Review: Sonic Lost World (3DS)

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Another major Sonic game has been released on a home console and with that, another portable version is put out by DIMPS. This time however, DIMPS will be dealing with Sonic in a full, 3-D world with all new controls and an emphasis on platforming instead of speed. DIMPS’ attempts in the past at making portable versions of Sonic console games have been fairly mediocre. Sonic Colors DS was flat out dull and Sonic Generations 3DS relied on its multiplayer and mission mode to be anything more than a rental. (I think I gave that game way too high a grade at the time.) This time however, DIMPS has actually been getting some praise for their port of Sonic Lost World with some claiming it to be the superior version. While I disagree with that, it really seems like DIMPS did their best to make a solid 3-D Sonic game that does in fact, improve over the Wii U version on some respects, but has some serious flaws as well. Read on to see why Sonic Lost World has some of the best highs and worst lows of any portable Sonic game.

Graphics and Sound

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Graphically, the game looks just as solid as Sonic Generations on 3DS. Sonic’s model looks great and the levels themselves look decent. There are some minor problems as there is some noticeable pop-in on the 3-D levels at times, but that’s much less annoying than the fact that DIMPS once again zooms too close to Sonic in the some of the 2-D portions of the game. This isn’t too bothersome for the most part except for levels like in Silent Forest where not only are there tons of boosters and springs shooting Sonic at high speeds when you can barely see what’s in front of him, but then the level constantly turns you upside down at times leaving you disoriented. It should also be noted that there are quite a few parts of the game that use gyro controls. Here, the game recommends turning the 3-D off unless you want a blurry picture. In fact, I tend to find ghosting pretty bad in this game unless you are holding the 3DS perfectly still, leading me to turn the 3-D off more often than not.

The sound is pretty good with music from the main game still in. However, it does seem a bit compressed and faded. It’s not noticeable unless you have headphones on and it’s really a minor nitpick. The sound effects and voice clips of Sonic come in crystal clear. In fact, there’s more in-game voice samples of Sonic than the Wii U version thanks to having the end game grading system still intact from previous Sonic titles and Sonic commenting on his grade. This is missing from the WiiU version which only grades you for time attacks but not during normal play. It should also be noted that while the cutscenes are in 3-D, they are played slightly cropped and at a very low resolution making them look like a youtube video off an old cell phone. Going 2-D uncrops the picture, but it’s even more fuzzy. But hey, at least we get cutscenes this time around. I was getting sick of static pictures with text.

Gameplay

"Fear my cotton candy eyebrows!"
“Fear my cotton candy eyebrows!”

At its best, Sonic Lost World on 3DS can not only compete with its big brother, but has some improvements as well.

Here’s where the best and worst parts of the game come in. At its best, Sonic Lost World on 3DS can not only compete with its big brother, but has some improvements as well. The controls actually feel a bit tighter on the 3DS version. This is partially due to the parkour system being a bit more scripted, but in a good way. It’s easy to keep momentum on a wall and DIMPS makes good use of the parkour system as it implements it in almost every level.  Also, the button placement is much simpler. R is still for run, but L is only used for putting the camera in back of Sonic and only two face buttons are used. Buttons A and B are used for jumping/homing attack while buttons Y and X are used for spindash/bounce/stun attack (when enemies are near). That may sound like a lot of commands for only two face buttons, but there is a tutorial level to help you better understand the controls.

That’s one of the other things this game does better. On the 3DS version, there will be areas where they need to teach you a new trick, usually due to new Wisp controls. There’s always a “?” to run by if you need an explanation. On the WiiU, that “?” is  not on the level itself, but on the top of the screen and you need to stop what you’re doing and touch it on the Gamepad to find out what it is. More often than not, you’ll just pass that right up.  Also, the Wisps tend to be implemented much better on the 3DS. Like Colors, they are usually part of the level design and some are unlocked in later levels that you can use in earlier levels if you want to find some red rings. On the WiiU, they tend to feel more like an afterthought and are rarely needed or used.

The 3DS version also feels more like a traditional Sonic game in some respects. As I said before, you are graded at the end of every level with Sonic reacting to his grade. Also, 100 rings DOES give you an extra life. Why they took that out of the WiiU version I’ll never know. One more thing.  In both versions, dying too often will grant you a helpful item. In the Wii U version, it’s a kind of “P-Wing”  that takes you to the next checkpoint. In the 3DS version you get one of Tails’ items that will either let you fly through the level or give you some extra help in fighting Badniks.

That’s enough praise for now. While there’s are quite a few levels that emulate the console version fairly well and are very fun, it’s when DIMPS tries to be more original that the game falters. I was really enjoying the game at the start. All of Windy Valley was done really well and Desert Ruins Zone 1 was fun, but then we got Desert Ruins Zone 2: a 2-D level that has you constantly having to open new gates by way of either defeating certain enemies or solving a puzzle by stunning a boulder on a switch. This was in the E3 demo and I wasn’t impressed then either. It feels more like a chore than fun. It kills the flow of going from point A to point B if I have to go to point C,D,E, and F by doing some task to release a gate. It’s just not fun. Then there’s Desert Ruins Zone 3. You’re high in the air sliding around looking for the one gate that won’t take you back to the beginning of the level. How is that supposed to be fun?

