Review: Sonic Lost World

Originally published on on Nov. 15, 2013.

+ Wonderfully colorful worlds | Infectious soundtrack

- Unwieldy controls | disjointed gameplay | cringe-worthy dialogue

Making Sonic’s latest adventure a Nintendo exclusive was a curious gesture on Sega’s part.

Regardless of whether Sega saw something special in the Wii U’s GamePad capabilities or if it was just a matter of backdoor corporate politics, fans have been undeniably curious to see if this latest outing could continue the positive track record left by Sonic Colors and Generations before it.

So does Sonic Lost World succeed, or is it a lost cause?

Sonic Lost World is an incredibly mixed bag. I really wanted to enjoy it to its fullest extent, but it’s unfortunately pockmarked by a numerous amount of gameplay flaws.

Parallels have been drawn endlessly between Sonic Lost World and Super Mario Galaxy. After all, both utilize spherical planets and feature protagonists launching themselves from one landmass to another. While at face value this does make the two similar, the comparison really ends there when you realize that the former’s controls and level design can’t even compare to the latter.

In addition to Sonic’s classic running and spin-dashing, he can now perform parkour moves like wall-running. Unfortunately though, this proves to be unwieldy as it always felt like any momentum you put into dashing towards a wall gets lost as the blue hedgehog slowly clambers up a wall.

It never really felt like Sonic was 100 percent easy to maneuver. It doesn’t help that the game doesn’t do a good job of explaining the various maneuvers Sonic is capable of or encouraging experimentation. This is especially the case with the wisps you can collect and keep in your inventory. Originally appearing in Colors, these wisps can be activated during a level by tapping on the one you want to use on the GamePad’s touch screen. Given the amount of things going on the main screen, however, it was hard to stop in my tracks just to activate these powers.

The player can acquire wisps within the levels themselves or on the stage select screen through a SpotPass feature, where players on the Miiverse can send you a random one along with a message. Leaving this feature on when you don’t use wisps can prove to be quite an annoyance, as once your inventory is full, you’re forced to cycle through all of these newly-acquired wisps and decide which ones to keep and which ones to throw out.

Levels contain a plethora of various collectibles that can unlock new things on the world map like secret levels. Level placement on the game’s world map doesn’t always make sense though, with a casino level wedged in between two ice levels and an ice level in between two jungle stages. Unfortunately, the game makes the collection of the random animals hidden in containers throughout the level mandatory. Without amassing a certain amount of these critters after conquering a few worlds, you’ll find yourself at a roadblock where you require more in order to unlock a new level.

I applaud Sonic Team’s attempt at trying to provide a diverse bunch of levels, but unfortunately a lot of it comes off as gimmicky and frustrating. The game’s 2D levels are a nice throwback to old school Sonic but don’t have the same depth or wide scale of its elders. Some fast-moving auto-scrolling stages feature quick and cheap deaths, often caused by the poor handling of the controls for things like jumping from rail to rail. What really broke the straw on the werehog’s back for me, however, was a hair-pulling, forced stealth section in which getting caught by a searchlight meant losing a life.

And as if to top it all off, the boss fights are especially lackluster, feeling uninspired and employing predictable and repetitive tactics.

It almost feels like more attention was focused on making the game look as pretty as possible, and that it is — it’s easily one of the most colorfully vivid games I’ve played on the Wii U. The cutscenes are especially well-animated and finely detailed. The voice acting and dialogue on the other hand are embarrassingly cringe-worthy. The cornball dialogue alone makes it evident that this is a game geared towards kids, but even so it wouldn’t have hurt to inject a bit of cleverness to avoid the feeling of watching a bad Saturday morning cartoon.

This Saturday morning cartoon vibe is made especially apparent by the game’s new villains, the multicolored Zetis, who feel like generic typical kid’s show archetypes like the lonely emo kid and the lanky goofball. More interesting than them is the fact that Eggman/Robotnik is eventually forced to work with Sonic and Tails against the new threat, which makes the interactions between the unlikely team a little more interesting.

Like its visuals, the game’s soundtracks is equally great and often infectiously peppy, fitting in well within its environments. Some levels even feature dynamic shifts in the music when something perilous like a boulder rolls near.

Ultimately, Sonic Lost World could have used a bit more polish. The levels frequently fluctuate from being genuinely fun to downright frustrating, and this is often spurred by the awkward handling of Sonic and the unwelcome level change-ups. The game’s cutscenes are the least of its problems, but when added on top of an already flawed game, bring it down even further.

I guess there’s always Sonic Generations to fall back on.

(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.)