Thursday, November 7, 2013

Sonic: Lost World (Wii U) Review

Welcome to the first review of November. We're kicking off a month of famous icons with Sonic the Hedgehog. His latest game is Sonic: Lost World. Let's find out if you should take a visit to Lost Hex with our review.

Parkour Sonic Can't Lose

Sonic's transition into 3D hasn't been anywhere near as smooth as his former rival Mario's. That's understandable, as taking the speed and platforming of the series and putting it in a three-dimensional space is rather challenging. However, Sonic Team's past two console iterations of the Blue Blur have been nothing short of wonderful, Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations. Sonic Team hopes to go for the hat trick with Sonic: Lost World for the Wii U. For every two things the game gets right, there's one annoying issue that prevents Sonic: Lost World from truly being great and of the same caliber of its past two predecessors.

Sonic and Tails are chasing a retreating Dr. Eggman aboard the Tornado airplane when suddenly they are forced to make a crash landing on a spherical world known as Lost Hex. Unfortunately for them, Lost Hex is home to a group of Zeti known as the Deadly Six, and Eggman has them under his control. That is, until Sonic kicks away the special conch instrument that allows Eggman to harness their power. Thus, the Deadly Six go on a rampage and take over all of Eggman's robots. Now, Sonic, Tails, and Eggman must work together to not only defeat the Deadly Six but to save their own planet. It's an interesting dynamic shift having Sonic and Eggman working together. However, the Deadly Six as a whole are just really lame villains. They're so lame that not even Archie Comics probably wouldn't have come up with them.

Careful, Sonic. You don't want
to get a bad case of vertigo!
There have been many comparisons of Sonic: Lost World to Super Mario Galaxy, and those comparisons aren't fully unfounded. Sonic does traverse spherical planets both large and small and other areas where he can walk on the underside. There's also a plethora of platforms and land masses that rest in the air, completely forgoing the laws of gravity. Outside of these 3D areas are 2D sidescrolling areas. Sometimes levels consist of both types of areas, while some only contain one or the other.

Why don't you just use some robotic worms
for bait instead of yourself, Sonic?
In total, there are seven worlds within the game, each spanning four zones. (Why Sonic Team didn't stick with calling them acts, I'll never know.) Each zone has five red rings to collect. These are not mandatory, but collecting all of them within the game adds to the challenge and unlocks a special "super" bonus to enjoy.

It's just another day at the
beach for the Blue Blur.
There is plenty of level variety to keep things fresh. One of my favorite levels occurs in the Tropical Coast world. It has Sonic luring large rolling fruit towards holes that will juice said fruit, creating transport to other islands in the sky. Another level is reminiscent of Donkey Kong Country's mine cart levels, requiring Sonic to grind on multiple rails, leaping over carts and chasms. Then there's rolling around as a snowball in a Super Monkey Ball-esque level, avoiding the sight of a mechanical owl by hiding behind bushes and other obstacles, running and jumping along humongous, sweet confectionery treats, and being chased by a sand cyclone in a 2D segment.

Sonic is usually very cool, but right
now he's feeling a little bit of melon-choly.
However, not every level is terrific. One such level in Frozen Factory is a casino-based level akin to something from Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Certain parts of the level require Sonic to enter a pinball table, where losing means parting with a life. Sonic has to reach a certain score, and then make it to the exit. This wouldn't even be fine if the pinball physics worked well. It's just frustrating, especially going for the third red ring in the level.

Frozen Factory Zone 3?
Welcome to my hit list.
That's another issue with Lost World. To borrow from Bean's own statement, there isn't so much of a difficult curve as there is a difficulty roller coaster. One level can be a cakewalk, while the next will allow you to get well acquainted with the game over screen. Then the next level is back to being a breeze and fun to play. Sonic: Lost World doesn't do this a lot, but the game can have some really high highs and some really low lows. I only wish a better balance was made, as the game is quite fun and usually the good kind of challenging instead of the cheap kind.

Other times frustration comes from the lack of proper (or any) explanations from the game. Almost all of the game's tutorials come from needing to tap the GamePad screen to view them, but only when a question mark surrounded by a collection of rainbow circles is on the screen. It's easy to miss them, and even then, Sonic: Lost World doesn't really explain much of the finer details. At no point in the game does Lost World mention that with the Asteroid wisp (wisps, by the way, really feel thrown in and use gyro and GamePad gimmickry for controlling them-- poorly, I might add), you can hold the jump button in midair to temporarily hover. Nor does the game mention how to run along one wall and run across the corner of the wall to continue running. Certain boss fights are an effort in frustration, as the objective on how to beat them is not very clear.

