Summer of Sonic features an in-development game to play every year, usually for the first time to the public outside big industry shows like E3. This year, we got Sonic Lost World, on both Wii U and 3DS, making its debut in the United Kingdom.
First, a quick summary of what was on show. The rep told us this was the Comic-Con build, so for the few Americans in the audience who were there, we played the same game you did. There were three Wii U demo pods and six 3DSes running. On the Wii U game there were 4 levels available to play: Windy Hill, Desert Ruins 1 (styled with a small letter S shoe-horned in between the s and the e on the title card to make Dessert – a pun on the fact it’s a candy/sweets level), Desert Ruins 2 (an auto-run level through honey combs) and Frozen Factory (the Sonic 2-styled casino level). On the 3DS, there were 3 available choices – a Windy Hill tutorial level, Windy Hill 1 and Desert Ruins 2 (here, an Egyptian-themed puzzle level with moving around of blocks & balls). We tried to play as much as possible, bearing in mind that because of queue lengths there was a limit of one level per person. Those of you who recall back to Summer of Sonic 2010 may remember we did a look at Sonic Colours‘ debut – this time we have opinions on the game not just from myself but several Sonic Retro forum members, so read on to see what we thought!
“To begin with I wasn’t really fussed about playing Lost World. I haven’t really been following it and I still have no clue what the premise is, or any of the important details that are no doubt splattered all around the bed of rumour that is the internet. So I played it anyway. First impression: Very bright, very colourful, very reminiscent of Sonic Xtreme. And maybe a bit of Mario Galaxy. At this point, for legal reasons, I must point out that Sonic: Lost World was IN NO WAY influenced by either of these titles.
Anyway, from watching other people playing the game I was already aware of the mechanic of holding the R Trigger to run, and later in one of the interviews it was explained that the game was designed to please people who had complained that some of the previous titles had been “too fast”. Still, even running at full speed, it felt a bit like Sonic was running through treacle. Maybe the speedcap could be set a bit higher, I don’t know. I played the 2D Dessert Ruins level. I’m not quite sure where the “ruins” come in, but it was quite enjoyable. Homing attack seemed a bit iffy but I liked that certain enemies couldn’t be killed just by jumping on them and needed a bit more creativity to get around. Of watching others play different levels, I liked that when Sonic’s hidden behind an object it becomes transparent so that you can see him, and it reminds me of Mario’s shadow in Mario Sunshine.
However there are a couple of niggles. Firstly, using the Cyan Laser involved swiping the GamePad touchscreen in the direction you wanted to head. This didn’t seem to work and people were fired off in all directions. Secondly, while watching one of the people ahead of us play, the game froze for a decent amount of time, leaving us all wondering if it had crashed. The staff member in the booths had to tell us that the game pauses like this when a message comes up on the GamePad screen. Well that’s all well and good if you’re playing the game on the GamePad without access to a TV but the lack of message being reproduced on the TV might leave first-time, uninformed gamers wondering if they’ve bought a dud. Otherwise, it may be my general apathy towards the franchise these days, but there was nothing that had me wetting myself in excitement. Yes, it’s got another brand-new gameplay mechanic and all the colours are bright and airy, but nothing really grabbed my attention.
So my impression? Pretty decent, but I’m not gonna go out of my way to buy a Wii U for it. Oh, and a special shoutout to Nova for getting a Game Over on Windy Hill.”
“Lucky me got first try on the Sonic Lost World Wii U pod, so I decided to start with Windy Hill 1 to get things rolling for everyone.
The immediately obvious thing about Lost World, even before getting on to the console in the first place, is the constant 60fps frame rate (except for very, very few situations in levels other than the one I played) and the very clear, bright and colourful visuals. Lost World has a very distinct visual style compared to other previous Sonic games, focusing more on simplicity and popping out the immediate objects and scenery you will be interacting with rather than making everything detailed and looking realistic. The second immediately obvious thing, once getting on to the pod to play, is the controls; this is not your hold-boost-to-win of yesteryear anymore, and while you can play it immediately it will definitely require time and skill to master. Just using the analogue stick makes Sonic walk at a relative pace, and only by holding down the R trigger does he begin to run in the distinctive figure-8 we’ve all seen from the trailers released so far. The L trigger is reserved for the Spindash, something I ended up not using much in favour of exploring rather than speed-running (or attempting to; Nova :U). Using A allows Sonic to jump, and pressing while in the air made Sonic “homing attack” into an enemy right nearby, but it’s the curve-around-stiffly homing attack seen in the trailers too, not the previous “lock-on-to-a-monitor-halfway-across-the-current-room”. Acceleration feels somewhat immediate, and turning left or right most definitely so, leading to some magnificent errors in judgement of where you think you’ll get to, and all the parkour moves require the previously-mentioned skill in order to execute and use well.
