Summer of Sonic 2013 - Sonic Lost World impressions
Friday, 9th August 2013, 12:13pm (UTC), 4 Comments
Previous Summer of Sonic conventions have offered first opportunities to play the likes of Sonic's 4, Colours and Generations, and this year's did not let us down, offering up both Wii U and 3DS versions of the upcoming Sonic Lost World - a game for which I am cautiously optimistic, yet admittedly not as excited about as pretty much any other Sonic game of its prominence that has come before. Still, this did not stop me from queuing up twice for the Wii U and once for the 3DS, during the course of the day.

Having queued up for these sorts of demos before, I've found in the past that it's often difficult to really get the full experience from them. This is mainly for two reasons, a) you've normally seen the whole demo played out for you in videos before this point, so it's not going to be as fresh an experience anyway, and b) the sound is normally turned down or muted, which is a huge part of the fun of a good Sonic game, as any fan will tell you. The result is that, though not necessarily as a result of problems with the game itself, it actually feels a bit sterile, and you come away not knowing as much more about it as you would have liked to. All you can really measure is how the controls feel, and how easy it is to play, which is invariably along the lines of how it looks in all those videos.

So this is what I tried to focus on in Lost World, choosing first the Windy Hill act as it seemed like the best place to get a grasp on Sonic's new moves, and later, when I rejoined the queue, the honeycomb act in Desert Ruins, mainly because it seemed quite fun. There was also the "dessert ruins" act and the new casino one on offer too.

As you'll know, Sonic essentially now has two "gears" - slow and fast, depending on whether or not you're holding the control pad's right trigger. Hitting springs and speed zippers though will of course fire you off as they always have, despite the gear you're in. In slow mode, there shouldn't be much chance of slipping off of things unexpectedly, as it all seems very tight and responsive, though it takes a moment to adjust to Sonic's lack of acceleration, during moments where you want to dash. It may take longer than a moment really to make full use of this quite drastic new change, and I can see its benefits - a reasonable player hopefully won't be falling off into the game's many death drops without good reason. However I can also see its down sides, as coupled with all of Sonic's various moves and the Wisps as well, we could be looking at a game that, in spite of the simplistic, cuddly, child friendly style, is actually quite complicated to play. Hopefully not.

Watching other people play the same level though, you do get a sense of just how rich in multiple routes this one in particular is. It goes beyond just short parallel paths around the long tubular platform pieces, as each of these tend to extend out into different collections of floating platforms. I saw others bounce around on clouds or run down a speedy, more traditionally Sonic segment, and I wanted another go so I could explore these other areas, which is a really good thing, and I hope it's representative of levels throughout the game. Oh, and something I didn't know beforehand, you can deprive those sheep that are dotted around the level of their wool by dashing into them. Nice touch.

One thing that did have me completely baffled was the use of the laser Wisp. It requires you to drag your finger across the touch screen to aim Sonic, and some sort of quick swipe gesture seemed appropriate enough to launch him, to me, but that didn't seem to be the case. I think it was the A button that did it eventually. Strangely though, at the end of the laser burst when Sonic transforms back to his normal self, the screen completely freezes in order to tally up some sort of score total, and you actually have to press A again to continue, which seemed a bit disjointed to me, and I could see others equally confused by it. I'd suggest this system might need some tweaks to make it a little more user friendly.

As the waiting time wasn't too long - and there wasn't much else to do that didn't involve standing up and hanging around anyway - I rejoined the queue a little later to have another go, this time on the honeycomb level. This is a fast-paced forward facing dash through some inventive hexagonal challenges and some cool new badniks. It was fun and involved some quick reaction times, however it wasn't quite the same experience as the occasional forward-facing corridor dashes in recent games, in which you must quickly side step obstacles. I love those moments, and the mechanic in this level could have benefited from allowing the arrow stick to quickly dash to the next side of the hexagon or parallel path straight away. As it is, you have to hold it for a second or so in order to switch, meaning that the automatic pace of the whole level is not as fast as it could be. If you hit a wall, Sonic lands splat onto it and you have to restart, which happened to me a few times before I got to the end, and makes for a good challenge, without feeling too cheap.

On the opposite end of the hall was a table with a small queue next to it, allowing access to the 3DS version of the game, though I wouldn't blame you if you missed it entirely. I played an act of Windy Hill on this as well, and overall it's impressive that they've captured roughly the same experience on a significantly scaled down console, without having to sacrifice a smooth frame rate, and the already minimalistic design scales down well with it. Unfortunately I think the controls work a little less well here. In low gear mode Sonic felt a bit too slow at times, even jumping across platforms carefully, but holding the trigger (which is worryingly uncomfortable by the way) brought a sudden speed increase that was difficult to adjust to as well. My time with it was short and it could be a matter of getting used to it but it felt a bit clunky to me. The level design in this version was also not that fluid, and I found myself stuck trying to figure out how to get past a high wall and spending longer than I would have wanted to trying to defeat a giant Caterkiller.

I had a brief go on the start of the 2D Desert Ruins act, before getting stuck and deciding to relinquish my grasp on the device for the next person, as really we were only allowed one act each. Even this had aspects that needed getting used to though, as there were high walls that could only be reached by running up them - a process that for some reason appeared to happen automatically, even without holding the trigger.

I have my concerns, but generally I am looking forward to the game - mostly though for its inventive use of objects and ideas rather than the rather completed mechanics of shifting Sonic around. I get what they're trying to do with it, but I don't know if they're barking up the wrong tree to be honest. I guess we'll find out in October!
Comments   4 Comments have been posted.
#1. Comment posted by Kabam! on Saturday, 10th August 2013, 6:44am
We will find out in October indeed! Over many websites, people complain similarly about the wisp activity including the swiping and stopping for the tally-up.
#2. Comment posted by Kabam! on Friday, 27th September 2013, 7:09pm
Wow, a lot of lost world stuff has went down since August 9th. I recommend you write an overview post unless you are trying to see as little of the game as possible.
#3. Comment posted by LiQuidShade on Monday, 30th September 2013, 7:03am
I'd love to, but I have seen absolutely nothing new of it since 9th August and I would have advised the same of anyone else who's already decided to buy the game - it's important to keep as much of it spoiler-free as possible, as far as I'm concerned! Sega always show way too much - I like to dive into levels, having seen nothing of them beforehand.
#4. Comment posted by Brady Meyers on Wednesday, 23rd October 2013, 6:43am
Sadly, Sonic Lost World has received mixed reception. The Wii U version earned 62% & 62/100 by the aggregate scorers Metacritic & GameRankings respectively. The 3DS version earned 60.44% & 60/100. It's not looking good for SLW :(
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