Review: Sonic Lost World (Wii U) – A Series Heading in the Right Direction
When I first booted up Sonic Lost World I wasn’t sure what to expect, as the latest outings for the Sonic franchise have been a mixed bag; improved camera, controls and overall presentation marred by a blue hedgehog too fast for his own good. Then the first cutscene started up and instantly had me excited–seeing the whole gang back again actually cheerful and interesting made me giddy in a way that I haven’t felt in quite a while.
The best character rejuvenation by far is Tails. His voice alone is a great fit as he sounds adorably boyish without it being grating or too feminine. But the best part is his personality–gone is that annoying and poorly executed self-doubt that seemed to plague Tails since the first Sonic Adventure. Now he’s confident, capable and quite the deadpan snarker. Knuckles was another character that was delightfully well done in this game. He was cocky and charming again, unlike some of his past iterations that added a bit too much staunchness.
Seeing these personality changes starting from Sonic Colors and really unfolding here was a more than pleasant start for me. But how does the rest of the game fare?
Sonic Lost World is bright, colorful and features unique and challenging level designs for the 3D stages. The circular nature of each level really adds to the ease and joy of finding new routes; the new Parkour feature that enables him to wall climb is easy to pull off and fun to watch unfold. Each stage has an incredibly unique design and I genuinely get excited seeing what the next area will look like.
Sonic himself controls noticeably better in this title because you can actually control him now. A major issue with more recent Sonic games was that the blue hedgehog was more of a blue blur. You couldn’t steer him since he moved way too fast–your only hope was to point him in a direction and hope for the best.
In this game, even when Sonic speeds up you have near perfect control of his movements; I found he could turn tight corners and maneuver in the air quite easily. Sonic can even grip ledges when he’s close enough, preventing the incredibly cheap deaths that could be caused by slightly misjudging the distance between platforms. In fact, I found that most cheap deaths could be prevented because of the improve control scheme. Finally his new kick attack adds a bit more variety as some enemies will only go down when you use it at the right time.
The 2D stages aren’t bad but lack a certain polish. It might be because of the fact that Sonic doesn’t speed up naturally (instead you have to push the ZR trigger), which is a mechanic that works perfectly well in the 3D stages but slows down the 2D stages considerably.
Another issue with the 2D stages is that they only exist for the boss stages. As any old time Sonic fan will recall, boss stages are purposely short with light content and little route variety since they solely exist to collect rings for the upcoming fight. This means that the only times you play 2D stages are when they would be at their worst, content-wise. Worse yet, 2D stages are inconsistently spread out, so you may have a 3D stage without the corresponding 2D one.
Speaking of boss battles, that is a glaring weakness of the game. These boss battles lack the diversity and challenge of a classic Sonic game, such as the old 2D ones, Sonic Adventure 2, the Sonic Advanced series and the Sonic Rush series. Those aforementioned games knew how to set up intricate throw downs that functioned as moving puzzles. Lost World, however, is far too easy. The bosses were overly basic and ended far too quickly–a real disappointment.
Moving on, the Wisps are back and they offer Sonic their services again in the form of special powers. If you need a refresher on the various powers, you can go here for a nice summary of each one. Now while I know that these adorable beings were already showcased back in Sonic Colors, it would have been nice to have a friendly crash course on Wisps and their abilities. Instead they’re kind of hamfisted into the game, and while using them is mostly optional (except for rare occurrences like the Yellow Drill) it feels like they’ve been unceremoniously dropped in Lost World without so much as a hello.
Music in this game is gorgeous–I’m so happy that Sonic Team kicked that terrible puesdo-rock/rap to the curb, since their orchestrated pieces were far superior in every way. Your ears will always be in for a treat when starting a new level.
The multiplayer mode is fun and remind me of the classic one from Sonic Adventure 2. Beware because you can only play this mode if you happen to have the Wii U classic controller–Wii Remotes need not apply. The Time Attack mode coupled with the leaderboard you unlock after beating a stage once is surprisingly addictive and alone adds immensely to the reply value. I found myself constantly trying to shave off excess time from my runs and discover more efficient routes in order to get the fastest possible time. Another feature that add more replayability is the Challenges that you can choose to complete, such as collecting a certain amount of Rings and lives.
There is one feature that was interesting in concept but annoying in execution. In order to integrate Miiverse into the game better, Sonic Team came up with a system that allows players to share items which can be used to aide you during stages. However, this can become tedious when, before you’re even allowed to start a level, you have to go through this process of accepting and storing items immediately instead being able to do it later. If you’re unlucky enough to have too many items and need to discard one, that takes even longer. I don’t mind the Miiverse feature at all but I wish it was optional, since I don’t even use the items.
In short, Sonic Lost World is not a bad game–in fact I really enjoyed it and I’ll definitely continue to play it. It’s a positive step for the Sonic franchise and one that should have happened sooner. However, I dream of the day that Sonic Team creates a Sonic game that can continue to innovate but without all the hiccups along the way.
You can check out Staff Writer Ryan Meitzler’s review of the 3DS version over here.