As you may have guessed from my retro review of Sonic CD, I’ve long been a fan of the Sonic franchise and have kept up with it through the ups and downs of the last decade or so. There have been some.. not so good games (Sonic 2006 is widely thought to be the worst) but also some that are truly great fun, like the more recent Sonic Colours and Sonic Generations. I tend to not get caught in the Sonic Cycle and really look forward to each new title as I honestly think that the last couple of years have bought some really enjoyable games.
In a first for the portable version of a Sonic game, Lost World on the 3DS is a full 3D game like its bigger brother on the WiiU. Both Colours and Generations received a side scrolling game on the DS/3DS to accompany the main 3D game, and developer Dimps (who have worked on all of the 2D Sonic games since Sonic Advance in 2001) have been able to deliver a significantly more substantial game this time around.
During one of their standard battles with Doctor Eggman, Sonic and Tails end up crash landing on a strange floating world called Lost Hex. There he comes up against the Deadly Six, a group of odd enemies who Eggman enslaves to do his bidding. Sonic has to travel through a variety of different Zones, each with their own unique style and enemies, to defeat the Deadly Six and stop Eggman.
Featuring gameplay that has, not inaccurately, been likened to Super Mario Galaxy, Lost World is a bit of a departure for the series. Mostly taking place on small floating areas, many stages allow Sonic to travel fully around 3D objects. Here Sonic controls similarly to other 3D games in the series, with his now standard homing attack. There are also levels that have a fixed 2D perspective to play like classic 2D Sonic games.
Despite the similar gameplay mechanics and setting, both the 3DS and WiiU versions of the game feature completely different levels, with the 3DS version having more of an emphasis on puzzles. One level in the third Zone for example has you start off on a platform in a tall tube, and collecting fruit to be put through the blender in the middle of the platform and fill the tube with liquid so that you can escape from the top.
The Wisps from Sonic Colours return, with some new additions. Wisps give Sonic a variety of extra powers and abilities such as the drill and the new asteroid which allows you to collect items and enemies into an asteroid belt swirling around you to defeat enemies.
Controls are pretty good most of the time, though the new homing lock on, which allows you to lock on to up to three enemies or focus your attack on one is a little inaccurate and can sometimes lock onto things that you can’t see and send you flying off in random directions. Sonic can now also run faster by holding down the right shoulder button, and has a bounce attack similar to the one from Sonic Adventure 2 which can allow you to reach higher areas than a normal jump would. The other main new feature is wall running, where Sonic can run up and across walls when travelling fast enough. While running along walls you can jump to a facing wall to keep your speed up and continue doing so as long as you don’t hit anything or run out of wall.
While not as common as they used to be in the series, the 3DS version of Lost World features special stages to collect the seven Chaos Emeralds (again. Sonic really needs to look after them better!) that are required to complete the final stage. In the special states you need to collect a number of coloured orbs to gain a Chaos Emerald. These stages use the gyroscope features of the 3DS and are on the tricky side control wise. Using just a single button to boost Sonic, all the rest of the control is done by motion meaning you need to move the 3DS around to move Sonic around the area. Not too much of a problem if you’re in a large enough area (with no one watching you) but would be next to impossible to do if you were playing the game while travelling. The first few stages aren’t too hard, but the later ones can be increasingly tricky as the timer starts to get shorter, and the controls really don’t help. Similar controls are also used at some points in the story, and work a little better there but are still not great.
After the third act in each Zone, you fight one of the Deadly Six in a boss battle. These are unfortunately somewhat disappointing, in that most of them end up being very similar with you simply needing to chase the enemy with the use of whichever new Wisp you unlocked in that zone and homing attack them several times until you beat them. The Deadly Six themselves are a fairly uninteresting bunch, and have little characterisation other than a single trait each.
Each Zone is bright and colourful, and the graphics have translated nicely to the 3DS screen. Having had the opportunity to play both versions at Play Expo I was a little disappointed in the colour of the 3DS version compared to the WiiU, but now think this may just have been the brightness on the demo unit being too low as it looks much better while playing it now. All the character models have a big cartoony look to them, which is just the right look for the series and one I’m glad to see has stuck around since first being used in Sonic Unleashed.
The pre-rendered cutscenes however have not benefited from the transition to the 3DS. I assume they are the same videos from the WiiU version scaled down and put through a 3D filter, but they are a very low resolution and look quite poor compared to the rest of the game. The 3D effect on them doesn’t quite seem right either, unless I was looking at them exactly right they looked very odd, a problem I didn’t have with the rest of the game.
While there is the odd tricky part, I found it overall to be a fairly simple game. This is partially down to just how easy it is to rack up extra lives – without really trying and only replaying a couple of levels to try and pick up some collectables that I had missed, I soon ended up with over 50 lives, so even the couple of times I did have a couple of deaths in a row didn’t make much difference and I never found myself at a game over screen.
Sound wise, it’s perfectly fine. Sonic games tend to have catchy soundtracks, but the absence of a theme song for this game means there isn’t a strong main tune and I found most of the music ok but forgettable. The current Sonic voice cast are pretty decent, and Roger Craig Smith (who I seem to be hearing a lot lately) is probably the best of the recent Sonic voice actors, and Mike Pollock’s Doctor Eggman is always good.
There is also a two player versus mode, however I’ve not had a chance to test this out as I don’t know anyone else who owns the game so I’m uncertain how well this works.
I don’t think it hits the highs of either Colours or Generations, but I did find Lost World to be overall quite enjoyable, and certainly a lengthier game than the 3DS version of Generations (which took a mere couple of hours to finish) and while I’m not sure that it’s a strong enough game that it would be able to turn around a detractor of the series and I’d think much better of it if it hadn’t been for the motion controls, but I found plenty to like about it.
Sonic – Lost World is out now for Nintendo 3DS and WiiU