I’ll be honest – I went into this review expecting abject disappointment. Recent Sonic games have left quite a bit to be desired, so I anticipated Sonic: Lost World (Wii U) would continue the trend. Jumping into it though, I found myself having a lot of fun right out the gate. It brought in some new things that gave some definite credibility to some of the initial comparisons I’d seen to Nintendo’s Super Mario Galaxy, but also had a number of things that hearkened back to the games of my youth; the first stage highlighted the ”new hotness” of the game’s primary 3D format, while the second presented a nice, classic-style side-scrolling action platformer that’s the kind of thing that made me love Sonic back in his Genesis days.
You’ve got all the elements familiar to those who’ve kept up with Sonic, including the Spin Dash, Homing Strike, and plenty of running, jumping, creature-saving action, and introduces new moves for the beloved blue speedster such as the flying kick (useful for smashing one enemy into another), wall run, and new Color Powers. I blasted through the introductory Windy Hill Zone in a matter of under a half-hour, and was feeling very positive about the game; I took the time to go back through and collect some red “Star Rings”, which unlocked some fun little mini-game action to fill the time between levels, and moved on to the next zone.
The second zone, Desert Ruins, was a bit more challenging, offering up more variety than the first, and introducing more environmental hazards to mix things up. Again, though, I flew through it with relative ease, suffering only minor setbacks along the way. I didn’t take as much time exploring the areas, probably because I didn’t find them as interesting — while the first zone was a colorful, bright area full of lush greens accented by various flora, the desert areas were dominated entirely by largely-bland yellows and browns. I didn’t bother unlocking the mini-games here, and moved right on in to the next zone, Tropical Coast.
This one got interesting, visually, again, and was quite a bit of fun for the first two levels. The third offered a typical gimmick from later Sonic games: the rail-ride. I actually enjoy this kind of level, but there was some tediousness to this one, and it was a bit jarring to just be thrown into that without warning. Nevertheless, I championed on, and found another gimmick-laden level with some very confusing bits, where I wasn’t entirely sure what to do even after I’d done it. Then was the third relatively-easy boss fight, filled with uses of the new Orange Rocket Color Power that kept things moving along.
The fourth Zone, Frozen Factory, is where the game really went astray for me. While some prior levels had unexpectedly introduced new environmental hazards without any warning or explanation, it was really the defining element here. In fact, the second level of this swung into a pointless, frustrating gimmick level that halted my progress (and, really, interest) in the game. Confined to a slow-rolling giant snowball that collects rings on its exterior and inexplicably either destroys or bounces haphazardly off of enemies, Sonic’s speed is effectively eliminated, along with any real free-roaming ability. Throw into this that the entire affair features voice-over from the game’s first female antagonist, a green, one-horned beauty pageant reject focused more on doing her nails or issuing blandly-sexist one-liners about how she “thinks [Sonic] likes me,” and I found that I was simply unwilling to put in the effort to keep trying over and over despite overwhelming odds against my victory.
All in all, I did enjoy the first couple of zones, and there’s a fun story behind all of this that has Doctor Eggman teaming up with Sonic and Tails against a greater foe that threatens the existence of their world. The music is, in typical Sonic form, a good addition to the experience, and the environments are relatively varied and well-imagined, though, of course, there’s a lot you may not really take in as you blaze through at Sonic’s breakneck speeds — it took several playthroughs of the first level for me to find entire large areas I’d missed simply because I’d hit some zip-along speed boost or soar-by spring that had sent me hurtling by some interesting spots.
Overall, the game’s issues end up piling up and taking away, but I do appreciate the spirit of it, and I enjoyed most of my time playing. It’s fun, fast, and difficult – just like the Sonic games I grew up with, but other things – like weird, unexplained mini-game style levels and weak antagonist cast — you’ve got the big angry brute, the food-obsessed fat-shamed beast, the wizened old guru, the self-image obsessed queen, and so forth. Ultimately, while my initial impression was definitely positive and gave me hope, Sonic: Lost World lost me, and wasn’t able to keep delivering on the elements that gave me that hope. That said, I’m giving it a 3/5 for the fun I had before I hit that wall, and to acknowledge my plan to finish the game later.
[+Great start] [+Classic Sonic elements] [+Good soundtrack] [-Loses focus] [-Played-out stereotypes for antagonists] [-Confusing “gimmick” segments/levels]