Sonic: Lost World for Wii U won’t go down as my favorite Sonic the Hedgehog game. Hell, it’s not even my favorite 3D Sonic title. But it’s also not the worst of the bunch, a place that’ll be hard to top for anything not named Sonic ’06. There’s actually some praise I’d like to give Lost World, but it’s the wild inconsistency between fun and aggravating platforming that really knocks this release down a few letter grades. Combine that with stages that are too long, vague Colors style powers that rarely seem useful, and some awful cutscenes liberally sprinkled in between stages, and you’ve got a Sonic game that could have been a lot better with some minor tweaks and changes.
First, let’s tackle the good stuff here. A bit of fun has been poked at Lost World in comparison to Nintendo’s own Super Mario Galaxy series, but all fun aside there are some striking resemblances that I imagine are intentional. It doesn’t really borrow much from a gameplay perspective, but the globular sections of disconnected land that make up the majority of the stages certainly look like something out of Galaxy. This is also a brightly colored game, and does a solid enough job of putting the Wii U hardware through its graphical paces. All of this is shown without any major technical pratfalls, no screen tearing and very small framerate issues that are largely unnoticeable.
When the platforming and level exploration elements work, the game is a lot of fun to play. Sonic comes equipped with his basic skill set that’s evolved over the years, including his traditional spin dash and lock-on targeting maneuvers. For some reason the developer has opted to make Sonic’s full speed run something that requires the additional press of the right most trigger button on the GamePad, as opposed to hitting top speed by just running straight for a few seconds like you’d expect. This feels a little unnecessary at first, but there are definitely moments where you’ll want to explore a stage instead of barrel straight ahead, enough so that the ability to move at a slower pace becomes pretty helpful.
What doesn’t work here is the fact that the fast run trigger also doubles as a way of pulling off various wall climbing or running skills. What becomes annoying is accidentally grazing up against a wall and getting stuck in the wall climbing animation, or coming just close enough to the edge of a platform that you get stuck watching Sonic slowly scrambling up a ledge. It can be really frustrating, especially if you’re trying to dodge or outrun an enemy attack, and led to more than a few aggravating deaths.
Level design in Sonic: Lost World is all over the place. The first world feels like just about every first world location in a Sonic the Hedgehog game, some sort of variation on your standard Green Hill Zone. It’s a solid introductory level though, and splits your time nicely between the 3D and 2D designs that the game toys with throughout. It shows off all your basic skills and abilities, acclimates the player to the pace of the game, makes most of its hidden Red Stars easily obtainable, and doesn’t pull control from the player too often for the flashier bouncing between objects moments.
But the second world begins to whittle away at your patience, offering up a desert themed location with slow moving sections of sand that keep Sonic from running fast, frustrating enemies, and over-reliance on Wisps, the limited power granting creatures that first appeared in Sonic Colors. Wisps vary in use, some are absolutely necessary for different segments of the game, but almost all of them control awkwardly and feel poorly executed in the 3D bits of the game. In 2D gameplay sections they’re a bit easier to grasp, and more straightforward, but for the most part I avoided using them unless it became absolutely necessary.
Lost World’s levels degrade further and further the deeper you go, outside of a few diamonds in the rough. And the boss fights are almost universally bad, featuring simple encounters that can be completed in seconds with little to no effort required. It doesn’t help that the bosses used here, creatures dubbed the Deadly Six, aren’t the most interesting characters introduced to the Sonic Universe. I’d honestly prefer another batch of Robotnik’s robot boss variants to ever seeing this “Deadly” Six on screen again.
Outside of the core adventure, you’ll have access to time trials and co-op play. Online leaderboards exist for the time trial bits, which would be a bit more fun if the time trials tailored the stages around actual speed runs. There’s also MiiVerse functionality present, along with the ability to send out and receive special Wisps, which mostly work like the power-ups in older Sonic the Hedgehog titles, like shields, invincibility, speed boosts, etc.
As much as I enjoy the look and overall feel of Sonic: Lost World, I really wish it was wrapped up in a game with better world design, better boss battles, and either a non-existent story or at least something that tried to be somewhat witty with its half-hearted attempts at humor. There are definitely positive elements to be mined out of Sonic: Lost World, but once again this isn’t the return to form that Sonic fans have been hoping for.