It’s no secret that time has not been kind to Sonic the Hedgehog. Over the past decade Sega's spiky mascot has undergone a complete redesign, and has had to muddle his way through several sub-par outings that have left fans wanting so much more. The losing streak seems to be coming to and end though, with recent Sonic titles faring far better than those initial 3D adventures — and Sonic Lost World is continuing the trend. As our first impressions of the Wii U version of Lost World show, this new release is very promising, and thankfully the same can be said of its 3DS counterpart.
Not much is known about Sonic Lost World for the 3DS, but we have been able to confirm that the stages between both platforms will be different. Whether that is due to hardware limitations or other creative decisions is unknown. There were two playable stages in the demo that we got our hands on: Windy Hill Zone and Dusty Ruins Zone. Windy Hill Zone caught us by surprise because — as we were expecting mostly side-scrolling gameplay from the portable title — this stage instead boasts a 3D environment with a third-person perspective, not unlike the Wii U version. This zone looks great on the 3DS, with an environment that is vibrant and full of life. While many have been comparing the Wii U version to the Super Mario Galaxy series, Lost World on the 3DS felt much more like Super Mario 3D Land. The environment was open, but it felt a bit more linear than in the Wii U iteration.
The second stage that we played, Dusty Ruins Zone, was a 2D affair, reminiscent of the original games that we all remember fondly. This stage focused much more on platforming and light puzzle solving, with hitting switches and timing jumps, rather than speeding through and wiping out enemies along the way. Though very different from Windy Hill Zone, this stage feels like a natural fit on the 3DS, and it works as a great compliment to the 3D environment of the alternate stage. Though not as visually impressive as the first stage, everything here still looked great, even if the Egyptian themed environment is a little bland. We don’t know how many of the stages will be 3D and how many will be side-scrollers, but based on the quality gameplay in these two demo stages alone, either version is welcome.
Not only does this game look good but also it has a superb soundtrack to match. Full of upbeat tunes that fit their corresponding stage’s theme, this seems to be on par with the music from the original Sonic games.
Just as it was in the older games, speed is a reward in Sonic Lost World. Holding down the Right shoulder button may cause you to run, but maintaining and increasing that momentum requires skill. As you avoid enemies and obstacles you will continually gain speed, all of which is immediately taken away from you as soon as you’re interrupted by a discreetly placed foe or a bottomless pit that you didn’t see coming. This balance between speed and skill is reminiscent of the golden age of Sonic games, harking back to the skill required to complete some of the more difficult stages from the blue blur’s 16-bit outings. Rather than simply allowing you to bolt through zones, Lost World challenges its players and demands more to get the most out of the experience. If you want to go fast, you’ve got to play smart.
The one major problem that we faced when playing this game was discomfort regarding the controls. The titular hedgehog is controlled using the Circle Pad for movements and face buttons to jump and perform homing attacks. The touchscreen is also used to quickly execute special “colour” attacks that originated in Sonic Colors, and holding down the R button causes Sonic to run. This control scheme remains the same in both the 3D and the 2D stages. The layout is effective and makes sense once it’s in your hands, but the problem that we faced was constantly having to hold R. Because the game that we played was being demoed on an original model 3DS – rather than the much larger XL – we experienced much discomfort in the right hand, having to hold it in a claw-like rictus for an extended period of time. While this is obviously not a problem that everyone playing the game will face, gamers endowed with large hands might want to consider upgrading to a 3DS XL if they haven’t already, lest they experience the suffering and cramping that we put ourselves through. We do it all for you, dear readers.