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Nintendo 3DS Review: ‘Sonic Lost World’

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Spider-Man web swings. Hulk smashes. Sonic? He runs, born under the idea of speed and marketed under the moniker of Blast Processing. Sonic Lost World necessitates an assigned button for full sprint. This is the equivalent of creating a Superman video game where players frantically mash the R trigger to keep the Kryptonian afloat. It is no longer a natural process and robs the character of inherent value.

Sonic the Hedgehog was a platforming prodigy, a sharpened, attitude driven counter to Nintendo’s portly plumber. The Hedgehog’s voice was one of ’90s indifference. In a weird way he was Nirvana for kids, something which exceeded a cultural norm. He wasn’t a collection of gathered spheres or comforting shapes, but pointy with sharp edges and took an indifferent cross armed stance. Mickey Mouse and Mario were suddenly remnants.

Sega has since struggled with this identity. They have dressed their mascot as a werewolf, sent him into King Arthur’s kingdom, and forced his doppleganger to carry a gun. Mickey Mouse will always be a mouse and Mario–while he may defend other kingdoms or take side trips into sports–is forever a mustached plumber.

There is a timeless quality to certain characters — Superman, Mario, and Mickey among them. Sonic, we have discovered, is not timeless. He was a response to an industry need to progress itself into a teenage phase. The rebellion has grown irrelevant.

Sonic Lost World is draped in metaphors for tattered t-shirts and ripped jeans. It is sloppy and unkempt just as the ’90s generation was as they searched for a voice. Levels introduce nonsensical walled barriers while enacting infuriating lock-on routines to access progression. Lost World is an attempted reach at relevancy with a catch: this character was never meant to move in three dimensions. Sonic has become piteous enough to be told when or how to run. So much for rebellion.

At its best, the Sonic series runs to the right, creating a playable trance where control is often an illusion. The premise is not complex; the execution is. Everything Sega has done–and failed relentlessly to do–has attempted to alleviate that simplicity. Nintendo has never been afraid of simple. It is why their games continually work.

Mario has taken to 3D spaces seamlessly and transforms into wacky things. So should Sonic as the logic goes. It is why Lost World turns the hedgehog into a miniature portable planet via power-up. Sonic’s sense of self has been unequivocally butchered as the stout competitor has become the copier. This mascot is a distressing victim of miscalculated, shadowed design.

Even in-game, Sonic becomes a pinball, bouncing between misshapen ideas of what he should or could be. Not only has the character’s identity been devastated by repeated reinventions, the levels which he inhabits are fragmented. Glimpses of genuine promise sprout from sub-sections of certain levels, splotches of brightness as Sonic jogs across spheres (with excellent 3D effects). Then they stop. The screen fades into black for transition purposes and Sonic appears from nowhere in the proceeding section, as if Lost World is a collection of deleted scenes without the patchwork to sew them together.

Lost World finds itself in an unpleasant mixture of 2D and 3D design. The idea of a pit, some bottomless death trap which serves as a central hazard to any genre entry, has become errant in application. Normal and proper layouts designate these areas naturally in their flow. Players should know what is a danger and what segues into new areas. On Game Boy Advance, portable Sonic efforts began labeling pits with arrows, a remarkable conceit of failure. In Lost World, developers stand at a complete loss as to a fix. They leave pits untouched without arrows, and no physical sense of instantaneously killing gaps.

Credit goes toward Lost World’s apparent happiness with itself. Music is infectiously cheery and color palettes dominate over these familiar themed play scapes. Presentation elements, despite unforgivable low resolution cut scenes, harness the magic of Saturday Morning cartoons. Story and graphical elements represent the high school kid who barely made the freshman team, sidelined each outing yet still cheering his or her squad. Said player is oblivious to the blowout, but at least they have spirit.

Visiting with Sonic has become uncomfortable. There are truths we no longer wish to admit, but need to accept. Exhaustion forms from the realization the character’s best years are 20 years past, locked to the ideals of a game machine mournfully discarded to thrift store shelves. Sonic was a then creation, not a now. Seeing development time spent on patchwork lock-on systems and propping Sonic up on gameplay crutches is painful. He is a wounded animal and unless he is placed in the strict 2D conditions he deserves, it’s time to put him down.

Sonic Lost World is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for Mild Cartoon Violence. This game can also be found on: Wii U

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.
  • Nafareas

    How long it will takes before the media realise that the real problem is that kind of tone is not appealing if you’re more than 8? Stop asking for the roots, it’s been 7 years now that SEGA is aiming for the roots and it didn’t solve anything. Now it’s time to bring back Sonic’s appeal if you want the fans to care about that franchise once again.

    • http://www.doblu.com/ Matt Paprocki

      Sonic’s appeal DID work. Sonic 4 was fantastic, in particular Episode 2. The problem is they’re trying to mix the roots with the new and the balance isn’t there. It’s a difficult character when he’s so limited in scope (i.e., he’s fast).

