Review: Sonic Lost World (Wii U)

Sonic has had a rather turbulent time over the past ten years. Ever since the original Sega Megadrive games it seems as if Sonic Team has never quite been able to recapture the essence of what made those games such classics in the first place. The Sonic Adventure games heralded the blue blurs 'proper' entry into the realm of 3D but brought with it a whole host of problems which have plauged each game since, until the past few years when Sonic Colours was released. This title started to take the series in a bold new direction. For their mascot's 20th anniversary, Sega released Sonic Generations which we only got in portable form. It was a game that represented Sonic through the ages while carrying over some of the new mechanics from 'Colours', but it ended up suffering from overuse of retro elements to the point that it relied upon past glories far too much. Moving things forward though, and 2013 not only heralds the arrival of Sonic Lost World exclusively for Nintendo platforms, but it represents the future of the series which is now looking fantastically bright.

The story opens with Sonic stood on the wings of the Tornado 2 plane - with Tails piloting of course - as the pair chase down Robotnik/Eggman (delete depending on preference) through the skies as he has stolen an animal capsule that he drops in an attempt to trick Sonic, the plane gets blasted and on their descent the duo discover the 'Lost Hex' which is a world made up of a hexagonal structure, shrouded in the clouds. So with the plane in a critical state, Tails decides to land on the Hex near to where it appears the capsule has dropped. Sonic goes off in search of the capsule that is holding his animal friends captive, but it's not until later on that you discover the Deadly Six and why exactly they appear to be mysteriously in-league with Sonic & Tails' sworn nemesis.

Sonic Lost WorldRight into the first zone of Windy Hill - acts are now zones apparently - you will notice that the surrounding area looks suitably familiar but with a new look to it, running along it then dawns on you that the level is a tubular design that you can not only run across but around to the other side. Running at full speed you discover the parkour system as Sonic effortlessly runs up the side of a palm tree climbing right to the top; at this moment you wonder what else this extends to and you soon run up to a wall and discover that you can run up/along it with ease plus at speed! This is the moment that you realise that Sonic has changed forever but for the better, managing to maintain a substantial sense of speed while keeping a beautiful balance on the actual platforming itself. As you zoom your way through the opening stage, managing to lock on to multiple enemies with ease, you start to think that this is too good to be true as you wait for that moment where Sonic inexplicably fall off an edge. Then it happens. You lose your bearings in the amazement ever so slightly, and the blue blur slips near the edge, tumbling over into the abyss below... but wait, what's that? Sonic the Hedgehog is still hanging onto the edge! It's at this moment where, as a Sonic fan, I realised that this is a landmark moment for the series as around ninety percent of all accidental deaths have now been averted by one simple addition, I smile to myself, shedding a solitary tear of joy as I complete the stage without one single mishap.

Structurally, every first stage in each zone tends to be 3D with the second stage being 2D, usually containing a sub-boss. Regardless, the controls remain the same and thankfully they have a new streamlined feel to them as you control your direction with the left stick, jumping plus your homing attack are assigned to 'A' with the additional 'kick' attack on the 'X' button. Pressing 'Y' will send Sonic downward after a jump that can be useful for certain platforms, but for the most part you will be holding the right-trigger which makes you run in your chosen direction while your faithful spin-dash is on the left-trigger. For the third stage it can be a 3D/2D hybrid or an on-rails stage which are finally actually enjoyable thanks to the ability to change rails easily without falling off rather needlessly. The final zone in each area contains the main boss battle. These are evenly split between dimensions and will challenge you in various ways, such as chasing after one of the Deadly Six through a short section before facing off against them, or chasing them around a sphere whilst avoiding an onslaught of attacks. Generally they are decent battles that take a little bit of skill to win, but not enough as to feel frustrating; instead they are prime examples of fast, furious fun just like they used to be in the older games.

SLW 0430 1windy1 10Personally when it came to the character designs of the Deadly Six enemies I wasn't particularly 'sold' on their inclusion in this latest Sonic adventure, but the more I actually played the game, the more they seemed to actually be a good fit for the title. They make a lot more sense in the context of the story, adding a refreshing spin on things, though I'll openly admit that some of their dialogue is a tad cringe-worthy in-between the moments of genuine brilliance. It seems that the majority of the self-referential humour made prominent in Sonic Colours has made it across, including plenty of one-liners that will cause a few chuckles. Indeed, despite there being lots of newer elements present there is actually a lot of fan-service within the game which will no doubt please long-term players like myself who have been behind Sonic since his very first outing. I don't wish to risk spoiling too much, but there are plenty of throwbacks to the origins of the series in the story while still managing to remain completely relevant. Without being too analytical but remaining slightly cryptic, you will find elements both old, new, borrowed and of course blue within the game that should please everyone.

