The past 5 years have been extremely significant in the life of the Sonic franchise. Starting with the founding of the international Sonic convention Summer of Sonic (brought to you by the good folks at The Sonic Stadium) this half decade has seen what critics deem (with every new Sonic game that is released, as if they’ve lost their memories) as Sonic’s ‘return to form’. Sonic Colours and Sonic Generations, perhaps the 2 most significant Sonic titles of this era, are 2 games which have been extremely well received by critics and fans alike. Improved physics, more vigorous play-testing plus a dust-off of old Noughties baggage have all contributed to these titles holding the esteemed spots they do among Sonic and platform fans alike. But does Sonic Lost World match up?
I certainly can’t speak for the Wii version having never tried it. I’m aware the reviews for that haven’t been great (scoring a lowly 62 on Metacritic). What I can tell you, however, is that the 3DS version is the finest handheld Sonic game to have ever been released. And that’s talking as someone who has played them all (yes, even the one on the Neo Geo Pocket). It’s fun, gorgeous and, during many moments, surprising. Allow me to elaborate further.
First Handheld 3D Sonic
Firstly, this is Sonic’s first ever handheld 3D platformer, and that’s a huge deal. The first home console 3D Sonic was Sonic Adventure, which was released all the way back in 1998. There have been countless 2D Sonic handheld titles released since then ; the Advances, Rivals and Rushes to name but a few. Although many were great it’s a shame that its taken 15 years for handheld Sonic to finally follow suit. It was, however, worth the wait, as Sonic Lost World looks and plays marvelously on the 3DS.
Much has been made of the fact that Sonic is slower than usual in Sonic Lost World. As stated during my Eurogamer preview of the title I don’t think this is a bad thing whatsoever. Ultimately this game is not a racing title or driving sim ; its a platformer (albeit a momentum-based one). I’m not saying that breakneck speeds in platformers necessarily can’t work (Robot Unicorn Attack and Temple Run are examples of where it has) but in a full retail title such a feat is very hard to achieve. This is owing to the need for such titles to keep gameplay fresh. The result where it has been tried tends to be the over-reliance on things such as QTE mechanisms, as we have seen all too often in the Sonic games of recent years. You’ll be happy to hear that QTE is something Sonic Lost World 3DS is mostly devoid of.
The Wisps of Sonic Colours make a return and are implemented well. My personal favourite is the new Asteroid Wisp who is capable of sucking up enemies and objects Katamari style, allowing Sonic to achieve great heights.
One last point on gameplay is that I was misguided (as I predicted I might be) in my preview when I said this game seemed samey. When you sit down and play it sequentially in the manner intended it is anything but. Not only does gameplay style shift from level to level, but you’ll often find it, additional, shifting several times within a level. In one example, you start off on a cube, moving to a large flat-surfaced, multi-storeyed arena, back to a cube with a vastly different palette, then find yourself climbing through the clouds. Other variations include half-pipes, running along a tube and, perhaps unsurprisingly, some 2D levels. The ultimate deviation, however, is during the special stages where you must control Sonic by physically moving your 3DS around your person (a gyroscope mechanic). Like I said ; full of surprises!
Another thing I complained about in my preview was that the graphics were too simple. But now I’ve played the game indepthly I can only conclude that the game’s simply, cartoony style is a total positive. Aside from the fact it looks darn adorable its a style that the developers have been able to keep up consistently through-out the title (most 3D Sonic games fail abysmally in this regard)
The game ejects a veritable plethora of ideas at you, delighting long-time Sonic fans such as myself with such fan service as much-loved badniks from Sonic 2 and the famous Green Hill Zone chequered hills (which have been used on multiple levels to great effect). The visual changes you encounter as you travel through the levels are frequent and sometimes quite profound (something which is particularly exasperated in the later levels).
Musically the game is something of a mixed bag. On the whole the standard is good, as you would expect from long-time Sega sound composer Kenichi Tokoi. Particular highlights are Frozen Factory’s cheerful Christmassy ditties and Silent Forest Act 3’s gorgeous waltz.
Not every track seems to fit well, however. Silent Forest Act 2’s Austin Powers-style medley seems quite over-the-top for the level, for example, as does the tune in Tropical Coast Act 2. But luckily these mismatches are few and far between. In the video review he did of Lost World for his site (and our affiliate) Sega Driven SonicYoda said “every stage has its own theme, a different set of instruments, its not just one style for the entire game” and the truth is he’s right, and the soundtrack deserves commendation for that.
Overall Sonic Lost World 3DS is a fantastic, visually-pleasing, highly varied 3D platformer that will keep you coming back for more long after you’ve beaten the last boss. It has a fun factor that puts it up there with the best of the handheld Sonic titles (which tend to be my favourite Sonic games if I’m honest) and ranks it perhaps number two for me (second only to Sonic Generations) in terms of funnest 3D Sonic games. It’s unique, creative and well-balanced, so what are you waiting for? Make sure this title is on your Christmas list.
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