From the moment of its official unveiling, Sonic Lost World was poised to drift away from certain standards of games past, making this new title one of the most anticipated games of the year. Gone was the Boost, making way for a fusion of Genesis-era gameplay and parkour-inspired controls! Although, while eyes were certainly glued to any and all information of the Wii U release, many questions arose concerning the Nintendo 3DS version that would surely follow, especially with it being the first ever 3D handheld Sonic game. With Dimps once again behind the wheel, has the Osaka-based developer crafted a solid Sonic handheld experience with its first venture into 3D territory, or has this game only met with 3 dimpmensions of sorry expectations? Does Sonic Lost World 3DS stand on its own apart from Sonic Lost World Wii U, or does it fall short of grabbing that ledge and fall straight down? Let’s dive right into the mellow and find out!
Right from the beginning, Sonic Lost World 3DS breaks certain trends set from previous Dimps-led projects, as players starting the game will be presented with the first big change: actual cutscenes! The game’s quirky story, featuring the unlikely Sonic-Eggman team-up against the Lost Hex’s native Deadly Six, is presented through full-fledged scenes rather than the static format of the past, finally shedding the use of still character models with text rolling on underneath. While the videos themselves are noticeably compressed, coming straight from the Wii U version no less, it is without a doubt a welcome exchange and a step forward from the previous Rush era.
Following the chase above the clouds comes the biggest and most obvious difference, being the transition from solitary 2D to 3D environments and gameplay. The game starts off with a tutorial stage in Windy Hill, allowing for easy familiarization of the new parkour-based gameplay, which proves to be a pure joy from start to finish. From the stage alone, the controls prove to be solid all around, taking little to getting used to running up and along the walls. Sonic is handled almost exactly as he does in the home console iteration: he’ll run only when prompted, charge up the strength in and chain his Homing Attacks, go straight down with a Bounce Attack, and return to the basics with the Spin Dash, along with the addition of kicking up paralysis-inducing wind blades towards locked-on foes when in the air. This leaves multiple options in attacking Badniks, monsters, and Zetis, so the player is required to think before acting when met with certain foes, lest they want to lose rings by relying on Homing Attacking blindly like in games past.
Visually, Lost Hex comes across as pure, radiant eye candy for the Nintendo 3DS. Its simple but effective art style harks back to the series’ early Genesis outings, be it with the returning cast of Motobugs, Buzzbombers, and Cluckers, or the bright and colourful environments of the lush Windy Hill, the nitty and gritty Desert Ruin, and the wide and expansive Silent Forest. And the soundtrack? Ohtani certainly didn’t hold anything back, with a great number of memorable songs that more than validate the purchase of the upcoming soundtrack release, be it the main theme Wonder World, the introductory and invigorating Windy Hill, the simultaneously lulling and tense trance of Tropical Coast beneath the waves, or the fun and chilly Frozen Factory. An utter delight all around! If I were you, I would get to pre-ordering Without Boundaries if you haven’t done so yet…
Surprisingly, one of the game’s strong points is the Special Stages, accessible at the end of a level should you have 50 rings in hand. Rather than the conventional half-pipe format that fans have grown accustomed to, the player will instead find Sonic floating around in an ethereal dimension where he’s poised to boost through and collect spheres for Emeralds. The stages take full advantage of the 3DS’s gyro sensing controls, and the controls themselves are pretty accurate – Sonic’s position is acutely guided by the player aiming their 3DS at certain angles, and should it be too overwhelming, a simple press of the X button can stop Sonic’s movements and lock his position, allowing you to readjust your own to make yourself more comfortable, then start off again from a different perspective. While under a time limit, the stages do not feel imposing once the controls have been nailed, and working out a proper sphere-collecting route is much more manageable than it appears. Add it all with the utterly delightful background music, which I could only describe as “Wonder World on a sugar high”, the Special Stages in Lost World are dizzyingly magical. The best part is the neat reward that comes with the 7 Chaos Emeralds, and for once, it’s not an extra final zone. Keep note though that the Special Stages will have you go up and down and all around, so you will potentially be aiming your handheld in all directions! My advice? Do not play these in public!
So, with cutting edge cutscenes, an easy breezy control scheme, vivid visuals, a solid soundtrack, and super Special Stages, all that’s left to tackle is the core gameplay itself. Unfortunately, for reasons similar to its Wii U counterpart, Sonic Lost World 3DS tends to fall flat on its face at a few points, so it is a bit of a mixed bag. This hints as early as Windy Hill, as the game easily comes across as a little too giving with extra lives: I already found myself at the 99 life limit by the time I cleared the first world, so to say I grew suspicious of the game’s overt generosity is a bit of an understatement. This could have easily been omitted had the life system been removed, as players are unlikely to find themselves beneath, say, 80. So why are the 1-Ups necessary if Game Overs are as likely as a snowball’s chance in hell?
