All Is Lost For Sonic.
Sonic was one of my childhood pals. We spent a lot of time together on the SEGA Genesis—we both did a lot of growing up. And while I got my act together, the thrill-seeking hedgehog got too caught up in the “fast” life and began to spin out of control. After all these years, we've met again, this time on Wii U as part of an exclusive deal with Nintendo.
On paper, Sonic Lost World sounds fantastic, featuring pseudo-gravity-based gameplay similar to the stellar Super Mario Galaxy, new moves, new GamePad touchscreen "color powers," and a whole new threat to fend off with the blue blur. Unfortunately, playing the game tells a completely different story.
Things start off well. Dr. Robotnik is up to no good again (surprise!) and has enslaved six monsters inspired by classic SEGA Saturn game NiGHTS into Dreams aptly named the Deadly Six. These ridiculously annoying, predictable set of monsters—including but not limited to a stuck up brat, a pet rock-stupid slob with an over-eating disorder, and the typically dominant tough guy—proves to be more than Eggman can handle. The Deadly Six take over Eggman’s plan for world dominance and force him to team up with his arch-nemesis Sonic.
Sonic himself, though, has become a rude, mouthy, rebellious teenager who treats his friends like garbage. I’m not sure if the writers think that this is “cool” or if that’s just "the way kids are these days" and that’s who they’re targeting with Sonic Lost World. Maybe I’m out of touch. Either way, the dialogue is appallingly bad across the board.
And the experience actually gets much worse when you start to explore each level. Missions are supposedly part of a mysterious “Lost Hex," but the very first stage is the all-too-familiar Green Hill Zone. A bit of nostalgia warmed my senses and primed me for what should have been a fun experience. Then a complete lack of objectives, a clunky targeting system, jarring perspective changes, and random deaths turned into a cold desire to run through each stage as fast as I possibly could in an effort to hurry up and get it over with.
Running through as fast as possible should've been somewhat easy for the speedy hedgehog, but random enemies pop up out of nowhere and put a stop to that. Taking the time to try and kill them using the new targeting system doesn’t help, either, since pressing the button a second time after targeting sends Sonic spin-balling at the enemy regardless of deadly obstacles. I often encountered areas where defeating an enemy was the obvious way through, but doing so killed me… repeatedly.
In one stage in particular—one where Sonic begins stuck inside a massive snowball with no explanation as to why—narrow, slippery slopes make it difficult to navigate successfully at all. Add in missile-shooting crabs that knock Sonic off the stage with the slightest bump and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Compounding the frustration, you cannot absorb the Sonic-staple rings that allow you to take an extra hit due to Sonic's awkward snowball predicament.
The entire ring system is broken in a 3D world. The player is still allowed one hit, but it’s maddening to collect over 300 rings in one stage, only to lose them all at the end, and only be able to re-collect a handful of them due to the 3D gameplay. Sonic Lost World also uses an archaic ‘four lives and it's game over’ system, regardless of where you are in a stage. If you just finished the previous level with zero lives remaining, you could get to the very end of the next stage only to die once and be pushed back to the beginning. When each stage is designed so poorly, with so few redeeming qualities, replaying the entire thing is a nightmare.
Players can invite friends to join them in a pointless cooperative mode which allows a second player with a Wii-mote to fly a helicopter through the stage, assisting Sonic in collecting items and dropping bombs on enemies. It's a great idea in theory—except when the perspective changes to anything outside of 2D side-scrolling where trying to keep up with Sonic is impossible. The game also features extremely basic Miiverse functionality, online leaderboards, and time attack modes for each stage. There are also two-player races that aren’t worth the trouble of finding a second controller, much less a second player.
Sonic also has some new moves like the wall run which I frankly wouldn’t have known about if I hadn’t read the back of the box. At no point do you need to use this new move to complete a stage. Touchscreen-controlled “Color Powers” are a much-needed break from the regular gameplay, and can actually be fun when they work. One power requires you to tilt the Wii U GamePad to aim Sonic to the next area. I’d think the motion sensor in my GamePad was broken if I didn’t use it in other games, because aiming was impossible. Instead the reticule sloped to the left and shook like a stroke victim.
I sincerely hope Nintendo didn’t pay more than the $49.99 MSRP this game cost for exclusivity rights to Sonic the Hedgehog, because nobody, not even Nintendo, should pay even that for Sonic Lost World. Normally I'd at the very least recommend a game like this to longtime fans of Sonic. But in this case, you may not want to see how bad it’s gotten for the blue blur. If you love him as I once did, you’ll agree that it’s time to take Sonic out back and put him out of everyone’s misery.