Sonic the Hedgehog and I have had a rocky gaming relationship over the years, so much so that it was with some trepidation that I agreed to review Sonic: Lost World for the Nintendo 3DS. The little blue guy first came into our homes on the Sega Genesis back in 1991, aiming to give a certain Italian plumber a run for his platforming money. The original, along with two sequels published in the following three years, was a fresh and fantastic experience which spawned its very own cult following among gaming enthusiasts.
With many spin-offs and iterations in the last twenty-two years, there are bound to be some missteps, the worst of which was the awful Sonic Adventure. Originally released on the Sega Dreamcast in 1998 and later for the Nintendo GameCube in 2003, this was the first in the series to feature free-roaming 3D gameplay. At the time, it was a critical darling, but now it’s almost unplayable by today’s standards, with wonky controls and a game camera that spurns even the most patient gamer to throw a controller out the window. Unfortunately, Sonic: Lost World comes dangerously close to that, with very few positive points saving it from being an absolute failure of a game.
The plot of Sonic: Lost World strays from the norm, and is one of the aforementioned positive points of the game. The evil Dr. Eggman, Sonic’s arch-nemesis for over twenty years, has once again captured a glut of Sonic’s animal buddies. Our titular hero and his pal Tails are in hot pursuit of the maniacal doctor when they crash land on a planet called Lost Hex. It’s here that Dr. Eggman recruits the help of a group of dastardly creatures known as the Deadly Six. Much to the doctor’s chagrin, the Deadly Six rise up against him, and Sonic and Dr. Eggman unite to try to defeat the new enemies head-on.
The gameplay here aims to be refreshing and different, but ends being complicated and quite difficult in some spots. The focus has been shifted from Sonic’s automatic speed to having more control over how fast you want him to go. The analog stick has you moving Sonic at a normal speed, and he doesn’t pick up the pace unless you press the right bumper to make him run faster.
Parkour moves are one of new additions to the gameplay, as Sonic can now run along walls and jump left to right, from one to the other. It’s in these spots that I found the controls frustrating, as I fell to my doom numerous times trying to figure out on which platform to jump. During the parkour segments, the 3D was very disorienting as well and I had to switch to the console’s 2D setting just to get through the level. It puts me off as a 3DS gamer when I have to switch to 2D in order to further enjoy a game and the fact that I had to definitely knocks Sonic: Lost World down a notch.
Save for the parkour bits, the level design in Sonic: Lost World is actually quite good. Visually, there is nothing special going on, but there always seems to be a lot to do on screen and the game keeps you busy. Its strength lies with the old go-to platforming goodness from previous Sonic games. It’s a formula that doesn’t get old, but the trouble is in the tinkering. Gone is the super-speedy hedgehog, in favor of a more precise movement control, and thus a slower hedgehog. This slower control scheme encourages you to explore the levels, but I miss the speed and adrenaline that the old titles offered.
Speaking of the control scheme, it, along with the general gameplay, are taught through a first-level tutorial and running through question-mark icons. Seasoned Sonic veterans will find this to be a bit of an annoyance as the icons are hard to avoid and most will find them unnecessary. Personally, I found them quite useful, especially through the first 3D parkour level.
Sonic: Lost World is a classic case of not necessarily enjoying the destination, but enjoying the journey instead. That being said, this is still a fun game overall. I just hope that you have patience for wonky controls and a game camera that sometimes takes you off the gaming plane.
This review is based on the Nintendo 3DS version of the game, which was provided to us.
Sonic: Lost World suffers from a wonky camera and suspect controls, but with enough patience, there is plenty to do in this new iteration.