Sonic Lost World review

  • Gorgeous, authentically stylised Sonic visuals
  • The run button finally fixes 3D hog control
  • It may as well be called Sonic X-Treme
  • The story and cutscenes are abysmal
  • Not always as intuitive as it should be
  • ‘Lives’ system doesn’t fit the game

There’s a saying that goes: “Always aim for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars.” And so it is for Sonic Lost World, which clearly sets out to be Super Mario Galaxy 3: Hedgehog Edition. It’s so much like Miyamoto’s opus, it would be no surprise if it turned out it’s running on Galaxy’s game engine. It sure looks like it. And while the net result falls visibly short of the standard set by the two best 3D platformers ever made, hear this: Just for once, Sonic’s in the same ballpark. And that deserves attention.

The majority of Lost World’s stages are 3D and look like a sped-up, wall-running version of Mario. There’s the same spherical gravity effect, similar colour palette and a familiar overall feel. Sonic’s movement is more assured than it’s ever been in 3D, and the usual frustration of ‘death from falling off’ is often solved by the simple fact you can’t fall off a sphere.

Fans will be pleased to hear that, for all the similarities to Mario, this is the most authentically Sonic-feeling 3D outing yet, embracing the same fundamental design choices that made the original 16-bit games so appealing. The art style is bold and colourful, yet simple enough, leaving the level design to take the spotlight instead of miles and miles of naturalistic scenery. This Sonic game isn’t face-meltingly fast, meaning you can actually see danger coming up and react to it in time.

"This is the most authentically Sonic-feeling 3D outing yet."

Sonic’s new moveset includes wall-running, wall-boosting, lock-on grabs, combo attacks and a three-bounce high jump. They take time to adapt to but also allow unprecedented, precise control over Sonic. The new controls don’t just modernise environmental traversal--they also provide a distinct safety net, allowing you to save yourself in dire situations with a quick double jump or ledge grab.

The masterstroke addition, however, is the ‘run’ button: hold ZR, and Sonic sprints. Release it, and you’re back to something resembling 16-bit walking speeds. The result is a super-fast character that can also tackle slow, deliberate platforming without looking like an utter buffoon. *cough* Sonic Generations *cough*

While control in 3D is better for these augmentations, the more complex 2D levels can be tricky. With so many rules for how Sonic reacts contextually to his environment, it can be hard to predict exactly how he’s going to move at all. Especially when the command for double-jump is the same as the homing attack; trying to jump higher over a spiky enemy can be interpreted as ‘impale Sonic on the spiky enemy’.

"The result is a super-fast character that can also tackle slow, deliberate platforming."

The Color abilities from Sonic Colors (and Generations) make a token appearance, allowing you to change Sonic into a rocket, drill or small galactic phenomenon (yes, really) for a brief time, although their inclusion only dilutes the gameplay and comes across as an afterthought. They’re indicative of Lost World’s slight tendency to overcomplicate things for variety’s sake, and while Super Mario Galaxy never unintentionally confuses the player, the same can’t be said here.

Exploration, however, is a key element and levels are packed with hidden routes. There are always five red tokens to find, plus a ranked Time Attack to master once you’ve finished a level once. Unlike the 3DS version, regular levels aren't graded, but there are hours of play needed on some stages to nail an S-rank speed run. As a result, the 6-7 hour main game could keep you going for months if you want to see and do everything.

Special stages in Sonic games are among the most anticipated features of these games, but they’re essentially absent here. Instead, collecting the red tokens unlocks Circus events, where Sonic and Tails bounce on a touch-screen trampoline and free animals from balloons. It’s a pretty little Breakout clone, but it’s ruined by the special effects getting too busy. You can’t play the game properly when you can’t even see your character.

Character is one thing the new enemies (known as The Deadly Six) have plenty of, with fun, stereotypical personalities like punk, emo and glamour girl. Oh, and Yoda. The old one is clearly Yoda. What a disappointment, then, that the story itself is wafer-thin and the dialogue is mostly awful. It doesn’t affect the gameplay (and you can skip cut-scenes), but there’s little sense of any narrative crescendo, to the point where you probably won’t even realise you’re on the last boss until it’s all over and the credits roll.

"Sonic Lost World feels like a Sonic game, works like a Mario game, and feels totally at home on the Wii U."

Perhaps the biggest fly stuck in the icing on this otherwise delicious cake is the lives system. Hit Game Over and you have to start the level again from the beginning, with four new lives. The traditional quota has always been three, so you’d be right to guess difficulty is an issue here. And it really is. Later levels are exceptionally hard. Not necessarily unfair, just incredibly difficult. The game does offer a ‘quick skip’ item if you fail one section three times, but then you’re only left with one life for the next section.

So is this deliberate old-school challenge? Doubtful. If you just go back to the first Tropical level, its final area lets you hit a restart point, pick up eight extra lives in the clouds, then fall off and do it all again. Life-grinding another 50 spare Sonics just to get through the crazy-tough 2D rail sections is ridiculous, but you’ll do it. Because otherwise, you’ll go insane.

When laid out like this, it would appear this is yet another Sonic game full of problems and frustrations, but that really isn’t the case. Fact is, the majority of levels in Sonic Lost World are an absolute joy to play, several of them easily as good as the best that Mario Galaxy has to offer. The sheer creativity and quality on show is a glimpse of the Sonic Team we used to know and love, and it’s very refreshing to see.

