Speed Freak: Hands on With Sonic: Lost World

There is a popular theory among long time sonic fans which posits that all modern sonic games are in some way cursed to be a bitter disappointment after initially appearing to be awesome. This is known as the Sonic Cycle.

As a long time sonic fan, I personally think this theory no longer applies and that the cycle was broken with 2010s Wii exclusive – Sonic Colours and then ground into the dust by 2011’s Sonic Generations, although I will concede that a fairly large dose of nostalgia was mostly responsible, as far as Generations is concerned.

28409SkyRoad_Zone1_130830_08Sonic Lost Worlds may be the game that finally destroys the Sonic cycle for good. In my mind it has several things going for it. firstly it’s a semi sequel to Sonic Colours which is, without a doubt, the best of the modern sonic games. If you haven’t played it I suggest tracking down a copy, its available in all the usual places and is fairly cheap to boot. Secondly Nintendo are publishing it and have helped with the development. Sure some people might have some misgiving s about Nintendo’s own output at times but their track record working in collaboration with other on 2nd party exclusives speaks for itself and they know the platforming genre better than any other developer on the planet.

At Eurogamer I got to have a go on the game’s opening stage, another redux of the classic Green Hill stage, now called Windy Hill – which looked brilliant, marrying modern sensibilities with a classic era aesthetic. It was like Green Hill had been thrown into the sky and ripped apart. The familiar brown checks, the lush green grass and blue sky, it was a nice Easter egg if not a statement of intent. Sonic has literally torn up his roots

It’s impossible to deny that Sonic: Lost Worlds is a departure for the series, but not in the way that you would expect.

The level design of Lost Worlds, at least on the surface, appears to be very different from previous 3D entries in the series, Inspired by Mario Galaxy and Sega’s canned Saturn game Sonic Xtreme (yes I’m aware that the devs have denied this, but come on look at it), But looks can be deceiving as I avoided spikes and ran through the usual loops and jumped from bumper to bumper to access each new part of the stage, i realised that the levels were in fact very similar in design to those found during the original 2D games, multi levelled and filled with numerous paths to the exit, that all were subtly interwoven into each other in such a way that you don’t really notice it until you watch someone else play it and they take a completely different route.

GP1Sonic also sees the return of the sprite power ups from Sonic Colours, which now work in conjunction with actions performed on the Gamepad. Within the demo the blue sprite was available which enabled you to do a  very fast roll attack by first aiming Sonic, by drawing a line across the screen and then holding your finger on sonic and flicking your finger across the gamepad screen, like flicking a pinball I guess. In theory this sounds kind of cool, in practice it was awkward and seemed to do more harm than good as I went hurtling through an enemy and then into a waterfall instead of spinning off into the sunset. But to be honest, I probably jusr cocked it up.

Thought the biggest change in Sonic Lost World is how Sonic handles and accelerates.  Sonic’s speed is now toggled via a run button. Hold down ZR and Sonic will begin to sprint and gather momentum like he usually does. However if you don’t he’ll simply jog around the level and a much slower pace. This providesd a much greater level of control when i needed it during for the levels trickier platforming sections but even at high speeds Sonice felt more grounded and a lot more manoeuvrable than in previous 3d entries which have had a horrible habit of making him feel floaty and unresponsive at times.

In short it looks like SEGA, with a little help from their oldest rival, may have finally figured out how to make a modern sonic which retains the feel and sensibilities of the 2D era.

Maybe i’m still stuck at the euthoria stage of the sonic cycle, but that usually ends once i’ve picked up the pad, two weeks later and i’m still on a high.