Sonic Lost World is a 3D platformer that has our protagonist Sonic and his friend Tails crash landing on an unknown planet. It is a strange world with floating chunks of land each having their own gravitational pull allowing Sonic to walk on them even if he is upside down. This leads to plenty of areas to explore and well-hidden secret goodies. Nearly every couple of feet there is something that can kill you be it spikes, water or robots and like previous Sonic games taking damage will send all your collected rings flying in all directions leaving you a small amount of time to recollect as many as you can. As long as you have even a single ring on hand you will not die from damage though falling is still certain death. Dying will set you back to your last check point and lose you a life. Lose all lives and you will be kicked out of the level you are on and back into the overworld. The overworld is all hex based and you can move around over the map to find items and choose to play any of the levels you have unlocked. It is a neat gimmick but is pretty much a glorified list of levels.
While in the overworld you can accept quests from a robot that will give you prizes. These quests are dead simple and range from collecting a certain amount of coins to climbing a ledge a few times. They are uninspired and pointless tasks but the items received from them can be very useful. Items can summon a shield around Sonic, give him rings or even allow him to skip a section of a level if you are finding it too difficult. These can be used any time by opening up your inventory and selecting them while inside a level. Every 4 or so levels will lead you to a new section of the overworld that are your typical jungle, snow and lava themes in pretty much every platformer ever. The neat thing though is that levels are far different from one another and some don’t even follow the theme of the area you are in like the casino zone or the junk food one. One of the first levels is a “Nights” themed mission that was originally DLC for the Wii U and is already included in the PC version. It is disappointingly just a boss rush mode with a different skin over them. At the very least it is a great level to grind for levels when you are running low.
Sonic has quite a bit of tricks up his sleeve in this game like wall running, spin dashing and ground pounds. Even running has its own dedicated button for when you don’t care about the items you will miss and just want to speed through the level. Double jumping is very problematic as pressing the jump button twice can also cause Sonic to lock on to a nearby enemy to and commence a homing attack that can easily get you killed when you accidentally attack an enemy that can’t be harmed by attacks. In another occasion I was running away from collapsing landscapes and Sonic decides to attack an enemy behind me while I was trying to double jump over a gap, resulting in a cheap death. The strange part is that Sonic also has a kicking attack that does pretty much the same thing so having the dash attack on the jump button in a game that requires precision was a weird decision that detracts from the flow of the game. Kick attack is useful for enemies that throw bombs at you and robot spiders. I didn’t even know about the kicking attack until I was stuck in an area where killing spiders was necessary and your homing attack gets you hurt if you try it on them. Why your red sneakers hurts them and not a giant blue hedgehog dashing at them, spikes first is beyond me.
Scattered around levels are random creatures in jars that grant Sonic powers like digging underground, turning into a laser or becoming a giant black hole thing that destroys whatever it touches. You can activate these whenever you want or simply never use them in some cases where it is optional. There is a ton of things to consider while controlling Sonic compared to the simple run and jump nature of the original Genesis versions. There is no tutorial to speak of and the hint bubble that you must press in order for a tip is gone as fast as you blink. It is refreshing for no handholding in a big budget game though this is one of those games that you may want to read a manual online as to what items do, how to use them and the things that Sonic can do like running up walls. At least for those of us that haven’t played since the series since the Genesis days as I am unsure if these are features included in other recent Sonic titles. Usually the game would be designed as to allow you to learn by yourself overtime but it is quite difficult to do that here as the levels vary far too much and consist of different gameplay styles.
You can never get a handle on all of the game’s mechanics as there are quite a few levels that break up the normal run and jump style of gameplay we expect. One mission will have you using Sonic as a pinball, another will have you controlling a giant snow ball in narrow environments Super Monkey Ball style and others will be auto running, lane based sections where it plays kind of like Temple Run. Those are just some of the modifications to gameplay that frequently break up the normal gameplay and more often than not will be the ones that eat up your lives. I am making it sound like the variety is a bad thing though in truth it is a double edged sword. For one, you will always be looking forward to see what is next even if it keeps you wanting to play just one more level, though on the other hand when the gameplay in that stage is annoying it feels like a waste of a level and a chore if you want to get all the red rings. Red rings are the well-hidden collectible item in this game that’s purpose is unknown though one would assume you get something for collecting them all. It is quite common for you to zoom right past one and be unable to return to that area so expect a good challenge and multiple restarts to collect all that are in a level. This game is quite challenging even without trying to collect the red rings and dying enough in one area will summon an item that allows you to skip that section.
The story is your typical save the world from the bad guy trope but the interesting twist is that Dr. Robotnik is forced to team up with Sonic. It does make for humorous situations but it is an overall uninteresting plot that you likely won’t remember once it’s over. The villains in this game are 6 aliens that have taken over Robotnik’s energy consuming machine and are using it to suck all the life out of Sonic’s planet. They are all uninteresting characters to say the least. A whiny emo, a fat man that loves to eat and your typical dumb character to name a few. Sonic himself is probably more annoying than any of them and is fully voice acted for better or worse depending on who you ask. The only semi likable character in the game is Robotnik himself. In all fairness I doubt anyone comes to a Sonic game expecting a gripping story line and interesting characters. One thing that must be commended is the soundtrack. It is just superb and the track “Sea Bottom Segue” has to be one of the best I have heard in quite some time. Graphics themselves look nice and colorful with tons of objects on screen at once. Very little graphic options however so those with weak PC’s may want to be wary of this game. Runs at 60fps as advertised and have experienced no glitches.
Controls are a bit too loose though you will get used to it given time. The problems are with the homing attack being bound to the jump key and wall running in a very small area can get Sonic stuck in his running animation costing valuable seconds which can be fatal when being chased by lava or a giant hedgehog eating worm. All in all this felt like a game where the developers had a ton of fun and just throw a bunch of their idea in, for better or worse. I may have been frustrated with some of the levels gimmicks like guiding Sonic through the air but most of their ideas actually worked and gives Sonic Lost World a unique feel that separates it a bit from the Super Mario Galaxy clone comparison everyone gave this game. Each level even has a time attack mode that lets you race for the best time possible and uploads your score online to compete against strangers and friends. This is one of those games that you want to go back and replay as soon as you finish while skipping the mediocre story cutscenes the second time around of course. If you are looking for a 3D platformer and have a joypad this is one title you may want to ckeck out regardless of your opinion on the Sonic franchise.