Sonic Lost World feels like a Sonic game, works like a Mario game, and feels totally at home on the Wii U as a result. With the most convincing 3D Sonic gameplay by some margin, it’ll no doubt be looked back on as the game that aimed for the Galaxy, missed by a small amount, but still landed in the stars.

More Info

Release date: Oct 29 2013 - Wii U (US)
Available Platforms: Wii U
Genre: Adventure
ESRB Rating:
Everyone 10+: Mild Cartoon Violence


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  • shawksta - October 18, 2013 9:49 p.m.

    Ill still give the game the doubt, Sonic Lost World and the footage ive seen has shown some interesting things and with how Justin said it took him hours to find the perfect speed running route for the first level shows how uniquely built it was. That and the fact that IGN is inconsistant with having a preview a week ago saying how being Slow was a step in the right direction, only to contradict themselves in the review saying it wasnt fast enough when they themselves said being fast wasnt the point of Sonic games, it was the combination of Speed, Momentum and seeing where your going.
  • BladedFalcon - October 19, 2013 12:20 p.m.

    Ah, dat Sonic cycle syndrome, how beautiful!
  • shawksta - October 19, 2013 1:22 p.m.

    Sonic games are a tornado, you dont know what the heck is going on and if you should like it or not, aka its still the Sonic Cycle :P Though the negative "The story and cutscenes are abysmal" is not surprising at all, all of them in every recent sonic game was horrible. Is it really that hard to make Cutscenes Sega? Mario games dont even have voices and yet they still pull them off better. Im still curious over the "lives system doesnt fit the game" hasnt Sonic games always been with Checkpoints and lives?
  • GR_JustinTowell - October 20, 2013 5:35 a.m.

    It has always been that way, but this game would be better just to let you have as many goes as you like. When your progress is saved, Game Over offers no closure, and replaying the start of a level again just because you ran out of this arbitrary number is pointless. Especially when it's so easy to grind for more lives. I ground to 35, then later again to 50 before finishing the game. Ten minutes well spent :)
  • shawksta - October 20, 2013 4:49 p.m.

    Ah i see, the lives system in general for any game is only for nostalgic purposes.
  • Vonter - October 20, 2013 9:08 p.m.

    I too, want to give it a chance, mainly because I like that it shakes things up, with not going very fast, and also I don't want to admit it, I'm pulled buy its presentation, it looks very colorful, playful and vibrant, the music also sounds like what I want to hear in a game like this. Still I'll be very disappointed if it turns out not only bad but also boring. Since that's what I felt with Generations.
  • shawksta - October 20, 2013 9:18 p.m.

    I guess we'll have to wait and try it ourselves.
  • pl4y4h - October 18, 2013 4:54 p.m.

    I want a sonic game where I get to go fast. Like blurred background, tunnel vision, IpressthepausebuttonandIfeellikeI'mzoomingintomyTV-fast
  • Vonter - October 18, 2013 11:02 a.m.

    I'll give it a rent. Since it looks appealing to my visual tastes. But I have to admit to kill it with fire if it's any worst than generations. I can't understand the love for that game aside for it's nostalgic references.
  • BladeBlur - November 2, 2013 1:04 a.m.

    It's not because it's based on Nostalgia, the game has the best controls for a 3D sonic game. You can have a game filled with nostalgic elements in it and it can still be crappy, but the game was fun to play.
  • slimjim441 - October 18, 2013 11:02 a.m.

    8/10. What a pile of shit. Why would anyone ever play this garbage. Sonic should just like he did in the hearts of all REAL fans over 15 years ago. Nonsense aside, this game seems legit. Whenever I get a Wii-U, I'll probably have to pick this up. If anything, I know my brother will like it. He's a tad more dedicated than me when it comes to loving Sonic games anyway.
  • JarkayColt - October 18, 2013 10:17 a.m.

    I've never really been much of a Sonic fan, but I was secretly hoping this game would do well if only because Sonic is a gaming icon that deserves a decent turnaround. This has been getting mixed reviews it seems, but since Justin's review comes from the heart it's nice to see that it's at least going to appease most of Sonic's supporters...then again, I think what's holding Sonic back is that the games never really did transition to 3D very well but Sega just kinda dragged their character through that era anyway. I wish they'd just ditch Sonic's modern connotations and make a game in the same vein as Rayman Origins etc. Sonic 4 doesn't really count because the Episodic format was stupid for a Sonic game.
  • shawksta - October 18, 2013 9:13 a.m.

    Oh Sonic, what are we gonna do with you.
  • BladedFalcon - October 18, 2013 7:46 a.m.

    If even mega fanboy Justin gave this an 8, goes to show that yet again, Sonic has failed to do anything of worth. Probably only fans will like this to begin with. And yeah, when other sites are giving this a mediocre to bad score, you know something's up.
  • ElwoodFiore - October 18, 2013 9:17 a.m.

    It don't even say who reviewed it lol. My guess is justin.
  • BladedFalcon - October 18, 2013 9:22 a.m.

    Er... yes it does say: Sonic Lost World review Justin Towell on October 18, 2013 Right below the title of the review XD
  • ElwoodFiore - October 18, 2013 9:24 a.m.

    Well im on wii u browser and didnt see it that explains it i guess sorry lmao..... what a fucking smurf
  • ElwoodFiore - October 18, 2013 9:17 a.m.

    And yeah i seen other reviews and first hand twitch streams, people dont like it at all. lol glad i bought zelda insteadof this though.
  • Shnubby - October 18, 2013 7:25 a.m.

    Not really as excited about this as I was a few months ago :/

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