      • Nafareas

        Excuse me but Sonic 4 is very forgettable and didn’t sell well at all. 2D Sonic games have always been present at some point and they never really do any kind of impression outside of the retro fans circle. Actually I was talking about the kind of Sonic games Sega should consider to do again if they want to make money and in order to achieve this they must give up on the cheesy fest they are doing right now and bring back more Serious/neutral content.

  • Shadow Hedgehog

    Yeah right, back to 2D, return to the roots. Nice advices man. Just the same thing Sonic is trying to do ever since Unleashed, yet nobody bothered to notice that it does not work.
    Maybe if the game was overall more likable, instead of trying to convince us that in one particular area, it fixed it’s mistake… maybe if the game was big, appealing, nice looking and action packed, only then it could succeed. But if they really think that they need to turn Sonic into music note or snowball for that, or to make juice… Than 2D will not save them, ever. Mario influence should completely vanish altogether. Sonic never had anything in common with him, except for being created by the need to compete with Nintendo. But never till recent days he had to constantly watch over his should what Mario is doing, only so he could stalk and mimic him.
    I doubt that Mario game which would have Sonic as a possible character model would sell well. Fans and people in general were expecting something else from him. And they are not getting it.

    • http://www.doblu.com/ Matt Paprocki

      The reality is Mario 64 changed everything. I gave Mario a new face, and Sega had this “uh oh” moment they never recovered from. I had a paragraph in the review I ended up cutting because it didn’t fit regarding how Sonic became like a lost puppy. Mario had a party game? So should Sonic! Mario had a kart racer? So should Sonic! At some point, it’s like Sega gave up and just mashed the two together in Olympics and Smash Bros.

      Really, the best Sonic title (of the past decade) was a kart racer. Sonic All-Stars was amazing, but it wasn’t much of a Sonic title.

      2D is worth looking into because like I said in the other comment, Sonic 4 – especially episode 2 – was fantastic. It made Sonic bold, it let him move as should, and did some fun stuff. You can BE big in 2D. You can make some tremendous action scenes with that format. Changing design landscapes have pushed Sega away from that to the point where even the decent Sonic titles are being looked upon with trepidation.

      • Shadow Hedgehog

        Late reply because the notification system sucks.

        2D is good. 3D is not bad. That was my only point. People most of the time think that 3D does not work for Sonic at all. It does. Sonic Adventures worked. They are now only being insulted retrospectively because people need to use them in comparative criticism to prove that the modern games do not suck. If they saw that Adventures work, it would destroy their argument. So they want to spread this mindset that 3D Sonic is bad and they want to make sure everybody thinks that, no matter how many people actually enjoyed those games.

        2D games can be made big. 3D games can be made big too. None of that ever happened for a long time. Classic fans too complained about Sonic 4 and for good reasons, they were lied to about the Classics formula. Today, after so many moths,.. nothing much changed. Lost World is still badly received game that sold the least number of units from any 3D Sonic game to date, Sonic Adventure 3 is the most requested game by the fans, requests for Sonic 4 episode 3 or Sonic 5 are nowhere to be heard.
        2D Sonic can be made well, but modern Sega or Sonic team can’t do it. They only prove that they can make Sonic games for people with little expectations and low standards. Most Classic fans moved onto modern Sonic. Their favorite modern Sonic games have lots of 2D parts and they nearly all equally think that Sonic needs to be dumbed down to work.
        Now it’s time before release of Sonic Boom and it’s being heavily defended by many people who love this “lighthearted” comedy ridden Sonic. But still, there is an even bigger number of people who say that Sonic Boom is terrible and they demand better. This would be a great opportunity for fans to voice that they want pure 2D game. But none of that can be heard.
        Maybe they all already gave up. But I think that for Sonic fans, the tone of the games is much more important than if it’s in 3D or 2D. And because the cheerful crowed is getting constantly served, they are more than happy and they will damage control every game regardless how bad it is.

  • Venks Dunson

    By no means is this game perfect. The story and voice acting is atrocious and the homing attack definitely leaves something to be desired. But it is definitely not half as bad as Matt Paprocki implies. The above article talks a lot about Sonic in general, but really only focuses on Lost World in two paragraphs.

    People really like to perceive Sonic one way or another. And it’s rather silly that many think his games have always been about simply running fast. Sure the blue blur is designed with speed running in mind, but it’s never been as simple as simply running forward. In Chemical Plant Zone I’m pretty sure a good amount of my time was spent jumping from one slowly moving platform to the next.

    What you need to realize coming into this game is that it isn’t Sonic Colors or Generations. This is a new game with a new control scheme. Running through levels at about a minute and a half or less is still possible in this game, but require a new set of skills. You have to utilize Sonic’s spin dash, double jump, and the parkour system in order to keep up your momentum. It’s not as simple as pressing a single button to boost like it was previously.

    There’s a lot to this game and I’ve written my take on it as a player who S-Ranks every level with the fastest times I can achieve. If you’d like to see my thoughts on Lost World more in depth check it out:
    http://berathen.com/2013/11/sonic-lost-world-s-rank-player-review.html