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I have to admit that I smiled a bit during my time with Sonic: Lost World. I laughed when I heard Tails sarcastically told off Sonic that he built a TV out of paperclips when he asked if he could have repaired the plane. I smirked when one of the desert levels was actually a dessert level. My ears were rewarded with great music emanating from the TV. However, those brief moments of fun were extremely outweighed with moments of exasperation. That’s because no matter how much a game sounds or looks good, no matter how much the game’s story amuses you, no matter how many good concepts were idealized; no video game can be good if the controls just do not work correctly.
As much as I loved the premise to Sonic Lost World, it is just not good as a game. And that made me sad.
Throughout my aggravating experience to the world of Lost Hex, you can tell that Sonic Team borrowed off their old ideas as well as other, more successful platformers. At first, you’ll be running through stages that feel very Genesis-like, but with some lovely HD texturing and crisp water effects. Later stages have the hedgehog grind rails in a fashion much like the mine cart stages in Donkey Kong Country Returns, while others mimic Super Mario Galaxy 2 with Sonic hopping on tiny planets with their own gravity as well as some 2D/3D switchovers within the same stage. Best of all, old school badniks return for the first time since Sonic the Hedgehog 2 like Coconuts, Slicer, Crawl and Crabmeat.
I was able to take in the sights mainly because Sega tried to combat Sonic’s unruly speed from some of his more modern adventures. Their answer: To throw speed out and just make him straight up slow. Sonic runs in a normal pace and you can make him a little faster by holding the ZR button. When you hit a wall when holding the button, he’ll take cues from Assassin’s Creed and automatically run up it so you don’t break his pacing. The problem is that these parkour moments are only useful in a very tiny amount of locations, and you’ll be doing it by accident most of the time.
My biggest issue with modern Sonic games, Lost World included, is their difficulty, and that the game has too many things going against you. Don’t get me wrong, I can enjoy a challenge like in Rayman Origins, but when the game has so many issues functionally, even veteran Sonic fans will be throwing their controllers (and Gamepads aren't cheap and easily replaceable!). Lost World has a crazy amount of instant death hazards that’ll hit you out of nowhere from enemies that eat you to walls you’ll splatter against. Not only that, unwritten rules in Sonic platforming (like snapping to grind rails when jumping from one to another) just don’t exist for some reason. And if you aren't dying from hazards and cheap tricks, you’ll die from the unforgivable sluggish jumping ability Sonic when you overestimate his ability to jump (and double jump) a puddle.
Lost World begs you not to beat it not only because of these tricks and awful controls, but also because of archaic platforming ideas. Sonic games today still in this day and age have a life counter meaning if you die too many times, you will get a Game Over and all your progress within a level will be reset. In addition, Lost World decided to add a Mario-like timer to all the levels, so you can also die trying to be patient maneuvering from all the death circling around you. Though unlike Mario, Sega removed the ability to get another life when you collect 100 rings, so farming new lives is just as difficult. Again difficulty is fine as long as you don’t punish those with resets by losing too many lives in a single level, but Lost World has too many walls going against it for those to have fun.
Many gameplay elements in Lost World just aren't needed and only add more issues to the game. The Wisps return from Colors and not only do they not have a reason to be in Lost Hex (does Sonic need to become a music note?), but they’re inclusion in the level design is just as useless. They are too gimmicky with you having to use the touch screen or gyroscope for something an analog stick could have done. There was even a tacky stealth level in the game, which mixed with the game’s lousy jumping and controls made for some exhausting game overs. If that wasn't enough, Sonic now has not only the homing attack introduced in Sonic Adventure but also a aerial kick, and some enemies can only be harmed with one or another. So now you have to go through trial and error with each badnik; another way the game tacks on deaths.
Even though the Lost World’s design isn't up to snuff, there was one reason to endure and beat it and that was because of the game’s entertaining cutscenes. Sonic and Tails make an excellent duo on camera and Eggman is still as funny as ever since his character’s do-over in Sonic Unleashed. Unfortunately like many Sonic games, the one-shot villains in Lost World, the Deadly Six, aren't as charismatic and portray themselves as generic baddies. Though with a game as irritating as this, I’d just recommend YouTube as your portal to view these.
I was walking into Sonic Lost World believing that it was going to be the title to outdo Sonic Colors, arguably the best 3D Sonic game since Sega stopped making hardware. With what was supposed to be good platforming ideas plus Sonic’s upward momentum in recent years, I was more hyped with it even more than Super Mario 3D World. Sadly, those great ideas that has been poorly executed, and to say that the game’s such a letdown only because of someone didn't playtest this enough is nothing short of heartbreaking.
And thus the upward momentum of the blue blur crashed and burned.