The relationship between Sonic the Hedgehog and Japanese development studio Dimps has been mercurial one. On one hand, they’ve has made a name for itself among fans as the team that seems to get the “Blue Blur” with the release of titles like Sonic Rush and Sonic Colors on the DS. On the other hand, however, they brought us Sonic Unleashed.
So when the 3DS version of Sonic Lost Worlds made its way to American shores last month, the age old question cropped up once again: “Is this a good Sonic game or are we getting another Sonic the Hedgehog 2006?”
Luckily for those fans, not only does the game set itself apart from the Wii U version, it’s definitely one of the best handheld hedgehogs without the risk of being stuck with quills.
While it doesn’t always hit it out of the park, this is a hedgehog worth your rings. Hit the jump to find out why.
At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, Sonic Lost World probably features some of the best level design since the Sonic Adventure days. Dimps did a great job of providing classic Sonic challenges with a twist.
Levels fall into two categories, not unlike Sonic Generations: there are the “modern” levels that feel like a mix between Sonic Adventure and Mario Galaxy’s panoramic rotation, and then there’s the classic 2D Sonic segments.
You can tell a lot of thought and admiration for the older titles were put into these levels. Those who enjoyed Sonic Generation’s classic zones will be surprised at how well these old-school environs play.
The newly added parkour system in Sonic’s movement is a welcome addition that I hope they keep in future Sonic titles. Being able to grab onto ledges, dashing up and scaling obstacles is pretty cool, as is being able to bounce between walls. In other words, it’s actually fun to play as Sonic again.
Unfortunately, my first major gripe comes from the use of the 3DS’ gyroscope for the special stages. As you may recall, the special stages from earlier Sonic games would require you to complete a challenge in order to snag a Chaos Emerald. Well, they’re back in Lost World, but unfortunately the goal is to guide a floating Sonic through a completely 3D environment, collecting colored spheres in order to unlock the Chaos Emerald.
While it seems like a neat idea in practice, there is literally no way to play this without moving your entire body. As I usually play the 3DS on the subway, trying to contort my body on a full MTA train was a completely mortifying experience. Sega, you owe me my dignity
The motion control also rears its ugly head again later in the game. Without spoiling too much, a Wisp powerup found in a later zone involves having to use the gyro function with no other control alternative. Though it’s not as unbearable as the Special Stages, it can get pretty wobbly at times, especially in one level where you’ll be using this power up almost exclusively.
Though level designs are well thought out, how Lost World handles its enemies is wildly inconsistent. That’s not to say they are badly designed or have shoddy AI. The game does a great job of tapping into the classic rogue gallery and bringing back some fan favorites, often with a clever twist.
On the downside, some of the game’s bigger enemies can be obnoxiously frustrating. A sand worm in the game’s second zone is almost baffling when it comes to taking it down. Though the game does a great job of giving you hint boxes, there is no help when it comes to enemies. Some bigger baddies go down only after what seems to be an obnoxious amount of hits.
A neat and entirely optional feature is the Tails Laboratory. By collecting different materials found in the game’s zones, you can build R.C. Vehicles with Tails. These mechanical powerups, utilized in non boss stages, act as little game boosts for a short amount of time. They aren’t at all necessary for completing the game and in my run I hardly used them but it does add a bit of complexity to what’s been a mostly linear game series.
I can’t say how well the boss battles play out on the Wii U version of SLW, but in this version, they fall flat or at least seem a bit too easy. Battles take place in small arenas and often seem like a weird game of cat and mouse. Though battles get a bit more creative later on, this creativity comes with brevity, which was disappointing to me since the Six seem to have a lot of personality and bring something new to the table.
In terms of replayability, Lost World has a few head scratching hidden treasures to find strewn throughout its levels. Finding elusive red rings will earn access to an extra stage, which is pretty cool for those replaying the game. I stress replay factor because you won’t be able to get all the rings your first go around until you unlock the Wisps in their respective levels.
On the subject of Wisps, they’re back from Colors, though this time around, it’s pretty much take it or leave it. These powerups provide a momentary change in controls and gameplay but rarely do they have a major impact since their usage is timed.
Other than a few weird design choices, Sonic Lost World proves that Sonic hasn’t lost its innovative design or its classic spirit. Though I once again lament the omission of the Chao Garden, Lost World does feel like a testing ground for a future Sonic Adventure-esque title.
Though the Wii U version is a hedgehog of another color, I do believe our portable Sonic titles are finally worth the rings.
(Editor’s note: A publisher’s copy of the game was provided for this review. Review copies are provided as a courtesy, and do not influence the opinions of Pixelitis.)