Backstory for anyone who is not aware: I was a big Sonic fan during the Gamecube era, and despite recognizing that the majority of 3D Sonic games are messes on a technical level, I still hold some fondness for them and the franchise at large. …I really wish I didn’t at times. I’d be a far happier person if that were the case.
Sonic Lost World Review
Platforms: PC(Reviewed), Wii U
Developer: Sonic Team
The story goes something like this: Sonic is after Eggman for his enslavement and brainwashing of harmless woodland critters too disproportionate to function in the wild. To vary things up, Eggman recruits the help of six ancient warrior to do his bidding. Sonic frees the creatures from Eggman’s control, and then said creatures try to take over the world using Eggman’s machinery, thus forging an alliance between the two that is naturally a temperamental one that will most definitely not result in a futile attempt at backstabbing. It’s an incredibly basic story formula, but an entirely functional one that should be judged on the quality of its craft, which is almost abysmally low.
While there are glimpses of humor hidden in the script, most of the dialog had me glaring at the screen as if the game were deliberately insulting me. Jokes are often half finished or follow such a predictable structure that I cannot imagine anyone older than the age of ten being amused by this charade. While the cutscenes that make up the story are often riddled with information or elements that amount to nothing, and come across as more than a little disjointed when viewed as a whole.
All of which is pretty minor compared to the boringly named Deadly Six, a group of monodimensional antagonists who rigidly abide by their personalities of crazy, fat, sensei, girl, self-loathing, and leader. They rigidly abide by these archetypes, and stick to them so closely that the fact they exist and were approved by so many people is mind boggling to me. Their designs are similarly bland, looking like they could easily be repurposed for any creatively deprived example of children’s media. Admittedly their boss designs offer a morsel more creativity and ingenuity than every other aspect about them, though that still means next to nothing.
I feel similarly about the general look of Sonic Lost World, as amidst the bright and vibrant saturated color scheme, the game is lacking in the creative world design. You have grass, desert, tropical, ice, jungle, sky, and volcano themed worlds, with the only occasional divergence from that dull pack of themes is something like a level set in an underwater tube, or in a world made entirely out of licorice and doughnuts.
I suppose it could be viewed as a return to form, what with the reintroduction of traditional badniks as enemy fodder, but something like Chemical Plant Zone from Sonic 2 would be a creative apex in Lost World. Oh, and instead of trying to aim for a level of artistic and graphical fidelity as seen in… literally every preceding mainline Sonic game— even 2006— the shading, textures, and lighting are all left very flat and basic.
As for the levels that adopt this look, they run the gamut between slower paced 2D sections, a few rail based levels, running stages, a gimmick level here and there, but is mostly devised around returning the series to a more traditional 3D platformer structure, likely inspired by Super Mario Galaxy if all the tube shaped planetoids are any indication. It is a mechanical shift that has been complimented with a revised Sonic with a revised repertoire of abilities including a run button, wall running, a revised spin dash, an aerial kick, and even the Wisps from Colors. Yes, they’re back… for some inexplicable reason.
Now, the overriding question of whether or not the game plays well should be answered, and if this set up was not evident enough, it does not play very well… at all. It’s a very temperamental and fickle game in regards to what it deems acceptable performance from the player, and even though something as seemingly simple as the lock on based homing attack only works at seemingly random intervals. Actions like the wall jumping are awkward to execute, none of the wisps control very well, and any instance where I was airborne was coupled with the fear of gyrating off into an unwanted direction, mostly a bottomless pit.
Needless to say, I certainly did not want to revisit many of the 28 main levels. There are some that manage to work around the wonky foundation the game is built on and remain rather enjoyable platforming stages with an emphasis on speed. Yet most stages cannot be ran through expediently, lacking the careful construction and overall focus that it takes to create a well designed level. In turn, most stages fall somewhere along the lines of disinteresting, obnoxious, or downright aggravating. Especially if you choose to go after all of the hidden Red Rings… like I foolishly did.
Now, I can genuinely look at something like Sonic 2006 or even the Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric and understand the thought and mentality behind the development team and understand it. Sonic Lost World is a game that I don’t understand. Who thought this was a good idea? Why were these decisions made? What were the developers thinking as they tried to add more platformer elements into Sonic when people largely liked the gameplay model from Unleashed, Colors, and Generations? I simply cannot fathom a guess to any of those, and the answer doesn’t matter.
Sonic Lost World is one of the few games that genuinely frustrated and angered me. Its poor story, rancid new characters, dull art direction, and baffling level design all left me fidgeting with rage at certain points. I could go on a string of vile with only a hint of hyperbole about the level of disdain I hold for this game, and how much I loathed making my way to the very end, but I’ll just leave it at this: Sonic Lost World is a bad game, and I’m looking forward to forgetting about it.