The spikey, blue haired, red boot-wearing hedgehog is back and he’s tearing up the speed limit in this Nintendo-exclusive title, Sonic Lost World. Fans of the series can breathe a long sigh of relief because this game has everything you’d want out of a Sonic title and so much more. The new mechanics, incredible graphics and ultra-creative level designs all add up to make this one of the best Sonic games since the old-school days of Sega Genesis.
Here we go again
The presentation is polished to a shine. The music, composed by Sonic veteran Tomoya Ohtani, is some of the best in the series. The levels are feats of design and with 1080p running at 60fps, the game looks amazing with its popping bright colors and insanely fast speed of motion. It’s almost as fun to watch as it is to play. Speaking of watching, the cut scenes are amazingly produced and of a truly cinematic quality. The voice acting is excellent and the story brings out the characters’ flaws and humor in a way that I never thought possible in a Sonic game. Normally I wouldn’t mention this for an action platformer, but I was thoroughly impressed by these in-game movies.
Don’t worry, it’s still Sonic
Fans of the series will also be happy to know that the physics are spot on. Sonic moves intuitively and responsively through the game world without a hitch. He’s even brought some new moves to give the Deadly Six a run for their money. One of the game’s largest innovations is the addition of a run button. Holding down the right trigger on the GamePad kicks Sonic into high gear, enabling him to Parkour like a pro, running along walls or vaulting obstacles without skipping a beat. Sonic’s pace immediately slows upon releasing the trigger. It may not sound like much, but the run button offers a completely new style of play that makes the side-scrolling 2D portions of the game feel much more precise, and there’s more control in the 3D segments as well.
With two variations in speed, double jumps, a roll attack, and lock-on homing attacks, Sonic has more moves than ever with an unparalleled sense of freedom to explore levels. Once I had a handle on the controls, I marveled at the ease with which I zipped through the spaces and took out enemies. It’s a whole lot of fun, but to be completely honest, it took some time for me to learn it all. It really wasn’t until after completing the first two or three areas (a good two hours in) before I had a confident grasp of the controls.
Part of the challenge is in knowing the right move for a specific job. The trouble is, you won’t know which move to use on which enemy until you try a few times and ultimately learn from your mistakes. For example, there are spiders in the game that can only be knocked off their web by using the homing kick, but once they’re on the ground, they can only be finished off by using the homing attack. I didn’t know this, of course, until I face-planted into the spider’s butt a few times, losing all my rings and dying. Personally, I enjoy this type of learn-as-you-go gaming, but it might be a lot to ask of casual players looking for a more streamlined experience.
Casual gamers might also consider playing the game at a slower pace rather than booking it full-steam through the level. To test it out, I released the run trigger and jogged through a few of the courses; I was surprised to find the difference it made. It’s not as impressively fast, but avoiding obstacles and taking out enemies becomes much easier. There’s really no need to worry about the clock, either. Some of these levels have upwards to 15 minutes on the counter, and generally there’s more than enough time to stretch your legs. With infinite continues and no load time between deaths, there’s really nothing stopping you from pushing on and trying again whenever you fail.
Unlike Mario, where all you need to do is stay alive long enough to reach the end flag, good guy Sonic is on a mission to save the animals (awww). If you don’t free enough of the furry critters from Eggman’s machines, either by stomping on storage tanks or defeating enemies, then Sonic won’t be able to advance to the next world. This can mean backtracking and running through levels multiple times in search of more animals to rescue.
At the end of each area, you’ll have a boss fight against one of the Deadly Six. This is where my largest complaint of the game lies. The attention to detail and inventiveness found in the level design somehow didn’t extend to the boss battles. There are some exceptions: the Desert Ruins boss, a fat demon named Zomom, and the Silent Forest’s emo-goth demon, Zor, both have unique and extremely fun battles. But the majority of boss fights primarily consist of a repetition of homing attacks and bouncing on heads. They aren’t terrible, but after being blown away by the fast-paced level design, I felt a bit let down when going against a boss.
Return of the Wisps
Not too long ago, I would never have imagined a Sonic the Hedgehog game coming out as a Nintendo system exclusive. This blue guy used to represent Nintendo’s fiercest rival back during the 16-Bit War. Now, over two decades later, with a brand new set of consoles only weeks away, it’s poetic seeing Sonic teaming up with Nintendo at a time when their latest console needs all the help it can get. Sonic Lost World is a wonderful addition to the Sonic legacy and one of the best exclusive titles on the Wii U. It harks back to the classic days of gaming that got me into video games in the first place, a time when developers aimed to challenge players rather than guide their hand through a movie experience. By taking familiar gaming mechanics and adding a fresh burst of new elements, Team Sonic has delivered a solid console title that will challenge players for years to come. And it’s fun. Did I mention it’s lots of fun?