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First Impressions: Sonic Lost World

Posted by Mike Mason

Super Sonic

After a line of games that it would be altogether generous to label a “rough patch”, poor old Sonic is back on his speedy feet. Thanks to the combo of Sonic Unleashed (well, its daytime stages), Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations, SEGA's mascot is finally leaning back towards the positive side of the quality spectrum, and it seems that the franchise has finally settled into a satisfying halfway house between 2D and 3D.

Sonic Lost World sees SEGA taking advantage of this new-found confidence, experimenting with the series yet further, cherry picking the parts that have worked from recent titles and testing out some new elements. The result is a Wii U / 3DS exclusive that takes a large dose of inspiration from Super Mario Galaxy, tips in the essence of Sonic Colors and mixes it up with lessons learnt from the shortlived Wii storybook spin-off series. Add a garnish of retro nods that sees several visual touches and enemy types return from the 16-bit era, and this has potential to be a massive treat to sate the appetite of any Sonic fan.

We played the Wii U version at Nintendo UK's post-E3 showcase, but before we get down to the levels, it's important to address the biggest shift from the rest of the series – the controls. Sonic now has a much slower standard running speed, and he only bumps up to his usual crazy pace when you hold down the ZR button, his legs animated in a brilliant figure of eight. As a result you have much defter control over the blue one's movements; you can slow things down to duck around tricky obstacles or amp up when the path ahead is clear.

Sonic also deals with certain hazards differently. Whereas bumping into something in a previous game would have stopped him dead, now you can run up certain pieces of the environment – if you charge full pelt at a tree, Sonic will leg it up the trunk and burst out of the top, slowing you down slightly without destroying your momentum. He can also run sideways along walls if you have enough pace built up.

The homing attack, a mainstay of 3D Sonic titles, is still present. When moving at the standard speed you might not need it so much, but when you're zipping forward at maximum velocity it's a necessity – you just wouldn't be able to get the sufficient accuracy without it. The Spin Dash move also makes its long-awaited return; by holding ZL you can coil up on the spot, and releasing the button sends the 'hog wheeling off dangerously.

There were three stages in the demo. The first was the one that's probably garnered the most attention since the début trailer emerged, and the one that warrants the most explanation, the Green Hill Zone-like level that does little to hide its plumber-in-space inspirations. The initial segment is tubular, a mid-air cylinder decorated in the familiar brown checked pattern. Trees, hedges, enemies and hazards are placed all around it on every side – you can run all the way around it, on its sides and underside, the camera rotating simultaneously so that you always appear upright.

It's Mario Galaxy's anti-gravity gimmick borrowed wholesale and, perhaps surprisingly given the series' obvious differences, it works wonderfully for Sonic too. Wherever you move there's a new route – the level design is dense in parts, with at least three or four different paths over a relatively small piece of terrain, and you can mix and match your direction, slipping seamlessly between them as you zoom about. It's actually hard to imagine two gamers taking the exact same approach, such is the number of options.

This stage was sub-divided into several smaller parts, interlinked by gigantic springs that launched Sonic to the next area – again, much like Mario's planetoid navigation. More traditional flat platforms and crumbling bridges cropped up later, fitting in with the more abstract elements of the area without seeming odd, and Sonic Colors' Wisps even made an appearance; a blue one let you zig-zag through a tunnel. Problems with Sonic's 3D platforming, still seen as recently as Sonic Generations, were largely absent; jumps feel accurate and there were few needless falls. All our fingers are crossed that Sonic Team has finally nailed this down, though we did notice a tendency for some sections to practically play themselves without much input, particularly when speed boosters are involved.

The second level was a confectionary-based wonderland very much in the vein of Sonic Colors. 2D for the most part, it appeared sparse but featured a couple of alternate paths and some extremely sneakily hidden secrets – a cannon and a cache of rings down an apparent death pit, for instance. It was far more straightforward than the first demo level for sure – all loop-de-loops, tilting Oreo platforms and flurries of structures to hop up, so if you've played the 2D sections in recent Sonic titles you'll know roughly what to expect.

The final effort took yet another direction, more akin to Sonic and the Secret Rings. The level was set up similarly to the Super Sonic Galaxy stage, only here Sonic runs endlessly into the screen through the 3D world. Without any control over forward movement, it's the player's job to dodge side to side, avoiding obstacles and joining new paths, while attacking enemies and leaping over pits. Though a very similar approach to the first Storybook title, it felt more freeform – despite the continual run forward, there were still multiple paths to take. We did notice some glitches – Sonic was able to run through certain enemies without incurring damage, for example – though this could be down to this being a demo build. The sprinting is broken up by freefall sections in which Sonic skydives through hordes of enemies, grabbing rings and speeding up towards safety where appropriate.

