Sonic Lost World

October 28, 2013

As much as I hate to draw the ire of the legions of Sonic fans out there, I have to report that Sonic Lost World is not a very good game. That’s not to say it doesn’t try, or is as blatantly broken as Sonic 2006. In fact, what is most disappointing is how much Sonic Team have clearly tried to change their ways this time around. There’s a genuine attempt to advance the series into the future, albeit by cribbing notes from Sonic’s former rival, Mario, but there’s effort here. I just can’t say the final product is a lot of fun to play.

It’s easy to see why you might think otherwise. On Wii U, Sonic Lost World is crisp and vibrant, with levels and enemies that draw upon Sonic’s past and re-envisions them in the present, producing a game that truly looks like a 3D version of those old Mega Drive titles. I could comment on the Mario influences creeping in here, like the second world being a desert-themed area, but even there Lost World changes things up regularly and considerably well. You may start off with a generic desert level, before moving into a bee’s honeycomb, or a candy-filled surrealist nightmare. A couple of areas see reuse later on, but that doesn’t spoil the fact that this is a great looking Wii U title. The music too strikes the right chord, with jazzy and cheerful tunes which move away from the buttrock of Sonics past and into more orchestral territory. I wouldn’t say it’s incredibly memorable, but it is well suited and refreshing.

The story is average kids-cartoon fare, which is still a massive leap from the melodramatics of that other game from 2006. While chasing Eggman, Sonic and Tails discover the ‘Lost Hex’, a… hexagonal world thing floating above the clouds, I think. But, they’ll have to watch out for the Deadly Six, a group of aliens (I think?) that Eggman has bent to his will while he plots yet another evil master plan for world domination. Unlikely alliances are forged, crosses are doubled and a hearty lesson is learned by the end, I think. Well, it’s a good thing I don’t care. It’s pleasant enough, with a couple of amusing lines, and mostly kid-friendly, though there are some oddly out-of-place quotes coming Eggman vowing to strangle his foes to death, and the Deadly Six’s emo member lamenting life’s inevitable end.


Sonic Lost World moves between several different gameplay styles, often mixing a few within the same level. Primarily, Sonic is plonked on small spherical and cylindrical worlds which he can run along and be shot between in a manner downright ripped from Super Mario Galaxy. Sonic can walk or run around these planets, adhering to their gravity, except when he’s fired onto floating platforms, which are filled with bottomless pits. Other levels invert gravity, so that Sonic is running (usually forced at a set speed) on the inside of structures, like the ultimate evolution of the half-pipe special stages from Sonic 2. Finally, the 2D gameplay from the previous three Sonic titles makes a return, and is more or less kept separate from the other gameplay styles, instead of seamlessly transitioning like in Generations or Unleashed. In general, the majority of Lost World has a slower pace, which I certainly have no objection to, given the original Sonic the Hedgehog pulled off some pretty decent platforming with a more reasonable speed than its successors.

The main problem with all of this are the controls, which have been re-tuned with a clearly different mindset than Sonic is accustomed to. Sonic’s default speed is a slow jog, comparable to our favourite Italian plumber, and he will not accelerate past this with analogue stick movement alone. He has the most control at this speed, although he’s still yards away from being as responsive as Mario can be, even back in his 64 days. Holding down ZR will activate Sonic’s ‘running’ mode, which switches him into a faster running speed, that does not accelerate and keeps you at a constant speed. This seems like the best option most of the time, especially when running down those long cylindrical worlds, but Sonic’s side-to-side movement is usually too slow, or way too jarringly fast. I’ve had Sonic laboriously lean to the left on some occasions, or quickly twitch into a spike pit or hole at others. Holding down ZL will bring Sonic into his famous spin-dash, which is the fastest method of travel, but also the hardest to control. Speed runners will no doubt find a way to exploit this to their advantage by finding the best paths through a level to spin-dash through, but novice players should be warned that an unprepared spin-dash is a certain recipe to see you careening off a ledge.

Parkour moves are a new addition to Sonic’s arsenal of moves, and they really don’t feel intuitive at all. They’re meant to allow Sonic to mount ledges and run along and up walls with ease, but it’s often really hard to get them to work. You feel like it’s a mode you have to physically ‘activate’ rather than a natural complement to Sonic’s powers, and Sonic’s speed when running up a tree, say, is so slow it’s really kind of laughable. With practice, you can get the wall running to work to your advantage, but it never feels fluid. Sonic also has a new lock-on attack, which allows you to target several enemies at once but it’s really vague as to how you line this up. It seems you have to face the general direction of enemy robots in order to build up your lock-on targets, but even then this doesn’t always work.


Sonic’s alien power-up friends, the Wisps, return from Sonic Colours. I kind of wish they hadn’t. They really don’t add anything to the gameplay, and in fact hinder and slow down the game’s pace even further. Any time a Wisp power is activated, the game pauses as you have to bypass an instruction on-screen, look at your Gamepad, perform the shoe-horned in motion or touchscreen gesture necessary, then look back at the TV and hit ‘A’ to continue. The only one which is somewhat enjoyable is the Drill power, and that’s only because sizable sections of a few zones are built around the tunneling gameplay it offers. An online ‘Wisp Away’ feature allows you the game to trade power-ups on your behalf with other online users, power-ups which can be used mid-level with the touchscreen (another Mario element).

The Deadly Six themselves form the majority of Sonic Lost World‘s bosses, which is conceptually all well and good. What’s disappointing is how easy they all are. Sonic’s new lock-on ability allows him to target the same enemy multiple times for a deadlier attack, which can take out most of these bosses in one or two hits. The difficulty really spikes throughout the second half of the game, so when you finally reach one of the much-touted bosses, you’d think they’d put up a little more of a fight. If you were fortunate enough to find the ‘Deadly Six’ edition of the game, you’ll be granted a bonus DLC level, which is essentially a Boss Rush of all of these monsters, but in the world of Sega’s NiGHTS. It can be completed in less than five minutes, which says about all you need to hear, really.

It’s not all bad, however, and I did enjoy some of the simpler levels on offer. A couple of zones completely depending on rail grinding are fun, challenging and kind of soothing in that Donkey Kong Country mine-cart way, and a Katamari ripoff level which sees Sonic trapped inside a snowball collecting rings is a fresh change of pace.

Sonic Lost World looks and sounds the part, and the efforts of the developers to create a slower, more varied and modern Sonic title do not go unnoticed. They just haven’t quite got the feel of the game right, yet. Shamelessly copying bits and pieces from other games like Super Mario Galaxy is all well and good, but then the end result will be inevitably compared to these more original titles, and suffice to say Sonic Lost World does not compare well. You never feel like you have the amount of control you should have, and the various gameplay styles all become frustating due to their own issues. It’s not impossible to have a good time with Lost World, especially if you’re a Sonic fan and devoted enough to work through all the eccentricities and problems, but most will realise there are better platformers out there. Here’s hoping Sonic can someday become one of them.


Vibrant visuals | Jazzy, orchestral music | Varied level design | Good intentions


Control issues | Pointless Wisps | Wildly inconsistent difficulty | Poor boss fights

Overall Score: