The SEGA reps on hand for the "Sonic Lost World" demo for the Wii U and 3DS seem very cognizant that this game needs to reach both lapsed Sonic fans and newcomers to the speedy hedgehog's platforming adventures. Throughout my 45 minutes of so with the game (both hands-on and guided by the developers), they would reiterate how the new 3D platformer was the result of extensive fan feedback after years of mixed reviews on previous 2D and 3D Sonic games.
With a slower Sonic, multiple paths, new bosses, and an Eggman team-up, will this be the Sonic for all fans?
Like the disparate zones featured in "Sonic Lost World," the game's hero is varied in a way that at least attempts to honor the "Sonic" games of the past, drawing on mechanics from both 2D and 3D outings for SEGA's mascot. Not only will he be dashing along at speed in over-the-shoulder branching levels a la "Sonic 3D," but he'll have color-based powers in the style of "Sonic Colors," as well as new abilities like parkour to keep the momentum going in the game's fast-paced levels.
After his latest battle with Eggman, Sonic finds himself on the hex-based Lost World where six nefarious villains have been released. Of course, Sonic will have to track them down and defeat them, and this means zooming through a new round of both 3D and 2D levels.
The 3D perspective should be familiar with "Sonic 3D" fans minus some of that game's camera quirks. Again, SEGA has reduced its flagship character's speed to make the levels more accessible, meaning the character no longer feels like a bullet ricocheting through the level. The net gain is that you can both see and interact with more of the scenery in the levels of "Lost World," allowing you to explore the multiple paths of varying difficulties--it allows the game to feel more open and deliberate in a way that previous titles could not. The downside is that the visceral sense of movement feels somewhat lost.
In practice, Sonic feels a bit lighter than he has in previous incarnations, but not "floaty." Which is to say, on the Wii U, the controls felt more or less precise during my hands-on time with the game, although the timing for some of the parkour maneuvers felt a little tricky.
About parkour: this is SEGA's name for Sonic's new wall jump and wall-climbing abilities. Say, for instance, you're dashing along and come across a scaleable wall: Sonic can run at it, use his dash move, and zip up to the next platform without slowing down. It takes some timing to down it without breaking your pace, but it's a deliberate effort to make the action feel more fluid while offering a verticality to the levels. The shot-from-a-gun of "Sonic" games past is still there as Sonic bounces off of bumpers and bolts off of platforms, but the focus here seems to be on navigating obstacles like spikes, ramps, and enemies.
Speaking of enemies, combat has gotten an overhaul, not only allowing Sonic to target and pounce on multiple enemies as he could in past games, but adding a kick move to disable/flip over harder-to-kill enemies. This adds a bit of strategy when it comes to armored foes who can't be attacked head-on, allowing Sonic to knock nearby opponents into them for bank shot attacks or to take out multiple enemies (a SEGA rep promised this move would be integral during boss battles).
Among the Color Powers, I had a chance to see the Crimson Eagle ability, with Sonic gliding through the level guided by the motion of the Wii U Gamepad while the Asteroid ability turns Sonic into a crashing ball of destruction that picks up more debris to inflict more damage, destroying obstacles and enemies in Sonic's wake.
Getting a look at Sonic's latest 3DS foray, "Sonic Lost World" on the handheld looks graphically similar to its console counterpart, although the camera in the 3D sequences is pulled in tighter on Sonic. SEGA reps assured me that all of the 3DS levels were new and that the handheld game would offer cross-functionality with the Wii U version's co-op multiplayer. The Wii U's multiplayer mode allows a second player to take on the role of a gadget created by Tails, taking out enemies and grabbing collectibles. Using the 3DS, you can design and craft a gadget to import onto the Wii U, although unfortunately, it doesn't appear you can control it using the 3DS.
SEGA's making all of the right noises about "Sonic Lost World" to get me curious about the latest in 15 years of 3D Sonic games. And based on the brief time that I had the game in my hands, it felt fluid enough to play without the jarring disruptions, broken camera, or narrative quirks of the last decade of games in the franchise. When October comes around, I'm looking forward to seeing if the franchise can return to form for the new console generation.
"Sonic Lost World" will be available on the 3DS and Wii U on October 22nd from SEGA.
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