The visuals are certainly simpler than games such as Sonic Unleashed; backgrounds are pared down, block colours are used more regularly and so on. This gives Lost World both a lovely look that feels more like the older titles and ensures that it runs smoothly at 60 frames-per-second – we never noticed any slowdown. The style ties in well with an emphasis on retro. Pleasingly Badniks are back, with many returning from the Mega Drive titles, and when they're smashed animals hop out to their freedom. To complete a level you hop on the button of a capsule to release a bunch of imprisoned animals.

It's strange to see all these different gameplay styles alongside each other, and it remains to be seen if SEGA can get the balance right and stitch them together into a cohesive game. Taken individually, however, each level shown was enjoyable and the potential shone out of the demo. If it's done right and comes together for the final product, Sonic Lost World could be an essential purchase for platforming fans when it's released later this year.

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User Comments (75)

MEGAMAN_D

#1

MEGAMAN_D said:

I'm looking foward to this more than anything else this year.

Cant beat a good sonic game.

Chris720

#3

Chris720 said:

Lookin' awesome! Maybe Sonic will actually be better than Mario for a change this year. Nothing can really beat a good Sonic game.

RainbowGazelle

#7

RainbowGazelle said:

Why does every Nintendo site feel the need to repeat that Sonic is supposedly nicking Mario's ideas? Anyway, I agree, it's hard to beat a good Sonic game. Naturally this game won't get anywhere near the same review scores as Mario games just because Sonic isn't Mario, but I'll bet that this will be better than the current run-of-the-mill Mario excursions.

6ch6ris6

#12

6ch6ris6 said:

the game takes more inspiration from the cancelled sonic extreme game than from mario galaxy

btw i think the graphics are kinda underwhelming for the wiiU version

Inev

#13

Inev said:

@Mason
On the Wii U version, can the wisp powers be aimed/used/activated without the touchscreen, and is there any forced touch screen use in general?

That's the deciding factor for me between getting the Wii U and 3DS version, haha.

ricklongo

#14

ricklongo said:

Even with all the Zelda / Mario / DK action coming our way, I am EXTREMELY excited for this. I got nothing but awesome vibes from every video and screenshot I've seen.

antdickensAdmin

#15

antdickens said:

I'll be honest, I've not been a huge fan of recent Sonic games, the last one I played was Unleashed and it was rather hit and miss. However, having seen this game in motion myself, it looks really promising - yes, it borrows elements from Mario Galaxy, but that should serve as a good platform to build, finally, a winning Sonic game. One to watch.

Subaru

#16

Subaru said:

Last Sonic game I played, was Generations. I love how Sega is finally making Sonic a viable platformer again.

WYLD-WOO

#19

WYLD-WOO said:

Sonic games have been quite poor in recent years. I do hope SEGA are bring something special to the table.

Varia01

#20

Varia01 said:

Oooooooohhhh! Glad to see that NL is hyped for this two. That gameplay looks amazing and better than the previous titles and even a lot of good inspiration from Super Mario Galaxy (That plumber-in-space thing was funny :D ). I didn't think that the giant springs are similar to the launch stars, but wow; the game is greatly similar to Galaxy. ULTRA HYPE!!! :O

Fazermint

#23

Fazermint said:

Looking forward to this game. Not a big fan of the series, although Sonic and the Black Knight is one of my favorite Wii games. That game received a lot of hate, but it was perfect for the Wii's control scheme.

Joshers744

#25

Joshers744 said:

Looking forward to this one!! I prefer the Adventure style but this looks to be great.
I do wish they would quit rehashing Green Hill Zone though. (same with Sea Side Hill in other games like the racing games from Sonic Heroes)

JimLad

#27

JimLad said:

I love that they've slowed him down, that was the no.1 thing killing sonic games for me personally. I know he's meant to be fast, but it got to point where it was compromising gameplay.
This game looks really good.