Say "hello" to the most annoying enemy in the game if not the whole Sonic series.
Say “hello” to the most annoying enemy in the game if not the whole Sonic series.

It kills the flow of going from point A to point B if I have to go to point C,D,E, and F by doing some task to release a gate. It’s just not fun.

But by far the absolute worst level has become one of my most hated Sonic Levels since Sonic ’06: Frozen Factory Zone 3. Damn that level!! It requires you to open gates by going to certain areas and rolling a giant snowball until it is big enough to place in this hole. Then a gate will open up. One problem. Halfway through the level a sentient snowball with girl-like eyes starts following you around and either freezes you or takes your snowball that you were rolling to grow bigger. You can stun it and turn it to mush, but it will come back seconds later. It’s an absolute nightmare and the worst part of the game. By this time, I was considering giving the game a C-. Thankfully, the levels afterward improved greatly in comparison.  I will say I’m disappointed in the Lava Mountain world as it’s just boss fights where the WiiU version gives you full levels with a boss fight at the end.

One other major flaw in the design of the game is the use of gyro controls. This means full on tilt control and having to turn your 3-D off so you don’t make yourself blind. The worst of these come from the special stages themselves. Here, you are Sonic flying through space and collecting enough orbs to nab a chaos emerald. Sounds okay right? Problem is, you are using the gyro controls and the only way to steer him is by either using a swivel chair or by standing up and pointing your 3DS around the room. This is made worse if you are playing while sitting in a car or playing in public. I’ll just skip playing as Super Sonic this time thanks. The gyro controls are not only in the bonus stages, but there’s also a boulder-like Quake Wisp that rolls forward while you tilt left and right. This would be okay if you could tilt the boulder in all directions ALA Super Monkey Ball, but since it’s constantly moving forward, it’s hard get around well. The one level where gyro controls actually function in a fun and original way is in Silent Forest Zone 3. Here, Sonic rides a rocket and you merely tilt the 3DS left and right, dodging enemies and obstacles. It’s the most original level in the whole game and rather fun too.

One thing I neither loved nor hated was Tails’ workshop. Just like in Sonic Rush Adventure, playing through levels and online earns you material that you can use to make items. You can either use the items in the main game or send them to the WiiU so others can use them in co-op mode. While they may come in handy, you rarely ever need them.  It’s just something you can do on the side if you wish. It neither hurts the game nor makes it much better. I’m really indifferent to it.

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I don’t want to sound like I’m harping on the game too much. While about a third of the levels range from mediocre to flat out bad, the other levels fare much better and are more fun and better designed than any of the levels in Sonic Generations. This is especially true of the majority of the 3-D levels that require some skilled platforming.  Also, unlike Generations, you won’t be done with the main game in under two hours. There’s a five to six hour campaign here and that’s not including online multiplayer, streetpass missions and “Hard mode”, a new mode that unlocks after beating the game.  Here, enemy and obstacle placement is more frequent and challenging and Sonic only gets one ring per life with no rings anywhere else. Before you think it’s too challenging, there’s also a very generous amount of extra lives strewn everywhere in each level. This means while the levels are tough, you’ll get through them. I love a good challenge that doesn’t make me pull my hair out. Unlocking this mode helped up my grade a fair amount.

Overall

Sonic Lost World 3DS sent me through a range of emotions on it; from loving it, to lukewarm, to absolutely hating it, to lukewarm and back to loving it again. While it features one of the worst Sonic levels I’ve played in a long time, the good does outweigh the bad and this is DIMPS’ best effort since Sonic Rush Adventure and while I feel the WiiU version is still the better game, there are some design decisions here that outshine it. Plus, with Hard Mode, multiplayer and streetpass features, there’s plenty to keep you coming back for more. I can’t wait to see DIMPS improve upon this formula next time.

Positives

– Responsive controls

– Decent use of Wisps

– A stronger focus on parkour

–  Generous on lives

– “Hard” mode adds life to the game

– Online mutiplayer and streetpass missions

– Levels are fun and well done more often than not

– Actual cutscenes instead of just pictures and text

Negatives

– When levels are designed bad, they’re REALLY bad!

– Cutscene video is very low res

– Gyro controls ruin the special stages and are lousy for Wisps

– Too much of doing stupid tasks to unlock gates

– Frozen Factory zone 3 is one of the WORST Sonic levels I’ve played in a long time

C+

 

IMPORTANT NOTE: While I did give Sonic Generations 3DS a B- back in the day, I’m more strict now than I was back then and that game really deserved a C or C minus. While Sonic Lost World has some really low lows, it’s a much better game than Generations overall.

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3 responses to “Review: Sonic Lost World (3DS)

  1. Christ, I cannot express my disdain for Frozen Factory Zone 3 any better than you did without devolving into PG-unfriendly territory.

  2. SOUP says:

    I’m enjoying parts of the game, but along with some of the later levels being downright painful, it has to have the worst special stages of any Sonic game.

  3. Lee Hao Ming says:

    Well, I will give it A-.

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