I feel that at this point it's important to reassure people that Sonic is the only character that you will be controlling during the course of the game, Knuckles plus Amy make brief appearances as they communicate with Sonic - via a mysteriously gamepad-like device - at key points in the story but that's it, there are no nasty surprises or transformations... at least not into a were-hog at any rate so you can rest easy there. There are however 'wisp' power-ups which have made a welcome return from 'Colors' including returning favourites such as the 'Laser' which allows you to bounce off crystals at high-speed, 'Drill' allows you to burrow through select sections of a level using the touch-screen, plus new powers including the 'Eagle' taking you to new heights as you ascend/descend through the sky by tilting the GamePad plus others which I won't spoil for you but rest assured that they all work perfectly well only ever complementing the gameplay.

Sonic Lost WorldFor the most part, if you are playing on the TV screen then the GamePad will merely display something relevant such as on the map where it shows the world with all the names of areas you have unlocked. You can spin it around and then touch to select any area or zone that you feel like playing, which is handy as it cuts down on the travel time spent on the map. When you are playing a zone you will have a progress bar showing roughly how far you are from the finish, plus all the usual information such as lives/rings/time etc which only appear momentarily on the TV screen when applicable so you get to appreciate more of the game world around you. When playing exclusively on the GamePad everything still looks rather nice on the smaller screen, though at times Sonic may appear a little on the small side for some due to the placement of the camera on certain stages. The fixed viewpoints are perfect, it's just the size of things when on the pad that most people will have no issues with it at all and it's a completely viable way of playing the game, especially if you literally just want to have a quick blast through a couple of zones. Personally I ended missing the extra detail provided on the TV screen at 1080p but it's all down to preference. Rest assured that whichever way you decide to play, the experience is still one that is extremely enjoyable.

On the map screen everything is made up of hexagons that you can move between at any time, with each zone taking up one space while other things taking up random spaces on the map, such as Omochao, who will give you missions at certain points that includes such tasks as collecting a certain amount of rings or defeating enemies in a certain way. Completing these will net you an item that you can use to help you through a tough stage - these include bubble shields from previous games - or even an R.C. vehicle that can be piloted by a second player to aid Sonic in a co-op mode of sorts in a similar style to the Super Mario Galaxy games. Incidentally, there seems to be a fair amount of inspiration taken from those titles in creating Sonic Lost World but the stages are still unmistakeably Sega in style. It's good to see that drawing upon other examples of the platforming genre has done nothing but elevate Sonic to being something very special indeed, putting the series well and truly back on track so for this reason I really hope that the same template used here carries over to future titles as it definitely seems to be the logical way moving forward.

You can be running along the familiar-looking backdrop of the opening zones one minute, jumping between biscuits/grinding along strawberry and orange laces the next in the brilliant named 'Dessert Ruins' - amusingly adding in an extra 'S' to the desert stage name - and even running away from giant sentient pieces of fruit as you lead them into blenders with the resulting flow of juice acting as a route forward to the next planetoid area. Other times, when playing in the second dimension there are many brilliant moments of nostalgia that will come flooding back to you all the while still being part of something new, like the stage where part of it are just made up of shadow showing you only Sonic's red shoes when he is running along - DCKR style - but then you grab onto the hanging switch, the light comes on to reveal a pyramid interior that is reminiscent of an iconic stage from Sonic & Knuckles. There are plenty of stand-out moments, naturally of course I don't want to spoil large portions of the game but those are but a few parts that really stood out to me but lots more await for you to discover yourself, including many multiple routes that you will need to master if you wish to collect all of the Red Star Rings to gain access to a particularly amazing unlockable extra that will be essential to all long-term Sonic fans.

SLW 0430 1windy1 07

Interestingly collecting one hundred rings no longer results in an extra life but instead there's a healthy amount of lives that are obtainable either within the levels or via various circus mini-games that appear on the map once you get all star coins in one particular stage - this isn't the ultimate unlockable just something extra. These seem to be the equivalent of 'Toad houses' in the Mario titles as you get to play them once after which they disappear, but they are worth playing as the cannon-based mini-games allow you a chance to gain more rings, animals and lives, which is useful if you're a few animals away from the next stage or require a few extra 'Sonic's' to get you a bit further.

In the background of those circus-themed diversions you may even notice a few nice nods to past games. The rides are badnik themed, including such delights as a Balkiry carousel, Motobug merry-go round and even a Caterkiller roller-coaster, it's just a shame that you don't get the chance to ride them, but still, it's just an example of the attention to detail put into this title. There are plenty of older badniks within the stages themselves, including all the aforementioned ones plus BuzzBomber, Chopper, Crabmeat, Cluckoid, Madmole, Newtron, Snail Blaster and many more besides, which are set along the newer ones that are also of excellent design. I will leave you to discover the rest, though you will have an interesting time trying to take some of them out as there will be a surprise for some if you think that you can just simply jump on the domes of all of them.