This stuff goes straight to my hips.
This would all be okay if getting lives was an easy experience. It's unfortunately not. Many past Sonic games have the famous rule that collecting 100 rings grants you an extra life. This is not how it works in Sonic: Lost World. The only way to get lives is to collect them yourself from levels. As many of the levels are difficult later on, it's all too simple to get a game over, requiring the player to start the level from the beginning. This is fine, but when we're talking about truly aggravating (in the sense that they are poorly designed) levels, one practically needs to farm lives. That is absolutely asinine that I had to do that because of a few less-than-perfectly-designed levels.

What I do really like about Sonic: Lost World is how much better the Blue Blur controls and handles. In past Sonic games, you went straight from walking to running in a matter of seconds, making some of the tougher, more delicate platforming challenges more frustrating and difficult to do. There was a lesser focus on control and a larger focus on pure speed. Sonic: Lost World's controls make it so you can have a balance of both control and speed. Without holding anything down, Sonic walks around levels. By holding down the ZR button, he starts running. Holding down the ZL button allows Sonic to perform his signature spin dash. This setup at first takes some practice to get used to, but once it is mastered (or at least when the player gets comfortable with it), Lost World has some of the best handling of the blue hedgehog in any 3D Sonic game.

The beginning of Silent Forest Zone 1.
A new addition to Lost World is Sonic's ability to perform various parkour moves. He can run up as well as along walls, pending he has the momentum. In past games, when Sonic was going full speed and he would make contact with a wall, he would come to a screeching halt. In Sonic: Lost World, going full speed and making contact with a wall makes Sonic run up it. If he has enough speed to reach the top, he'll climb the ledge and be on higher ground. When there's two walls running parallel to one another, Sonic can begin dashing along one wall, quickly jump to the other, and go back and forth between them so he doesn't slow down and fall.

Sonic's jump, homing attack, and kick abilities are all mapped to different buttons. Certain enemies are vulnerable to one move, while others require a different approach. This goes down with the boss battles, as well, which are relatively easy overall. You see, Sonic's homing attack can be charged by being near the enemy Sonic wants to attack. As Sonic is near, the target on the enemy grows, the homing attack gets more powerful. A fight that would take ten normal hits to fell a boss will only take two powered-up homing attacks to down a member of the Deadly Six.

Sonic does things like this for kicks.
Another great thing about Sonic: Lost World is the game's old school sensibilities. What I mean by that is that there's plenty of nods to the Genesis/Mega Drive days-- animal capsules, practically every foe in the game being a classic enemy from Sonic 1 to Sonic & Knuckles, and so forth.

Sonic: Lost World goes for a more colorful, cartoon look than past Sonic games, which leaned more towards realism. There are some darn awe-inspiring vantage points and sights throughout the game. Lost World's frame-rate generally stays at a locked 60 FPS, keeping up with Sonic's sensational speed for sure. Meanwhile, the voice work is hit and miss, but usually a hit, especially with Dr. Eggman's dialogue. As for the music, Sonic: Lost World has a marvelous main theme, but almost everything else falls a tad short. I have trouble remembering most of the themes in the game, which is quite unlike other Sonic soundtracks that stayed with me long after I powered off whichever system I was playing the games on.

I'm freeeeee~ Free-fallin'!
Despite the worthlessness of Wisps (proving that Sonic Team has no clue what made Wisps great in Sonic: Colors), the difficulty roller coaster that is the game, poor or missing explanations on important game concepts, and ridiculous lives system, Sonic: Lost World was still a very enjoyable experience for me. There's plenty of variety, the levels are mostly interestingly designed, the nods to classic Sonic games are appreciated, and the hedgehog's handling and controls are basically the best I've experienced in a 3D Sonic game yet. Sonic: Lost World really does put the player in a love-hate relationship with it. Some levels are great while some just drag your mood down considerably. If you have the need for speed and want a Sonic game unlike any other, take a trip to Lost Hex with Sonic: Lost World.

[SPC Says: 7.25/10]

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