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Review #527

Sonic Lost World: Deadly Six Bonus Edition
Developer: Sonic Team
Publisher: SEGA
Genre: 3D Platformer
Release Date: 10/29/2013

I used to love Sonic games. The first two for the Sega Genesis were amazing as a little kid and even to this day I have a lot of fun with them. Sonic CD is another game I have fond memories of and I happily purchased the digital remake for my PS3 on launch day. However, there’s no denying that Sonic has really had his ups and downs since entering 3-D gaming. People seems to either really love or really hate Generations, Colors, Heroes and titles all the way back to Sonic Adventure for the Sega Dreamcast. About the only Sonic titles people seem to agree on is that Shadow the Hedgehog is terrible and Sonic All Stars Racing is pretty good. I’ll admit that I haven’t really enjoyed Sonic’s 3D forays myself, but that’s more because I don’t care for 3D platformers than any slight towards Sega’s second mascot. However Sonic Lost World needed reviewing and no one else on staff would touch it, which is odd as we have a lot of Sonic fans on staff. I had really enjoyed the last two of the three platformers I reviewed (Rayman Legends and Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures) and the third was okay - if limited and shallow (Wipeout: Create and Crash). I figured either I’m growing to like the genre or I’ve just been lucky in getting good platformers to review.

Well, that luck ran out. I HATED Sonic Lost World. I mean HATED IT. It’s one of my ten least favorite games of 2013. It was all my gaming pet peeves, and especially platformer pet peeves, rolled up into one. At the same time, even though I loathed every second I had to spend with this game, I can’t deny that there are some definite aspects of the game fans of Sonic titles will love. So just remember even though this review is going to be HIGHLY negative and critical, I’ll try to point out the things I did like about the game and that this is one person’s review – not word from on high that anyone who likes the game is a stupid lame loser that should be forced to eat elephant dung every morning.

Sonic Lost World is your typical generic 3D platformer at its core. You go from stage to stage, jumping on things and avoiding obstacles. Every few stages you’ll get a boss to fight and you can go back to previous stages to collect objects such as Chao, collecting animals (by freeing them from Robotnik’s control as usual) and red discs (every five of these you collect unlocks a circus based mini-game). If you’ve ever played a 3D platformer like Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon and Muppet Monster Adventure, then you have a good idea of the basics here. It’s also very much your standard Sonic game, compiling features from previous titles. Of course you have ring collecting, which keeps you alive and can earn you extra lives. The game also features the Whisp abilities from Sonic Colours, although you have to control these from the Wii U GamePad, which is far harder than you’d expect as watching the GamePad screen and the TV screen at the same time turns out to be far more difficult in a platformer situation than in games like ZombiiU or even something as fast paced as Sonic games are supposed to be like Tekken Tag Tournament 2. So basically, this is your usual Sonic game in terms of the core, the basics, progression and the like. Which is just fine in my opinion. You don’t need to remake the wheel especially when the core audience knows exactly what it wants in a game featuring Sonic the Hedgehog.

Unfortunately, once you expand out past the basics, everything falls apart. The story is painfully bad and feels thrown together via Mad Libs. Sonic and Tails discover a new place in their furrie filled world called The Lost Hex. At the same time Dr. Robotnik (Eggman is a stupid name. A rare occasion where English localization in the 90s was a good thing.) has gained six new allies known as the Deadly Six. Unfortunately they aren’t really his allies so much as controlled by a magical shell Robotnik is using. Sonic gets the shell away from the bad doctor which turns out to be a bad thing as the Six rebel, take over Eggman’s army of cyber animals and do what Eggman tries in every game…but they actually do a far better job of it. Confronted with actually competent enemies, Sonic and Robotnik have to team up. Again. Yawn. The plot is hamfisted and telegraphed at every turn and it also doesn’t help that the writing/dialogue is some of the worst I’ve sat through in a video game. The voice acting is phoned in at every turn as well, either implying that the actors hated the script as much as I did, or that they just didn’t care about doing their job even at a sub-par level. The end result is that the many cut scenes in the game are grueling when you sit through them, but at least there is an option to skip. Unfortunately as a reviewer, I didn’t feel I could do that and so I had to sit through a story that is easily the worst and most cobbled together in Sonic history. It made me appreciate the story of Shadow the Hedgehog people! SHADOW!

