’s soon revealed that Eggman is using a special rare conch shell to control the six and has them go after Sonic while he plans to drain all of the energy out of the Earth so he can control it. When Sonic’s brash actions see him kick the shell out of Eggman’s hands and pretty much destroy it, the Deadly Six decide to use the energy extraction device themselves to take over, which leaves Sonic and Eggman to work together to stop the Deadly Six before the extraction device completely destroys the Earth.
Sonic Lost World takes place over seven zones with three stages in each (plus a boss fight), though it’s more of its own game than a port of the Wii U version. Some of the stages take place in a 3D environment where the landscape rotates so to speak, while the other stages are more of the traditional 2D variety. The goal of each stage is the same though: make your way to the end and hit the container to free the animals inside. Something I do appreciate is that the 3D stages resemble the screenshots for Sonic X-treme, a 3D Sonic game that would have been released on the Sega Saturn in 1996 but was ultimately cancelled. The screenshots show a rotating world similar to the 3D stages in Sonic Lost World, and the Wind Valley Zone in Lost World even somewhat resembles the Jade Gully Zone from Sonic X-treme.
Whisp powers from Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations make their return in Sonic Lost World. Periodically you’ll come across capsules that contain a Whisp that’ll give you a particular power you can activate and use in that stage. These range from an indigo-colored Whisp which turns you into an asteroid-like sphere that lets you run over badniks and other objects to increase a cluster ring around you to a yellow-colored Whisp that allows you to drill through certain parts of the ground and travel through obstacles while underwater…more on that in a bit. Each version has a few Whisps that are exclusive to the Wii U or 3DS version of the game, so save for one or two, the Whisps you encounter in the 3DS version you won’t see in the Wii U version and vice-versa.
While Sonic Lost World looks good and has an interesting story, there’s quite a bit to talk about in terms of problems. The first of these issues you should notice right off unless this is your first Sonic game: Sonic doesn’t really move that fast most of the time. Trust me, there are times in which he does move like the blue blur that he is, but you’ll soon learn the reason for the huge time limit for each stage. This isn’t helped much by the controls. As in past Sonic games, the homing attack makes its return, but it has a new feature. You can actually target up to three enemies at a time, and then when you do a homing attack you’ll hit all three in rapid succession. This sounds beneficial and time saving, but it soon proves to be a nuisance. The targeting is automatic as well as hitting those enemies once you activate a homing attack. If you hit something in between that can’t be hit by a normal attack the homing attack stops. Another problem arises when you accidentally hit multiple enemies when you don’t mean to and have to quickly readjust your position after the third hit leaves you over a pit.
The controls can be kind of touchy while you’re in the air. Hitting a different direction on the D-Pad or Circle Pad will turn you in that direction just about on a dime. In other words, if you’re going forward in the air and overshoot your target, holding back won’t slow down momentum and begin to pull you backwards. Instead you’ll instantly begin moving backwards regardless of your momentum. This makes it very easy to overshoot a target or platform and I can’t begin to tell you how many lives I’ve lost due to this. It gets more annoying with the Whisp powers as some will limit your double jump a bit making it easy to misjudge the height of a jump, while others just have terrible controls, such as the yellow Whisp while underwater. A lot of the time with the yellow Whisp you can’t turn around and go back, but if you misjudged where you need to go you keep butting into a wall until the power wears off. However, the power is required to get through certain parts, so you have to wait for it to run out, then go back and get it to try again.
If you happen to die too many times in a section or stage Tails will supply you with an RC Item to help you out, similar to the later Super Mario games that help you through the stage. Completing a stage will give you materials that you can make to create items and RCs to take into stages with you, but after seeing what a couple do after dying too many times, I’m afraid to try some of these. The most annoying of these is a UFO that doesn’t really let you fly, but slows your decent a lot. This sounds helpful, but when you accidentally get the UFO when you’re trying to attack an enemy, it just slows down the fight, again playing into the fact that Sonic Lost World doesn’t really play to Sonic’s major strength: speed. However, I will say that there is one RC I do like which is a little jet plane that will hover above you and fire missiles at enemies. It’s useful and doesn’t slow you down.
Then comes what has to be one of the most interesting yet poorly executed features in the game: the Special Stages. What’s interesting is the stage itself as it largely resembles the Blue Sphere special stages found in Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles, and those are my all-time favorite Sonic the Hedgehog special stages. The fact that it’s in space is pretty cool. The poorly executed part is how you control Sonic in these stages. I hope you have plenty of room to maneuver because you’ll be using the gyroscopic controls here. I don’t mean just tilting the 3DS left and right or up and down, but you’ll have to stand up and physically move your body around to hit all of the spheres as you’re constantly moving. Granted you can hold X to stop your movement, during which you can move the 3DS around to reposition yourself, but it’s obvious that the intent is to get up and move all over the place. This might lead to some people getting a tad nauseous if they suffer from motion sickness. Again it’s an interesting concept but the novelty wears off rather quickly, and sadly I couldn’t find a way to turn the gyroscopic controls off.
There is one other thing with the Special Stages that annoys me, and that’s actually accessing them. They’ unlocked by the classic means of finishing a stage with at least fifty rings, but there’s a new caveat. If you want to unlock the stage, you have to play it right there and then. For instance, when I “unlocked” the second special stage I was at a doctor’s office, hardly a place you want to stand up and move around a lot. As such I opted not to play it at that moment. However, when I tried to go back to it later, I still only had the first one opened up, forcing me to unlock the second one again, and in a game that’s already driving me batty that’s not something I wanted to find out (for the record, once you play a Special Stage you can go back to it any time you want, much like the other stages you’ve cleared).
Once you’re done with a stage you can access it in multiplayer. Here you’ll race with up to three other people in a stage of the player’s choosing. Your opponent’s will show up as shadows on the screen so you don’t have to worry about interfering with other players or having them interfere with you. You can also do this with the Special Stages, and each stage you clear will also be unlocked in Time Trial mode, so there is a bit of replayability if you do enjoy playing through the stages in the main game.
All in all there’s a bit to like about Sonic Lost World and I wouldn’t say it’s a terrible game. However, I would say it’s one of the worse portable Sonic games I’ve played. The music’s good and I do enjoy the story. Seeing Sonic and Eggman working together kind of reminds me of the Mega Man games where Dr. Wily has had to work with Dr. Light and Mega Man a couple of times for some reason. However, the execution here is quite flawed. Sonic just doesn’t seem to have the speed that he’s had in past games, even the portable games. While there are good 3D Sonic games, the portable games have always been at their best in 2D. The 2D stages here are actually kind of fun, but the 3D stages can be annoying when you keep falling into pits to overcorrect yourself. When it comes down to it, if Sonic Lost World on the 3DS was entirely 2D it probably would have been better. Instead, we got the series’ first 3D game on a portable system, but it didn’t live up to the past portable games in the series.
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