Sonic: Lost World isn’t about pure speed. The Blue Blur’s newest endeavor into the third dimension looks like his slowest outing yet at first glance. His normal gait couldn’t exactly be described as a sprint, and the breakneck, chaotic pace feels like it’s missing altogether as he jogs forward through the cylindrical levels.
But then, he runs up a wall. He flips over a tree, vaults over a low obstacle. He keeps his momentum going when, in past games, he’d be stopped dead in his tracks. He just keeps moving. It may seem like a small change at first, but the ability to keep the little blue ball in motion is perhaps the biggest change in the franchise.
And that comes thanks to the new Parkour system. With the right trigger held down on the Wii U GamePad, Sonic enters an Assassin’s Creed-style free run mode, allowing him to use his scrambling legs to wallrun, climb up trees, or save himself from certain death in pits.
Or, he can use it to get to new paths in the 3D levels. In the first stage of my hands-on demo – which just happened to be the first level in the Green Hill-inspired Wind Hill Zone – I found myself climbing walls and taking crazy leaps in order to find new, unseen areas. The multitude of paths through levels made it feel a lot like exploring the winding paths of the Genesis originals that made Sonic famous.
And that influence is obviously very intentional. Sonic Team has clearly taken a look at those classic games and done its best to bring them into the modern era. The vast majority of enemies are pulled straight from the 16-bit era, right down to the robot fish, robot crabs, and, well, robot birds. Levels resemble the most memorable of that past era, including a very familiar Casino Night-looking level in the Frozen Factory Zone.
But with every throwback, Sonic: Lost World makes sure it utilizes more modern ideas to make things feel fresh. The Wisp powers from Sonic Colors return here, including a couple new ones like the Astroid, which pulls obstacles and enemies into its orbit, slowly growing in size and gravity to pull in bigger and bigger objects to clear paths for Sonic to run down. It’s a lot like rolling around a Katamari.
All of the Wisp powers use the GamePad to control. The Astroid power, for example, is controlled by tilting the whole device to move around, while others will require tapping the screen in rhythm or drawing specific shapes to utilize properly. The powers are varied, and they fit amazingly well with the levels they’re designed around.
Not all of the stages will be purely sprinting around and using Wisp powers. In the Frozen Factory zone, Sonic spun himself into a huge snowball, starting a Super Monkey Ball-inspired moment of rolling around trying not to fall off the edges. In the Silent Forest, there was both a grinding and a tunnel section much like the Special Stages of Sonic 2.
For the competitive speedsters, Los World brings a two-player racing mode where players sprint their way through more difficult versions of the single-player levels to see who can book it the fastest. Now, Sonic veterans know that there are often segments that you just can’t get past. Fortunately, the checkpoint system in the races fixes that. When one player passes through a gate, both players are teleported to a mid-race starting line, giving the previous section’s victor a three-second head start as a small reward. The result is a race that always feels close and exciting.
You could say this level is "newstalgic."
The multitude of paths through levels made it feel a lot like exploring the winding paths of the Genesis originals that made Sonic famous.
Speed junkies turned off by Sonic’s slightly slower base move speed fear not; there are options for you. Certain levels set Sonic going at his top speed and don’t allow you to slow down. While I spent much of my time with Lost World only holding the run trigger, Sonic’s trademark spinning ball boost can still be called up using the left trigger. It’s reckless, and when I used it, I found I’d fly past alternate paths, but with a bit more practice I’d certainly be able to use it for speedruns and the like, which will be supported by a leaderboard system. Interestingly, the team hinted that there’d be a bit of a twist to the way they worked, but wouldn’t comment further than that.
Counter-intuitively, though, having the slower Sonic as an option makes moving through levels a much more fluid and quick-seeming experience. Platforming in 3D has been a problem for the Hedgehog since Sonic Adventures, but it looks to be solved here. I had no problem sprinting towards a ledge, only to slow down a bit to make some more precise jumps – something that would have been near impossible and very not fun in previous Sonic games.
The grand result is a fluid, precise 3D Sonic game that has finally managed to bring what made him great into the modern era. This is what Sonic has always been about: momentum, not reckless speed. Lost World seems to be a true return to the Sonic roots by way of an overhaul of the way he works.
Taylor Cocke is a Bay Area based freelance games writer. Listen to him spout about bands you don't care about by following Taylor on Twitter @taylorcocke.
Source : ign[dot]com