While Sonic has gone 3D for a while in his home console adventures, he’s stuck with his 2D roots in his handheld adventures. This time round, Sonic Lost World on the 3DS makes the leap into 3D gameplay, making it resemble its Wii U big brother. Despite the strong similarity, the 3DS version has different levels and some unique modes.
Movement in any direction other than forward has never been Sonic’s strong point in his 3D adventures, but Lost World changing thing significantly while still keeping the feel of Sonic. Now Sonic has learnt to control himself better – changing direction is extremely smooth, even when running at full speed, pulling off right angle and 180 degree turns with ease. If you’ve played his recent games, I advise you to just run around in circles just to feel the freedom of the movement.
Jumping and navigating has also been improved. Positioning yourself in mid-air is so much easier than previous games which lends itself to some great platforming sections. Sonic can also run up walls a short distance, and pull himself over ledges, which makes navigating levels much simpler, and in some cases also let you recover from mistakes. The new movement makes Sonic seem less of a “run forward and react quickly” game (although those elements are still there), and feel closer to a more traditional 3D platformer.
Sonic’s homing attack now allows for targeting three enemies at once (or a stronger enemy three times) and, for the most part, works brilliantly, and looks impressive when you string together multiple sets of triple attacks. However, Sonic can occasionally stay locked on to a target you’ve ran past a bit too long, resulting in Sonic hurtling backwards to hit it. It can be a bit annoying, but thankfully it isn’t too often to be a problem.
Along with long-time items like the speed shoes, invincibility and shields, some of the Wisps from Sonic Colours make a return, along with some new variants. While the Cyan Laser is used well, the Yellow Drill is unfortunately used mainly for a couple of dull water levels, rather than tearing through the ground. Among the new ones are the Ivory Lightning, which is satisfying to use and lets Sonic home in on electrified rods; and the Indigo Asteroid. While it’s fun in short bursts, a few levels overuse the Asteroid wisp, and the floaty and wonky nature of the movement soon becomes annoying to control.
Each world also has a zone with 2D gameplay. Without the crazy boosting from the Rush games, it’s very similar to the Classic levels from Sonic Generations and the classic Mega Drive games. On top of this, many classic Badniks make a welcome return and work exactly how they did in their original appearances (while the same Badniks are adapted slightly for the 3D levels), making for a very nostalgic experience. The wall running and jumping from the 3D levels has also been brought to the 2D stages, where they feel perfectly natural and feel like a great addition to the classic gameplay.
If you finish a level with enough rings, you get invited to a Special Stage in order to earn a Chaos Emerald. You have to fly around collecting all the orbs before the time limit runs out. The big problem with these sections: the controls. You control Sonic using the gyroscope in a 1:1 motion – meaning that if you want to turn Sonic 180 degrees, you have to physically turn 180 degrees. If you’re playing out and about, you’ll have to refuse the special stage and meet the requirements again later on. Unfortunately, that’s not the worst part. Due to the time limit, you will need to move fast, which makes it very disorientating. Each time I played a special stage, I had to close the 3DS and sit down for 10-15 minutes to recover. I’ve never felt motion sickness in a game before (Face Raiders wasn’t a problem), but turning so fast while focusing on a small screen is not a fun experience.
If the motion controls affecting optional special stages weren’t bad enough, there are a couple of boss battles which have similar controls. Thankfully, the movements for these bosses are much
slower, so you don’t experience the dizziness, but it’s still frustrating reaching that boss battle and being unable to continue the game because you’re not in a position where you can stand up and spin around. Another boss battle is also frustrating as the camera moves too close to Sonic in the fight – resulting in the boss attacking you from off the screen. Thankfully, the remaining bosses are much better and are a joy to play.
The levels take place across 6 unique worlds, consisting of three zones and a boss fight. There is a nice variety to the levels, but the quality of them is a bit mixed. While there are some brilliant levels you’ll want to play again and again – and fans of the Mega Drive games will keep noticing returning elements – some of them, like the previously mentioned water-based and Asteroid Wisp-based levels, really drag out. Each level has multiple routes and shortcuts, with the harder paths leading to some more rewarding routes.
There is plenty to do in Lost World. Each time you complete a level, you are rewarded with material which can be used in Tails’ Lab to create items and RC items to help you out. The RC items hover around Sonic and give him a helping hand. These items can also be sent to the Wii U version and a random one will appear if you lose too many lives from the same checkpoint. There are also 5 red rings to find in each zone, and there’s a Time Attack mode with online rankings so you can compete globally and with friends – and if leaderboards aren’t enough, you can challenge people to local (which supports download play) or online races and battles. Once you complete the main game, there’s a juicy unlock which significantly increases the length of the game.
Sonic Lost World has created a wonderful template for future handheld Sonic games, as the basic gameplay is smooth, accurate and exciting. Unfortunately, some of the items and levels are not up to scratch and can really detract from the experience (and that doesn’t include the Special Stages). Hopefully Sega can focus on what works for the sequel, but the problems prevent this version from being a must-have.
Lifespan…you guessed it, 4.
- Controls are fast but accurate.
- Lots to do and collect.
- Filled with nostalgia.
- Actual cutscenes, with humour.
- Too many levels you won’t want to return to.
- The Asteroid Wisp is overused and a pain to control.
- Special Stages are nauseating.
- Low quality video for the cutscenes.
While the foundations are solid, some of the bricks are unfortunately made from jelly. The gameplay is extremely well done, but some of the design choices in the latter half of the game spoil the experience.
Final Score: 7/10