The visuals are a bit of a letdown as well. What’s on the screen looks fine and it has the general Sonic look we’ve all come to know and love. Unfortunately the visuals are scaled back from previous games. They’re a lot simpler and less developed than in previous Sonic titles. Takashi Iizuka had warned that the graphics would less definied than in previous games to ensure the title would run as 60 FPS, but I don’t think I was expected it to look last generation. Don’t get me wrong; what’s here is still serviceable and acceptable. The cut scenes run smooth and there’s very little slowdown to speak of. It’s just the game doesn’t look like a brand new release for Nintendo’s latest system.

While a lot of Sonic Lost World disappointed me, one thing I was happy with was the soundtrack. Each level of the game has music that compliments and sometimes even improves the overall experience. The sound effects are equally charming as they are modern renditions of the same noises we’ve heard since the Genesis era. The clang of rings falling from Sonic when you get hit, the chime of hitting a check point – all the classics are there. It’s just too bad the voice acting really drags down the overall auditory experience.

Where the game really falls apart is in the playing of it. Sonic Lost World is less trying to be a good Sonic game than it is trying to be a bad Super Mario Galaxy clone. However in doing so the game loses a lot of the character and soul that one normally finds in a Sonic game. For example – the speed. You now have to hold down a trigger to accelerate instead of just naturally speeding up. To me, this is a bit of gameplay blasphemy and it gets worse when even at top speed, the game is a fraction of how fast a Sonic game should be. The only time the game gets anything close to blurry Barry Allen levels is in automated parts where you spring off bumpers or rebound platforms. Which means you’re watching during these points rather than being an active participant. This was extremely disappointing for me. I didn’t want a game where Sonic becomes just another generic platforming protagonist but that’s what we have here. I get that Sonic at his regular speed would have made Sonic Lost World unplayable due to the level design as they simply could not be gone through at normal Sonic speed, but if that’s the case – why make this a Sonic game? Why not make the game for a new IP or even Tails/Knuckles or any character people would be more willing to accept at a slower than normal speed. By saying, “It’s Sonic but slow” Sega risked alienating everyone instead of creating a whole new audience and unfortunately from reviews and random fan commentary, it does seem to have pushed a notable portion of gamers – myself included.

Then there’s the level design. Each level is a mix of Super Mario Galaxyfull three dimension mini planets and some old school 2-D side scrolling bits. Again, I get the game is trying to appeal to fans of both platforming styles, but the switchover often feels abrupt and slapped together to me. I did greatly prefer the 2-D segments, but I prefer that type of platformer to 3-D ones, so your opinion on which section is better (if either/neither) will definitely vary based on your personal preferences. That said, I just didn’t care for many of the level designs. They felt very piecemeal to me and almost too expansive. Again, Sonic games are supposed to be fast but they also have a time limit so large worlds seems to be almost counter-intuitive to a game with time limits. After all the larger the level, the more you want to explore every nook and cranny but you can’t really do that in this game. Compare that to previous Sonic games, going all the way back to the 16-Bit era and the blazing speed of the blue hedgehog meant there were lots of hidden routes to explore, but in a manner where you weren’t battling the clock more than usual. Not so for Sonic Lost World. Exploring equals death due to the time clock expiring and that to me is nonsensical. Again, why design such large levels if you won’t reward players for exploring? Bad game design there. Either dump the level size or the time limit. Instead they dumped the speed. Sigh. At least you can replay a level as much as you want. That’s one way to explore I guess…

I’m also not a fan of the controls. I really didn’t enjoy accessing the wisps using the GamePad stylus. The controls of Sonic Lost World are odd enough hat trying to play the game and access the Wisp via the touch screen and a stylus just annoyed or frustrated me more than anything. A good platformer should have simple, easy to manage controls that quickly become second nature to the game while taking some time to truly master. That just isn’t the case with Sonic Lost World. The controls are all over the place and are often the opposite of instinctive to long time Sonic games. You can’t hurt enemies by doing a spin dash any more for example. Some you can even jump to hurt. Instead you have to jump and press an attack button or else jump over opponents, wait for the buggy and often times unresponsive lock on effect to kick in and then press the jump button again to hopefully trigger that effect. I absolutely hate the new attack scheme in this game. Simple is better with a platformer and the fact you now have to hit two buttons (or more) to attack rather than the old school single button press just seems to overcomplicate things. At least the boss fights are straight forward old school Sonic goodness. I especially loved the downloadable level you get with the Deadly Six Bonus Edition of the game as it’s just a boss rush mode where things are reskinned with a NiGHTS Into Dreams motif. Very cute.