With the enormous life count in mind, another evident problem is how cheap the level design is at the player’s expense. While this is rarely ever a problem in most 3D zones as you can properly map out possible routes, it becomes much more obvious during the 2D sections later in-game, to the point where paranoia hampers the need to reach the animal capsule at the stage’s end. Dimps has not fully parted themselves from the dreaded form of artificial difficulty known as bottomless pits, and the worst part is that the enemies and obstacles will do just about anything to throw Sonic down one. One single slip-up, demanding near perfection from the player, and Sonic loses a life.
This goes up to frustrating degrees when you’re knocked down over and over again, to the point where it will grant you that golden nigh-invincibility RC vehicle out of misplaced pity. For example, Silent Forest has one area where Sonic will have to jump from rail to rail, and there is nothing more frustrating than having those gates up ahead inadvertently close up on you, leading Sonic to fall to certain doom, then come back with forced invulnerability, what with the unwanted Item Box being too close to the checkpoint to avoid. At other times, ending up missing a jump to a higher route isn’t enough, because faceplanting into an unseen wall of spikes seemed like an appropriate punishment for your failure. Miss the high road? Lose your rings, because simply falling to a lower route isn’t enough!
That isn’t to say that the 3D layout isn’t without its flaws. At some points, Sonic will be required to slow down and solve puzzles in order to advance further into the zone. Some puzzles are fun, being short and sweet, but it gets tiring as the game goes on, either because some challenges drag on longer than they need to, or because everybot and their momnik is out for hedgehog blood (including teleporting snowman heads), or even because of both.
The Wisps, while they don’t add or take away anything from the narrative of Lost World, are fun to mess around with, but the game can get as cruel as it can be fun depending on the case. For example, there’s nothing more pleasing than reducing enemies and objects to nothing and floating around with the Indigo Asteroid, but the gratuitous design of Tropical Coast’s underwater realm becomes bothersome for the Yellow Drill where missing a single Wisp capsule spells certain death going up a torrent of water. Bashing and breaking everything down with the Grey Quake has to be put up with tilting your 3DS left and right on a narrow route over a chasm, what with this method of gyro control being a bit dodgy, and the Ivory Lightning is practical but very slippery on the ground, so proceed with caution.
At the very least, there is some additional content to mess around with outside of the main campaign. The game allows for up to 4 folks to connect to one another for online multiplayer, so friends and strangers the world over can either go fast or go wild with each other through the numerous and lovely looking environments the Lost Hex has to offer. Plus, owners of both versions of the game will more than likely find themselves transferring their RC vehicles to the hard as nails Wii U version, since there isn’t much of a necessity for them to begin with on the 3DS iteration. There’s also the reward of a Hard Mode upon clearing the game, where the long rough road becomes even rougher with Sonic being limited to a single ring.
In conclusion, although Sonic Lost World 3DS is a major and much needed step up on Dimps’ part, numerous speed bumps along the way certainly put a damper on the fun of it all. Nonetheless, it is one of the better Sonic experiences in recent years, certainly setting itself well apart from the portable Rush series, the handheld version of Sonic Generations, and the digital exclusive Sonic the Hedgehog 4, so if you are familiar with Dimps’ wares, this game is one of the best of the bunch, but it is a far cry from perfect.
Don’t forget to read up on our review of Sonic Lost World (Wii U) if you haven’t done so yet!
+ Lost Hex is all eye candy with gorgeous visuals all around!
+ Beautiful, well arranged soundtrack from start to finish!
+ Brand new (finally!) and super sweet Special Stages!
+ PARKOUR PARKOUR!!
– Putting up with frustrating, boorish level design is the pits!
– This reminds me of a puzzle…
– Good Wisp, Bad Wisp!
– Forgettable RC vehicles best left in the toy box.
Second Opinion – Doctor MK
Sonic Lost World on the 3DS takes after its HD big brother in a lot of ways. As with the Wii U version, it’s an ambitious title – especially considering this is the first 3D Sonic game on a handheld – with a great soundtrack, impressive visuals, and plenty of things to do to keep you occupied. Though the premise and level themes are the same whichever console you’re playing on, the 3DS version deserves to be commended for giving its own spin on some of the same ideas rather than simply being a watered-down port, and there are even a few occasions where Lost World 3DS is actually the more inventive of the two.
However, just like the Wii U version, for every right there’s a wrong. Sonic himself controls rather more loosely here than he does on Wii U, and level design in a number of stages feels poorly thought out. There’s also a much greater focus on using the Wisps, and though for the most part their execution is solid, they’re integrated far too much, often in puzzle-based stages that quickly become an absolute chore. It’s a far cry from the speedy platforming Sonic is known for, particularly as many levels drag on longer than they need to anyway.
All in all, Sonic Lost World 3DS has a lot more effort put into it than Dimps’ other recent offerings, but it’s also littered with problems that suck most of the fun out of the experience. It’s not quite a disaster, but it’s nowhere near being the definitive handheld Sonic title that we were all hoping for. A missed opportunity.