What is it with Sonic games on Nintendo consoles and levels constructed entirely out of sweets? Sonic Colors had Sweet Mountain, and Sonic Lost World has Desert Ruins — that is “desert” with one “s,” as in the hot and sandy place. This normally wouldn’t bother me, but I’ve been eating pancakes for dinner the past few nights. So when I saw that short stack sitting in the background, I nearly threw up.
Anyway, I had a chance to play the Wii U and 3DS builds of Sonic Lost World, and both share a lot of similarities. And as you know, the latter is the first portable Sonic game to feature full 3D gameplay, although there will be plenty of levels that utilize the 2D perspective.
There are a lot of mechanical changes beneath the surface, resulting in a different play experience compared to previous Sonics. The jury is still out on whether it’s necessarily a better experience, but it’s definitely not the same game as before.
The Wii U demo featured three levels: one from Windy Hill and two from Desert Ruin, all which offer unique platforming styles.
Windy Hill is the typical intro level, and it’s the one that will most remind you of Super Mario Galaxy. Sonic runs along the surface of planetoids, battling many Badniks from his Genesis years.
By tilting the stick, Sonic runs along at a gentle pace, but by holding the right trigger, he busts out into a full-blown sprint. This is to give players a little more leeway when it comes to precision platforming. Additionally, analog movement is a lot less sensitive, so Sonic runs in much straighter lines without drifting much to either side.
It’s very subtle, but Sonic seems to have a light magnetic pull now, so rings within a very short distance from him will automatically be absorbed. This reduces some of the headache I’ve had before of trying to collect rings in a row but missing a few and having to double back.
The homing attack of course returns, but now when enemies are in close proximity, Sonic will automatically hop on each one in succession without needing to tap the button. This doesn’t always work as intended, and you may still need to push the button to complete the chain.
Because the surfaces are cylindrical, there are at least two paths you can take, easily inviting replays. On the downside, Windy Hill is without a doubt the most disorienting level in the entire series. It takes some getting used to the constant turning of the world.
The first Desert Ruins level was the aforementioned junk food land, and this area plays out in 2D. You run along licorice roads and bounce of truffle chocolates. Along the way, you’ll find the cannons from Sonic 2‘s Oil Ocean Zone, which will launch you to the next segment of the level or even secret areas.
The second Desert Ruins levels dumps the junk food theme and has Sonic running automatically down a bunch of honeycombs. Changing lanes is a lot more fluid than in the auto scrolling segments of Sonic Unleashed and Colors, and Sonic will also enter tunnels and be able to run upside down should you desire.
The Wii U game is developed by Sonic Team, while the 3DS version is being handled by the Sonic Rush dev Dimps once again. But this time, Dimps has crafted an experience almost identical to the console one. It features its own unique levels, but it’s quite comparable to its big brother.
Sonic has access to the Wisp powers from Colors once more, and the 3DS game has a separate set from the Wii U game. The Wii U demo had the laser power-up, whereas the 3DS demo showcased the drill and a weird UFO thing. The latter turns Sonic into a flying saucer with limited hovering ability, and anything he runs into — walls, enemies, whatever — gets broken down into cubes and forms a protective barrier that continues to grow.
The portable version of Desert Ruin was actually a “desert ruin,” and it made great use of Lost World‘s parkour techniques. Many walls are too high for Sonic to jump over, but by holding down the trigger to run at full sprint, you can run straight up a wall instead of smacking into it. And then you can hop from one wall to another as long as you can maintain momentum.
Both versions of Sonic Lost World feel a little sticky, so I hope SEGA continues to tweak them through to the October release date. But there’s plenty of promise! Don’t muck up, SEGA!