Level style and gameplay feels very Super Mario Galaxy-esque, which is most definitely not a bad thing. The level itself was a decent size, with areas of exploration and action in equal measure, and lots of opportunity to get used to and master the new control scheme. Multiple branching paths make a rather more obvious return in the level design, making multiple replays of the levels themselves an evident choice in order to experience and complete fully. Wisp powers make an immediate return, with one route through the act introducing Laser wisps again. Gameplay freezes on the main screen to the controller screen, where you control the path of your laser. I had a little difficulty in choosing my direction correctly, but as we were clearly not the first to be on the pod this could easily be due to a bad calibration or over-use. The end of a laser run, for the first time, results in another freeze on-screen and the controller giving you a message, something which from the queue originally prompted us to think the game had crashed (and were promptly disappointed when it started up again just fine :P).
Alas, all too soon after playing through the bright blue skies and rich green landscapes of Windy Hill 1 I was jumping on the animal prison (the animals themselves knocking against the glass to get out, a nice little touch) and the demo was over. Others got to play the other levels available to play, so I will leave the review of those to them, but the immediate style of the game was evident through all; vibrant and smooth-moving visuals, quick-response controls, and levels with multiple branching paths and a sense of flow to them not seen in a while.
The 3DS version, unfortunately, was greatly lacking in comparison. While it tries its hardest to play like its console cousin, the controls and levels feel a lot more automated (the parkour especially), each zone area feels a lot smaller and a lot more restrictive (the Wii U version allowed full 360° movement “around” the flooring in Windy Hill 1, the 3DS one had the edges roped off all the way through), and in general just felt mediocre. Hopefully, this only applied to the Windy Hill levels I got to try on it (The “training” level and Windy Hill 1), and only time will tell.
Sonic Lost World is definitely a new direction for Sonic games, completely changing the engine style we have become used to and requiring time and patience that the game will make you want to invest in. The Wii U version is definitely a first-day purchase in this household, whereas I shall have to see about the 3DS version. The announced “special” for having both versions will most likely factor in also. I am very much looking forward to see where this ends up leading the Sonic series this time.”
“So, the things I like most about the WiiU demo that I played are the spectacle type moments. Jumping and then kicking an enemy into the 2 behind it is pretty cool and looks rather nice. The control and turning were both very tight (maybe a little too tight on the turning) but it still feels like you’re in control and it’s not too slippery. The game tries to pull away from homing attacking everything by making certain enemies invulnerable to it and instead only destroyable by a kick, which is a nice touch.
Holding R to run feels very similar to Mario but I also feel that it’s easy to start running up walls and over obstacles when all I want to do is run at a normal Sonic pace, which can be frustrating. The spindash on L is also helpful, although it felt a little underpowered and I didn’t use it much. The game also likes to save the player from mistimed jumps (with platforms hidden off-screen over what looks like death pits) and alternate paths back up which is nice, but doesn’t make the player feel any more relaxed about falling down. Overall I enjoyed it and if they can implement a few more level specific gimmicks that aren’t just “zone-specific badniks”, then it may be on par with, or succeed Colours easily.”
“The level of Sonic Lost World that I decided to try out was the casino level in the Wii U version, “Frozen Factory”. The name of the level doesn’t correlate at all with the environment, which looks like it was lifted straight from Sonic 2’s Casino Night Zone. It looks beautiful though, with bright, bold colours and neon lights everywhere. The framerate was very smooth.
The first thing I noticed when I started playing was how different Sonic feels to control. Having a “run” button in a Sonic game felt a little weird at first, but it didn’t take long to adjust. The new parkour system works really well and helps the game to flow. It seems fitting for a character like Sonic to be able to navigate his environment in this way, and makes a nice change from him crashing into walls and losing his speed when going too fast. It makes the character feel more agile to control, and looks like it has the potential to allow for lots of branching paths in the levels. The level I played, however, didn’t appear to have very many different paths, but some of the others that I watched seemed to be very open. In this particular level I used the parkour system to run along a couple of walls in order to avoid obstacles on the ground.
I’m happy that the spindash has made a return in place of boosting (which I never liked). I didn’t need to use it very much in this particular level, but it seemed to work well when I did use it. I also noticed that Sonic’s double-jump has returned from Sonic Colours in place of the air dash. This also worked well and made it easier to get around the level at times.
The level itself was fun. In some ways it didn’t really feel like something from a Sonic game, but it’s actually great to see the series going in a new direction like this. It had a gimmick of Sonic collecting silver coins that follow him along. It wasn’t clear to me what these coins actually did though, as collecting and depositing them didn’t appear to trigger anything. At one point the perspective changed to a 2D side-on view, and put Sonic inside a small pinball area much like the ones in Casino Night (complete with SONIC and MILES written in lights). I felt that this added a bit of variety to the level and was one of many lovely nods to Sonic 2. Lots of things seemed to be happening – avoiding giant falling dice and slot machine wheels rolling along the floor, for example – it didn’t get boring. The level had a nice balance of fast paced areas and areas where you had to slow things down a bit, which is something I was really glad to see as it helps to keep things interesting. In order to destroy some of the enemies, I had to slow down and think about how to get rid of them, which is a refreshing change from smashing into them with the homing attack and running through them with the boost. Sonic’s homing attack actually feels a little different this time around and can target several enemies at once. There’s also a mid-air kick which is the only way to defeat some enemies. I like the extra level of strategy that this creates.
The only real complaint I have with the game is the fact that Sonic’s turning is extremely slow. When he changes direction he seems to lose most, if not all, of his momentum. This actually cost me a couple of lives right at the beginning of the level. I hope that this clunky steering is addressed before the final release; from watching other people playing the game whilst I was waiting to have a go, it looked like a few of them were having issues with the steering too. Overall, I really enjoyed the game. I think it’ll take a lot of getting used to, as it feels very different to previous 3D Sonic games, but this could be a good thing as it’ll add an extra challenge to the game and make it a little more difficult to master. I feel that overall it’s a good change of direction for the series and has a lot of potential to be something great – the gameplay flows nicely for the most part, and the new graphical style looks lovely. It’s good to see all the nods to the classic games as well. I look forward to playing the final release!”
“Wii U: The simplified, classic-style visuals look absolutely lovely and allow the game to run very smoothly indeed. As for the game itself, the new handling model takes a little bit of getting used to – particularly having to hold the R trigger to accelerate to top speed. However, it does allow for a (completely, totally, not-inspired-by-anything-else-no-sir) new style of level design for Sonic’s 3D outings, as it’s clear that Sonic Team has recognised some of the limitations of the Unleashed – Generations forward view template. If the quality and variety holds, this could be worth your time.
3DS: I played the 3DS version first, and was surprised at how closely it matched the features of the Wii U version. However, I gather that it feels a bit different. The sections of each stage are a bit shorter and the visuals obviously trimmed back to fit the hardware, but I’m looking forward to seeing how this one turns out.”
“No pictures/video recording was allowed as it was the San Diego Comic Con build. I had 4 levels to choose from. Windy Hill, Desert Ruins 1 & 2, and Frozen Factory. I chose to play Frozen Factory. Once the level started up, my first initial reaction playing Sonic was that he played very differently from the previous Sonic games.
Sonic has the new “parkour” abilities which allow him to do all sorts of cool tricks on platforms (like climbing up them) and enemies (like kicking one straight through a few). The only trouble I had with the new abilities was when I was trying to run on the side of the walls which didn’t work. I like how Sonic can double jump again which is handy; the second jump being smaller. Sonic still has all the other trademark abilities apart from the boost and side-step. I noticed as I was moving Sonic around, he eventually did the Super Peel-Out but with hardly any increase in speed. The way to increase Sonic’s speed of course is to hold the “R” button. Otherwise, not holding the “R” button made it look like Sonic was running faster than he really was which was odd to look at. I had trouble at times steering Sonic to the left or right in order to dodge certain traps. This happened whenever Sonic was running at full speed.
The level itself was really lovely to look at. It was very colorful like you would expect in a casino like level. There were hazardous lasers darting across the floor. Some of the enemies I came across made me think on how to best destroy them. There was a mini pinball area that played like the classic games. It had faithful nods to the classic era. The level didn’t seem to branch out an awful lot though. There was coins scattered about that Sonic would collect but I wasn’t entirely how they factored in. I’m not sure how it’s a frozen factory; but I guess we’ll soon find out. Other than that, I really enjoyed it. The framerate is superb. It’s got a look to it that should please fans old and new. It’s still fast pace Sonic with new abilities and an added strategy of slowing down at times depending on certain situations. Sure some things could with some tweaking. Never the less, the game has a lot of potential. I look forward to playing the final product.”
