After a few less than stellar outings, the Blue Blur is poised yet again to return to his former glory in the upcoming action platformer Sonic Lost World on the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS.
Combining the speed of classic 2D Sonic titles with the glorious 3D worlds of the Super Mario Galaxy series, Sonic Lost World looked to have all the tools needed to make this game a must-have holiday release. From what I got to play though, those glory days are still unfortunately best left as memories from Saturday mornings long past.
It was obvious at the beginning of my session on Wii U during PAX Prime that Sonic Lost World was trying to do too much at once. The 3D levels played like advanced versions of the half-pipe bonus levels from Sonic the Hedgehog 2 that we all know and love, and took color palate cues from other famous levels found in that game. I cannot recall how many times I’ve played an updated version of the classic Casino Night Zone level, but the biggest thrill always came from bouncing around at max speed like a pinball trying to burst its way out of a cabinet. That was easier said than done thanks to the game’s updated control scheme.
Sonic Lost World employs a jump button, homing attack button, dive kick button, and a run button. When trying to go at warp speed, that felt like far too many buttons to memorize when a single button used to encompass most of those actions before. Sonic now also automatically parkours over small hedges while in motion, but it still feels like a hindrance when what I want to do is simply go fast.
All I used to need was a Spin Dash to get things going and my thumb jammed on the right side of the d-pad while keeping an eye out for twitchy cues to avoid danger or demolish it head-on. That has been scrapped in lieu of more intricate control mechanisms which young gamers new to the franchise will eventually get used to and those searching for the glory days of gaming will inevitably complain about.
Sonic the Hedgehog titles used to be an incredibly fun experience for two main reasons- speed and simple controls. Those factors separated Sonic from Mario in the 16-bit era and made him an iconic mascot that Mario and Crash Bandicoot fought tooth and nail to keep up with. Neuter Sonic’s speed and what you’ve got is a flashy mammal struggling to make it from platform to platform without the aid of a green dinosaur or magical raccoon tail.
Possibly with a bit of practice, the controls of Sonic Lost World could be mastered and the game enjoyed to its fullest. Between the 3D levels, 2D sidescrolling portions, parkour flair, and overwhelming nostalgia factor, Sonic Lost World might still be able to salvage the legacy of a once benevolent gaming hero. If you want to relive the good ol’ days, download an old Sonic title. If you want to get your hands on a new and different chapter in the Sonic saga, even if your black eye hasn’t healed from Sonic Unleashed, you’ll have the chance to get lost in a new world soon enough.
Sonic Lost World will be released on October 22, 2013 for the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS.