We’ve all heard of the Sonic Cycle by now. Sega announces a new Sonic game that looks awesome and everybody says, “maybe the series is getting back on track.” And then you think that this is the best game ever. And then they show more of the game, specifically Sonic’s furry friends showing up, and suddenly it’s the worst game ever. And then everyone hates Sonic again until the next game shows up with the promise of greatness and the cycle starts again.
Last year’s Sonic Generation broke the Sonic cycle in the best possible way. It gave fans of classic Sonic and new Sonic what they wanted with two distinct play styles, and miraculously struck a wonderful balance between the two. With the upcoming Nintendo exclusive Sonic Lost World, Sega is hoping to strike that balance yet again. Can Sega go 2 for 2?
Sonic Lost World begins as any Sonic game does, with the blue hedgehog pursuing Dr. Eggman, who has harnessed the power of a group called the Sinister Six. The six, whose designs are some of the most generic Deviant Art rejects I’ve seen in some time, rebel and Dr. Eggman and Sonic are forced to team up to save the world. Sonic’s furry friends do show up, but only the ones people actually like: Knuckles, Tails, and Amy. But even with his groupies in tow, Sega promises that this game is all about Sonic.
The first thing I noticed about Sonic Lost World was that Sonic moved a little slower than past iterations, certainly compared to how fast he moved in Generations. I was assured this was a deliberate choice, slowing down Sonic in order to allow for more varied gameplay styles and better constructed platforming. Pressing down a trigger, however, let’s Sonic run at his normal speed. This addition allows players to choose how they navigate Sonic through the game’s various levels, with blind speed through the main path or slightly slower exploration. Sonic’s homing attack and trademark spindash return, but must be used more strategically than in past games, and the new parkour ability allows Sonic to use and navigate the environment in exciting new ways.
The levels of Sonic Lost World all have a very Super Mario Galaxy feel to them, and that is a very good thing. Sonic will be hopping from one abstract land mass to another, even navigating tiny spherical ‘planets’ of sorts. This combined with the usual Sonic runways shakes up the standard formula in a really fun way. The most intriguing parts of the game are areas where the Sonic runways get the Galaxy treatment. Players will find themselves running through tunnels, on top of tunnels, on the side of tunnels, etc. The renewed emphasis on platforming and exploration is refreshing, harkening back to the days of Sonic Adventure on the Sega Dreamcast. Sega and Sonic Team are taking a big risk by slowing Sonic down, but based on my time with the demo it’s a risk that’s paying off.
Still, the part of me that adored Sonic Generations couldn’t help but think, “why is he so slow?” Turns out, Sega had the exact same thought.
Just when I started to think that I had Sonic Lost World pegged, I tried out the second demo level. This level felt much more like Sonic Generations, with Sonic running at full speed and significantly less moments of exploration and platforming. The difficulty also shot up exponentially; Sonic controls like a dream, but players best keep on their toes if they want to navigate him through these more fast paced levels. This isn’t the auto-sequence Sonic of past gens.
In the last level of the demo I was pleasantly surprised to see Sonic in a more 2.5d sidescroller, ala Sonic Generations’ ‘classic’ levels. These levels will be perfect for fans of the original Sonic games, or anyone who has played the Dimps handheld titles. These levels were without a doubt my favorite of the bunch, and I’m curious to see how the different styles are split up in the final game: Will each world have three distinct versions (like how in Generations you had a classic and modern take on each?) or will it be less rigidly structured? Will I be able to *gasp* choose my own playstyle for each?
Cooperative-multiplayer is included in Sonic Lost World and will be a trip down memory lane for fans of the original Sega Genesis games, with a second player controlling Tails. It’s yet to be seen if Knuckles, Amy, or even Eggman will be playable in any capacity and Sega is being tight-lipped about the subject. While I, an Amy Rose fan, would love to see some Sonic team-up action ala Sonic Advance 3 (a real gem if you can find a copy), I can understand Sega’s hesitation to include any other playable friends beyond Tails. That being said, competitive multiplayer has been announced so unless it’s purely a 2 on 2 Sonic vs. Tails affair, I’d be willing to bet that Knuckles and Amy will get their time to shine.
You’ve got platformer Sonic (who still feels like Sonic, don’t get me wrong), you’ve got speedy 3D Sonic, and you’ve got classic 2D Sonic. His friends are here but aren’t stealing the spotlight. What else could you ask for?
I’m pretty sure everyone back at Sega, frustrated with their inability to appease persnickety Sonic fans just gave up and decided to put as much in the game as possible and hope that it all works. Turns out, it does. The sheer amount of variety in Sonic Lost World will keep it from growing stale and, just as with Generations before it, speak to as wide an audience as possible. Whatever kind of Sonic you like, you’ll get him here.
Sonic cycle be damned.
Sonic Lost World comes to the Wii U and 3DS this holiday season.