“I was fortunate enough to play both the Wii U and 3DS versions of Lost World at the show. Whilst we were in the Wii U queue allocating out level choices, the point was raised that one of the 4 available levels was somewhat more different in style to the other 3, the ‘auto-run’ level of Desert Ruins 2. I volunteered to be the one to play it, and as such I can’t really go into any depth on what I thought the console version played like in regular levels. The auto-run level would lend itself well to a quick-step mechanic, and this threw me a little at first as I couldn’t find one on the pad, but once I just gave up hunting and used the analogue stick it didn’t matter, and I adapted to the new control scheme pretty quickly. Playing it then essentially felt like a more smooth version of the special stages in Knuckles Chaotix, and was fun. Sonic’s new lower speed applies to these style of levels as well as the other ones, with him going faster when you hold one of the triggers – I found myself holding it more often than not, and releasing to navigate a more tricky section. Bashing trails of badniks and quickly flowing to the next section of pipe while being careful not to fall off into the void feels natural enough, and the jump off the end towards the platform with the Prison Egg (and the boss) on the face platform is a neat finishing touch for the act.
It can’t be stated enough how lovely it is to play a 60fps Sonic title, and with the exception of the occasional bit of framerate drop, on Wii U it is a solid 60fps. The game is bright and colourful – I can’t really say so much about the music as we weren’t in a position to hear sound on the system very easily. I’ll definitely be picking this game up.
As for the 3DS version: I played the Windy Hill 1 act (deliberately avoiding the Tutorial stage), and after a little bit of acclimatising I was wandering around well enough. My immediate quick impression – it’s a lower frame rate than its big brother, but they’ve ported across the feel of the game quite well, it’s full 3D and not the pseudo-2.5 side-on that Generations 3DS was – and because it’s 3DS, there’s depth of field as well, which is pretty cool. I was again using the shoulder trigger a lot – I managed OK with it, but seeing how there have been complaints in the past on other games about the standard 3DS’s shoulder triggers, some may find this uncomfortable (though this is more Nintendo’s fault than Sega’s). While fairly nifty, it doesn’t feel as nice as the full-fat version does, but for a system with a handful of the processing power, you can expect that to some degree. Will I get this? Depends how different the level selection ends up being to the Wii U version – I got Generations 3DS, which had a sizeable difference.”
“Well I can’t comment on the Wii U version as I haven’t played it, but for the 3DS version. They stated that they had slowed Sonic down for this game, well in the 3DS version I can say for sure that they weren’t kidding, it’s the slowest a Sonic game has felt to me for quite some time. In terms of graphics I felt it was very bright, colourful and made great use of the 3DS’ capabilities, so when it comes to the aesthetics, it is easily one of the best looking recent portable titles that I have played, though it felt less glossy than the 3DS version of generations.
The game was simplistic platforming fun, I only played the first level but it is standard fare as far as first levels usually go, not too challenging but nice for a run around and it was definitely clear that the emphasis for this game was on exploring (given that I didn’t want to hog the console though, I didn’t spend any real time doing this). This game was apparently made due to complaints that Sonic could be hard to control when going at top speed in previous games, but I felt that on the 3DS version, this had been taken to almost to the extreme, Sonic did feel very slow, and I wasn’t entirely sure that this was a good thing, after all Sonic is about bursts of speed around roller coaster inspired landscapes and varied levels and platforms with sometimes intricate acrobatic type movement interspersed throughout. So for the lack of speed you would expect more of the latter, more challenge, more precision platform with intricate movement, but personally the level felt a bit sparse.
The homing attack is never something that has bothered me, but I know some fans don’t like it. One thing I will say is that the function of it seems to have changed a bit, I was able to use it on enemies that were dotted around in different places, rather than clustered closely together, I am also sure that I used it against an event that I wasn’t even facing, but I had angled the joystick towards it, so it is perhaps more precise. The parkour style movement implemented to stop Sonic just crashing into things when he is going full pelt – which is something fans also apparently complained about – mean that you could indeed run into walls and instead of stopping, you would run up the walls, the only thing is, it felt more like walking up the walls when I played it, unsure if I was doing something wrong, but it definitely felt a bit odd. The wall jump is back, previously featured in games such as Sonic Heroes, this is a neat addition as I liked this move. The controls felt precise for certain things, but a bit clunky for others which was odd. The spin dash didn’t always seem to work correctly. A slight nitpick from me, is that although it is nice to see the ‘super peel out’ animation from Sonic CD making a return, it is a shame that this isn’t used for his top speed, as it was originally designed to be faster than his spin dash.
Overall I felt that the game was fun as a simple colourful platforming romp, and was enjoyable. But it felt a bit too slow, at times a bit clunky and considering the reduce in speed, the level felt very sparse, so whilst there might be extra fun to be found in exploring, it doesn’t seem very busy or ‘action packed’. The wisp in the level broke the levels geometry into small cubes and spun them around like a tornado to remove them, this kinda felt like it was dumbing the level down a bit, as you could just float through it. The unit I played was muted, so I cannot comment on the sound. I walked away feeling satisfied that it was a nice game, but different to what I imagine most fans will expect, it will definitely divide opinion (which I suppose is not a new situation). The game seems like it should be more of a spin off title due to its different feel.”