So I hated the 3-D level design, finding it to be a crappier version of Super Mario Galaxy games, I lamented the loss of speed and needing to hold a button down to friggin’ run in a SONIC GAME, I loathed the attack scheme and the game’s Parkour emphasis made me feel like John Morrison would have been a better protagonist for this title. What was there to like? Well honestly? For me, not much, bad controls, depth perception issues, a slow Sonic game, time limits on large explorable worlds? These are all my platforming pet peeves shoved into one game, so there was probably no chance of me enjoying my time with Sonic Lost World. I did appreciate the ability to go back and get items you missed on your first play through, the large size of levels and multiple path options, even if I didn’t like the actual designs themselves and I still feel this game would have been better received if it featured anyone else but Sonic as its missing the heart and soul of the most popular Sonic games – good simple controls with lightning fast gameplay. Someone who really loves Mario Galaxy and doesn’t mind Sonic stepping in for a fat Italian plumber may enjoy this more. People who like Sonic but find the previous games too fast may like this better. Other people might prefer the new attack scheme or the integration of whisps with the GamePad. Just because I absolutely hated this game doesn’t mean the zealous Sonic fan won’t. Every game is someone’s favorite after all.

Finally in terms of controls, it’s worth noting that you can play the entire game of Sonic Lost World on the GamePad rather than having your TV on. It does change how things play slightly, but at least this way you can play the game without forcing someone else to watch you. If they want to watch the News or The Michael J. Fox Show, they can go at it. As well, the Wii U version of Sonic Lost World lets you share items with the Miiverse rather than via spotpass on the 3DS. The items do go away for a while but they come back stronger once they have returned. You can only have five items total and so you’ll have to decide what to keep and what to chuck. The game is not very clear at all on what is worth keeping, so there’s a lot of guess and check here to see what you want to keep.

Balance is another odd aspect of Sonic Lost World that really struck me as bizarre. The writing and storyline for the game was almost infantile. I mean, the plot felt like it was for single digit age children but dragged down by terrible writing and dialogue. Normally I’m fine with kid oriented games. I love Pokemon after all, but the story was complete pabulum. So with a title geared for such young gamers, I was surprised at how the game’s difficulty was obviously ramped up for long time veterans of 3-D platformers. That’s an odd juxtaposition. Older and more skilled gamers will appreciate the challenge but hate the plot while younger gamers will enjoy the story but get frustrated at the difficulty compared to previous Sonic titles. So who is the target audience? There doesn’t appear to be one. Sonic Lost World feels like it is trying to alienate and welcome gamers of all types at once – thus pleasing no one. It just doesn’t make sense. At the same time, while the levels can be pretty challenging, especially due to the wonky controls, the boss fights are extremely easy. This is another area where I just can’t wrap my head around what the developers were thinking. The game even gives you four lives but when you lose them all, you just get them all back again! What is the point in that? If you’re going to give a player infinite lives, just do that already. These four lives are more like checkpoint continues if anything, but they don’t refresh after you beat each level. Rather they ebb and flow like lives but without anything close to the actual effect. This just boggles my mind. There is just a complete and total disconnect between myself and the people that made this game. The end result is a game that I didn’t feel was remotely close to well balanced in terms of challenge and a slowly ever increasing difficulty.

Obviously I hated Sonic Lost World. I can’t be much more obvious on that front. Equally obvious though is the fact some people liked this game. After all, reviews are all over the place on this one. To me this game was a second rate SMG clone with bad controls and a terrible story, but there are people that love 3D platformers for the very things I hate so there will be a lot of people who really enjoy this game. Sonic Lost World is polarizing – there’s no doubt about that. I just am disappointed I ended up on the side that really hated the game. I’m just thankful my time with it is done and I can move on to games I know I’ll like a lot better. If you’re looking for a slower Sonic game that pretty much rips off Super Mario Galaxy though, you might find this worth renting. Definitely try before you buy with this one though.

The Scores:
Story: 2/10
Graphics: 5/10
Sound: 5/10
Control and Gameplay: 3/10
Replayability: 5/10
Balance: 3/10
Originality: 3/10
Addictiveness: 1/10
Appeal Factor: 5/10
Miscellaneous: 3/10
Total Score: 35
FINAL SCORE: 3.5 (Pretty Poor Game!)

Short Attention Span Summary
Sonic Lost World is pretty much every pet peeve I have about 3-D platformers rolled up into a single game. Perhaps the worst two aspects of the game are that this is more a second rate Super Mario Galaxy rip off than an actual Sonic game and that the story is amazingly terrible. At least the game has some pretty expansive levels that you can replay repeatedly if you choose. Diehard fans of anything with Sonic in it or people who are in need of a new platformer for their Wii U might have far more fun than I did with this game, but unfortunately Sonic Lost World and I were completely and utterly incompatible with each other to the point where the Eggman/Sonic team up in this game is less awkward.

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