Before you select a Zone you actually have several options available to you, the first you'll probably go to - after beating the stage - is Time Attack which offers more than a stern challenge even for Sonic veterans. I'm still trying to get all the best times on it as in this mode you get graded from 'E' all the way up to 'S', and let me tell you that the highest ranked times are some of the hardest I've ever tried to beat in a Sonic game. You can rest assure that there will be no one beating the first stage in less than thirty seconds this time around. You can also check your ranking, post to Miiverse and change the various settings relating to these items but because I received the review code for this quite early on, there was no opportunity to test this but all advertised features, including the 'Wisping away' of items, will work on release day which is a nice extra for what it is. It seems that you can also exchange items between the Wii U and 3DS versions, which might make some players inclined to buy both. Also the NiGHTS dlc obviously isn't available yet, but from what I can see it will most likely appear as an 'extra' Zone on the map so as such I would not expect it to contain Red Star Coins but it does look a lot of fun so I hope people who pre-order will enjoy the stage as it looks like a must for Sega fans.

Sonic Lost WorldMultiplayer seems to be broken down into three distinctly different selections; 'Beginner Race' containing five of the simpler acts with a range of 2D/3D stages that represent different areas of the main game, 'Expert Race' has a bundle of races that are a little bit more challenging but are just a much fun to play and finally 'Ring Race' which appears to be mainly 2D levels in which each player has to try to gain the most rings before time runs out using all of the mysterious - sometimes seemingly unfair - power-ups to their advantage. Each stage is loosely based on ones from the story so you'll need to unlock them first. All of the modes are fantastic fun, but best of all because it's a 2P mode there is no need to split the screen as player one has the GamePad while player two takes the TV screen, which works rather well unless you forget which screen you're playing on like I did. The characters you play as are different coloured Sonic 'robots' - the same ones from the 'Colours' special stage - which is all well and good but I must admit that I would have liked the option to have had normal Sonic & Tails just for this mode as it would have nicely echoed the two-player modes from the Megadrive games. Perhaps things like this could arrive in the form of DLC though or perhaps a potential sequel.

The game simply must be praised for its gorgeous vibrant visuals as everything from the familiar green chequered ground of the opening stage, to the sprawling Desert with its loosely defined Arabian/Egyptian fusion theme, even through to Tropical coasts complete with brief but brilliant underwater sections including a brilliant on-rails level, all have a unique style that lies somewhere between the Sonic Team of old while edging more towards the new, with inspiration taken from elsewhere but only where it fits. Sonic himself looks amazing, as do the badniks, and all characters have a decent amount of animation to them far beyond what has been achieved in the past. Audio is at the highest point it has probably ever been in the history of the series, loosely drawing on the melodies of the past, combined with the pace of more recent outings then fused with a full orchestra all to make a soundtrack which feels suitably epic but never ever overdone. Right from the masterful title screen track down, through the game and to the end not only does each area have its distinct mood set by the music, but every level is actually significantly different, but always befitting. Glacial tones emanate from snow-based stages, the underwater on-rails sections have a relaxing but very Panzer Dragoon-like quality to them while still remaining true to the game with every sound effect making sense while carrying weight. In short, the game's score is a masterpiece that sounds amazing on any setup but is simply stunning if you can take advantage of that sweet uncompressed linear PCM from a surround setup.

Sonic Lost World is quite simply the best game in the long-running series that I have played since the original Megadrive games. It has everything that you could ever want from Sonic and much more besides, which manages to elevate it to something spectacular that represents a significant step forward for the entire platforming genre. While the previous Sonic Colours put the blue blur in the right direction, this latest entry is the perfect culmination of gameplay ideals combined with a brand new control/exploration system that works far better than anyone could have expected. With this game the Sonic Cycle hasn't just been smashed, but rather it has been obliterated hopefully never to return. If this spectacular game is used as the modern-day template for the Sonic games of the future, then I have complete faith that everyone's favourite hedgehog will be spin-dashing, wall-running and collecting rings for a long time to come. I only have one small criticism that I would love to see addressed in any future sequel... needs more alliteration! But aside from that Sonic Team and Sega have done their fan-base proud. #tobethisgoodtakesages!

Make sure you check out our review of the simulatenously released Sonic Lost Worlds on 3DS and see if the game's little brother matches up.

N-Europe Final Verdict

Not only is this one of the finest Sonic games in existence but it's also the best platforming game that I have had the pleasure of playing on the Wii U and in recent years. Sonic Lost World is an absolutely essential purchase.

  • Gameplay4
  • Playability5
  • Visuals5
  • Audio5
  • Lifespan4
Final Score



Well-balanced gameplay mechanics
Stunningly good art direction
An amazing aural experience
Brilliant humour


Some utterly cringe-worthy dialogue
The Deadly Six could have been deadlier

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