GreatPlayer

#29

GreatPlayer said:

Let's hope that the new Sonic DO NOT have a swimming stage - last time I played the swimming stage in Mario Galaxy and the control was horrible. The camera angle was actually good in Sonic Generations. Please, do not have the same camera angle issue as in Mario Galaxy.

gohanrage

#30

gohanrage said:

I wanted to actually hear about "SUPER SONIC" the Yellow version who is invincible

Dogpigfish

#33

Dogpigfish said:

My only concern is quality control. Anybody would admit this lacking in the last gen with splashing and water effects non existent, occasionally falling into nothing. Camera flashing and taking me into a wall where I have to try to move sonic to see him once again. I hope they acknowledge this issue and get it fixed this gen.

Wonder_Ideal

#36

Wonder_Ideal said:

I really can't wait for this game. If I could run with my legs in a figure eight, I would be doing so.

hydeks

#37

hydeks said:

I'm so psyched for this game!!!! Sega, don't pull a EA or those other dumb companies, keep supporting Nintendo with awesome games like this and I will definitely buy them :)

MorriganIsHot

#38

MorriganIsHot said:

One of a reason I'm buying a Wii U even though I own a 3DS but would rather play on a big screen.

Dark-Luigi

#40

Dark-Luigi said:

Looks like it will be worth it. I haven't seen a brand new sonic game come out in a while.

cdude

#42

cdude said:

I'm actually excited for this BECAUSE it looks like a galaxy ripoff, honestly. I always seem to buy sonic games and enjoy them, but this looks like a great start to a potential series, rather than yet another random title that just has sonic in it.

Im excited for a lot of the wiiu stuff, including mario, but this looks like one of the better buys, really. And, hey, nothing beats a good sonic game.

StyledFawn476

#45

StyledFawn476 said:

Well, given Sega's streak of decent sonic games (Generations, Colors) I'm definitely going to have to check this one out too.

Mason

#47

Mason said:

@RainbowGazelle @6ch6ris6 In this case the Mario comparisons are actually warranted, though. I can't really think of that many cases where a Sonic game has directly borrowed from a Mario title — this is a blatant borrowing of the ideas from Mario Galaxy, right down to the way Sonic transitions to different parts of the level, though given a Sonic twist. That's not meant as a criticism in any way, quite the opposite! It's also been said by Sonic Team's Iizuka that Sonic X-Treme has had no impact on this one...

@Inev The Wisp could be aimed with motion and was launched with an icon at the top right of the touch screen. I'm not sure if there are alternate options for that — I only encountered one and never got the opportunity to mess around any more with them.

Zodiak13

#50

Zodiak13 said:

Looks like I may just get a Sonic game for the first time since the Dreamcast. Well I have the Sonic RPG, but no platformers since then.

Marioman64

#51

Marioman64 said:

hey I liked unleashed's night stages, because I love hack and slash platforming. just because they technically don't count as "sonic-like-things" doesn't mean they can't be fun on their own merit
but yeah sonic unleashed is like the mario party 9 of sonic to me. fun, good spinoff, but don't do it again

Captain_Toad

#52

Captain_Toad said:

"60 FPS" Never has there been sweeter words that has been missed from a sonic game since Sonic 2006.

Inev

#53

Inev said:

@Mason Thanks for the info! Motion aiming is cool, but I'm not a big fan of switching between buttons and touch in fast games like this. Hopefully there'll be pro controller support.

Mason

#54

Mason said:

@Inev I agree — stopping to use the motion control did take me out of the experience a bit, as everything else was sticks and buttons. I'd imagine there are non-motion options, but I didn't see them for myself to confirm.

mch

#55

mch said:

Last I played Sonic was on Sega´s Master System. ..I´´m getting ooold

globalisateur

#58

globalisateur said:

Where did you get those crazy 5120 by 2880 pixels images?
Is it from a PC version?

Are there even some monitors with such resolution?

CasuallyDressedStaff

#61

CasuallyDressed said:

This was my biggest surprise at the showcase. I wasn't expecting much, but I came away really impressed.

SparkOfSpirit

#62

SparkOfSpirit said:

Every video I see makes me more excited for this.

Spindashing on walls alone could sell me on it, but everything else just looks so fun.

Ichiban

#66

Ichiban said:

Looking good, better than anything Nintendo are bringing to the console this year that's for sure! (and kinda sad...)

Kage_88

#72

Kage_88 said:

This looks absolutely brilliant!

Dare I say it.... even more so than Mario 3D World?

GamerDaddy

#75

GamerDaddy said:

Excellent! Hopefully this game sets a precedence of Sonic games being AAA titles exclusive to Wii U. This game is looking really good!! Keep it going!

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