In answer to your probable question – no I haven’t got a PS4 or Xbox One yet, that’s why I’m not reviewing them. Yes, you may laugh at me living in student penury from your PS4-coated yachts. Still, at least I managed to play a game – that’s something to cling onto.
Sonic: Lost World is rather an interesting creature, appearing exclusively on Nintendo systems and unlike pretty well anything that’s appeared in the Sonic series before. In the Sonic series, I must stress. You may in fact recognise gameplay mechanics, environments, presentational style and even big chunks of the soundtrack from a certain plumber’s cosmological outings. Hello, lawyers.
In actuality, there’s not a tremendous amount of similarity where Super Mario Galaxy and Sonic: Lost World are concerned. Yes, presentationally they have a lot in common, but the major point of difference is that Super Mario Galaxy is a lot more fun. Gauntlet thus thrown down, allow me to explain why.
Primarily, the story’s actually fleshed out, unlike Mario’s which pretty well everyone can sing along to in unison by this point. Note, of course, that fleshed out doesn’t necessarily mean good. It’s some stuff about Eggman luring Sonic into an alternate universe and recruiting beastly manifestations of the seven deadly sins (although there are only six represented here) to do something evil. Oh, and Sonic’s annoying entourage have returned. Everyone cheer.
From the outset of the Blue Blur’s latest adventure, it’s clear that a complete remodelling of the standard gameplay has taken place. Stages in the traditional sense have been replaced by myriad tube-shaped levels, around which Sonic can walk at pretty well any angle. It’s never explained in-game how gravity is supposed to work. I suspect the levels must just have incredible density. Upon these spherical stages sit enemies, rings and springs – all the typical Sonic furniture – and despite the weird approach to level design it’s actually pretty intuitive to start off with.
Of course, true to its heritage the game includes 2D stages as well. These are, frankly, lacking. It’s a shame really because what’s there is generally well put together and the boss fights which take place therein are somewhat interesting. The problem is they’re so insubstantial – they last at best a couple of minutes each and for the price of the game the player doesn’t exactly get their money’s worth.
Controls are also an issue. While it’s perfectly simple to navigate the levels, and an improved combat system (involving auto-targeting of groups of enemies with jumps rather than the historic “jump and pray” method) helps reduce the incidence of hedgehog suicide, it’s all a bit, well, slow. “Aha”, says the astute reader/pedant (delete as appropriate) – “I thought there was a run button – and a spin dash button for that matter”. Well, yes, those buttons are there. Two problems persist.
First off, the player has to read the manual to know these features exist from the start. That or access one of the distracting info-bubbles occasionally plastered across the Wii U GamePad. I’m not saying games need to hold their players by the hand (Lord knows that’s what puts me off Animal Crossing) but when running and spin-dashing are as integral parts of gameplay, it behooves any responsible developer to attach enormous glowing arrows to the GamePad reading “PRESS HERE TO PLAY PROPERLY”.
Secondly, they seem to be completely arbitrary functions added only to fill button space. Dashing has traditionally been the preserve of a face-button, now used for an absurd and rarely-used “terrain-passing” sneaking mode. Running, conversely, does not need a button at all. While many criticisms of the 3D Sonic games were completely legitimate and widely voiced, one that was never heard was that Sonic needed to be slower. In fact, quite the opposite. Lost World would not be made worse by a faster movement speed. It would be no harder, more frustrating or less fun. Literally all the slower movement speed could be said to add is gameplay time to a woefully short installment and arthritis to the index fingers of the poor players holding down the run button.
There’s really little else to say about Sonic: Lost World, as it’s basically an incredibly safe entry. It’s moderately attractive, moderately fun and moderately worth the money if found cheap. But it’s unambitious with dodgy controls and, frankly, it’s probably worth saving the money for a PS4. HA! That counts as a console review.