Flatiron Hot! Critic: Sega’s Speeding Blue Blur is Back—and He’s Got Some New Tricks Up His Sleeve!
By Maxwell Shapiro and the Flatiron Hot! News Editorial Staff
Nintendo and Sega were once heated rivals. It all started in the SNES/Sega Genesis era when their two most successful games, Super Mario World and Sonic the Hedgehog, sparked a fierce competition. Mario and Sonic came to be seen as bitter rivals, as well. But things began to change during the Game Cube era. Sega discontinued their Dreamcast console and became a third-party company. Longtime fans were shocked to learn that Sonic would be coming to GameCube, Xbox, and PlayStation. Any real competition with Nintendo was over. In 2006, Mario and Sonic appeared together in a game featuring them at the Olympic Games, which would eventually spawn an entire series.
Nintendo and Sega cemented the partnership with the announcement that Sonic’s next three games – Sonic Lost World, Mario and Sonic Olympic Games and a game based on the upcoming Sonic Boom TV series – would feature exclusively on Nintendo consoles.
Sonic Lost World’s eye-popping visuals are at their best in the “Desert Ruins” stage. The game’s presentation is superb. Sonic looks amazing in HD, with vibrant and colorful environments constantly popping out at you. The game is also packed with tons of catchy tunes. Sonic Lost World’s well-orchestrated tracks and unique and zany visuals kept me intrigued throughout the whole experience.
The controls in the latest Sonic games differ from those of their predecessors. In previous games, Sonic would begin to move, then accelerate until he reached top speed. This time around, the only way for him to run, which is always at the same pace, is to hold down the ZR button on the Wii U Game Pad. Otherwise, he will casually stroll, allowing for more precision in certain areas. In place of Sonic’s Boost move is his classic Spin Dash move. While some might be disappointed by this, it’s definitely for the best. Due to the design of this game’s levels, the Boost move would have been a disaster. Besides, the Spin Dash comes in handy on many occasions.
Then we have a brand new set of moves: Sonic parkour controls. This allows him to run up and along walls, which is mandatory for discovering certain secrets and sometimes even advancing in the level. I noticed that these “Spider-Man”-like abilities usually worked well in 3D stages, but but could be frustrating in 2D sections. I can’t tell you how many times the game forced me to run up a wall, ruining the flow of game play. In Lava Mountain Zone 3, it results in a lot of cheap deaths.
This new mechanic will arouse much less frustration in fully 3D environments. The game takes a level of inspiration from Super Mario Galaxy. Rather than using Launch Stars, Sonic uses giant springs to warp himself from one mini-planet to the next. I enjoyed the game’s 3D stages more than 2D, mostly because Sonic controls a bit easier and they’re simply more interesting and creative and tend to flow more smoothly. But they’re not perfect. Zone 1 of Frozen Factory is very poorly designed. It’s the only level in the game where it is unclear how to progress beyond a certain point. Regardless, the game’s levels, both 2D and 3D, are for the most part clever and enjoyable. While they don’t quite recapture the magic of Mario’s outer space adventures, they’re fun in their own way.
Lost World has a bigger emphasis on defeating enemies than previous games in the series. Like the original Sonic the Hedgehog, Dr. Eggman has captured little animals and turned them into an army of robots. Sonic has to free them by bashing into as many enemies as he can. You need to save a certain number of animals to unlock the final level of each world, which is usually quite easy. This time around, the homing attack can lock onto more than one enemy at once. There’s also a new kicking move, which sends one enemy flying into a bunch of others. These techniques efficiently allow for defeating more enemies in less time. There are some instances that require bashing the enemies in one area until a giant spring appears, allowing you to progress. Another new feature enables you to lock onto one enemy several times. This is required for certain enemies and bosses before you can attack them. It is often difficult to because it is not obvious how many times you must do so before attacking.
The game is jam-packed with new and exciting challenges. In Tropical Coast, one must maneuver apples, melons, and pineapples, creating a tube of juice for Sonic to use to get to the next section. Doing so is a visual highlight and a cute touch. There are levels where Sonic bounces across clouds, some where he was put on auto-pilot and is unable to stop and you have to keep him from smacking into walls. In others, he grinds along rails, much like in previous installments in the series. While most levels hit their mark, a few miss, like the awfully controlled flying levels and tedious pinball sequence in Frozen Factory Zone 3.
The boss battles are a mixed bag. Lost World introduces a new group of villains called the Deadly Six, who all have incredibly cartoonish personalities. There’s a violence-obsessed “tough guy,” an obese glutton, a martial arts master, a self-absorbed girl, an emo, and the leader of the pack. Their fights range from wildly interesting to frustratingly difficult to downright boring. When it comes to dialogue, the villains are pretty damn annoying. All of them, especially the leader Zavok, have many groan-worthy lines (“I’ve been dreaming of kicking your spiny blue butt!”, “It seems like the peaceful days tending to my garden will have to wait.”). The only one who manages to induce a few chuckles is Zomom, such as when he exclaims, “Mom was right, I AM a failure!” after being defeated for the final time. But for the most part, whenever they start talking during a cutscene or while you’re going through a stage, you’re just gonna want them to shut up.
Wisps, the intergalactic power-ups introduced in Sonic Colors, make a return. How enjoyable they are heavily depend on how they are controlled. There were a good bunch I enjoyed, such as the “Laser” and “Drill” Wisps, which make good use of the GamePad’s touchscreen, the “Rocket” Wisp, which utilized its gyroscope and tested my concentration. But there were a few I disliked, like the uncontrollable “Eagle” Wisp and the awkward “Asteroid” Wisp.
Sonic Lost World offers tons of exciting twists and challenges, but a few frustrating controls can put a damper on the experience. With its hidden Red Star Rings and animal containers, it offers a good balance between exploration and Sonic’s signature speed. The game is not without its flaws, but nevertheless there’s a lot of fun to be had and it was a worthy entry in the franchise.
The good: Terrific presentation, fun challenge, wide
The bad: Occasional frustration, parkour controls don’t work as well in 2D levels