There’s no denying that Sonic has seen better days. Pulled between pillar and post across every modern format there is, SEGA have relied on an ardent fanbase to adopt an increasingly weak formula. Far too many of the titles wearing the Sonic The Hedgehog brand name have featured good ideas buried in tiresomely repetitive ‘modern’ designs, but with Sonic: Lost World SEGA is hoping to wipe the slate clean and start a fresh: a new Sonic for a new generation.
Sonic: Lost World will only be available for Wii U and Nintendo 3DS: two consoles that are yet to see an original Sonic The Hedgehog videogame. And of course, as these two consoles break the mould of the traditional control pad set-up it’s only fitting that Sonic: Lost World presents a different gameplay experience. In fact, Sonic: Lost World is the most abstract Sonic The Hedgehog videogame ever.
Sonic The Hedgehog has always followed Super Mario, through two dimensions and three, and now into a world where gameplay prevails over visual consistency. Sonic: Lost World recreates the infamous Green Hill Zone (and many other familiar locations, though these were not available to play in the preview build provided to Electronic Theatre) as a series of tubes and conveyor belts, stairs and spring boards, all entirely disconnected from one another. The player must find a path between them while maintaining speed.
And speed is something that this design allows Sonic The Hedgehog to bring back in spades. At times the adrenaline rush gameplay feels closer to a racing videogame than a platform one, equally as comparable to F-Zero as it is to Super Mario Galaxy. This is both a blessing and a curse, as while it feels unique it also strikes a poor balance when facing enemies or difficult jumps. Players only angle Sonic rather than actually turn (turns in the landscape are handled automatically) and then takes advantage of the now established lock-and-attack system that the Sonic The Hedgehog videogames have fallen back upon for the last half-decade.
Therein lies Sonic: Lost World’s biggest problem: while it tries to do something new it relies on established mechanics that, in reality, have very little worth in this new template. Hopes remain high that SEGA will present something worthwhile on Wii U and Nintendo 3DS, but it’s unlikely to be anything truly groundbreaking simply due to a lack of confidence in new design.