Sonic is back and is promising a grand return to classic Sonic gameplay… again. Geez, it sure feels like Sonic is rebooting himself a lot these days. Well, Sonic Generations showed us that Sonic Games could be fun again, so we were very excited to see what new innovations Sonic: Lost World had to show us at E3 2013 this year.
The biggest new innovation? Moving slower. Yes, Sonic doesn’t automatically run anymore. Instead, you have to hold a shoulder trigger to get Sonic up to speed. Otherwise, he will just walk at a leisurely pace through levels.
On one hand, giving Sonic the ability to walk does make him a lot easier to control. On the other hand, it makes the game less fun. Sonic isn’t supposed to walk, he is supposed to roll around at the speed of sound, got places to go, gotta follow my rainbow, and other horrible lyrical metaphors. Sonic even runs at a much slower pace than he has in other 3D Sonic games. It just doesn’t feel very… Sonic like.
Stages in Sonic: Lost Worlds are ripped straight from the book of Super Mario Galaxy. Sonic now runs on 3D isolated planets suspended in space, using gravity tricks and bumpers to make his way forward. This actually feels quite good, and is a perfect fit for Sonic’s natural speed based gameplay. The run trigger automatically activates “parkour mode” if Sonic encounters an obstacle like a pit or wall. It allows him to wall jump and wall run, as well as make short leaps to continue moving forward, even when pitfalls block his way. This makes navigating a 3D world much easier.
Sonic’s homing attack has been changed as well. Not only is it much slower, tossing him at enemies in a sort of lobbing arc, but it also automatically locks on to all enemies in the vicinity allowing you to take on multiple enemies at once. On the downside, if you press the jump button twice when you aren’t locked on, you double jump, which, unlike a normal jump, cannot kill enemies.
Sonic can’t boost anymore either, but he does have one of his old tricks back: the spin dash! You can also spin dash at the end of a jump allowing you to keep up your momentum and speed off far faster than Sonic’s normal run. Many secret areas of the game require skillful spin-dashing to access, and speed runners will make a lot of use of this new technique.
There are three types of stages in Sonic: The Lost Worlds. The first is the aforementioned 3D Super Mario Galaxy type stage. The next, is a more traditional classic 2D level. The final is a Sonic and the Secret Rings style level where Sonic is forced to move forward the whole time. The first two types of levels were fun, but the last left something to be desired. The new innovations in control mean nothing if Sonic can’t stop.
Overall Sonic: The Lost Worlds felt fun, but something was off about it. Maybe it was the fact that Sonic moved slower than usual. Maybe it was that Sonic’s enemies were Skylander style monsters rather than the classic Dr. Robotnik baddies. Maybe it was the fact that all of the great innovations of Sonic’s past, like boosting, are now all gone, replaced with something alien and stiff. In fact, the only innovation that has made its way to Sonic: Lost Worlds was the color powers from Sonic Colors, which aren’t really iconic for the Sonic franchise. Unfortunately, for as many light speed steps Sonic takes forward, he always takes the same amount back, and then some.