Sonic has had quite the tumultuous past. The magic of the first three games on the SEGA Genesis, as well as the first Sonic Adventure, albeit to a lesser degree, holds a special place in many gamers' hearts. There have been countless attempts to recapture this magic, with very few even coming close, yet that hasn't stopped SEGA or Nintendo from trying. I was a little apprehensive going into Sonic: Lost World, but left ultimately impressed, even if there are still kinks to be worked out.
Right off the bat, a Super Mario Galaxy feel is very apparent, as levels are designed to be either spheres or cylinders, with some 2D side-scrolling levels thrown in to spice up the action. While most levels make use of the entire structure, some levels leave the choice up to the player, where you can either beast through the levels in a linear fashion, or explore a bit more to find some of the collectables, like five red ringed stars or casino coins that can be used in a pinball minigame.
Each level is filled with new and classic obstacles to avoid, like the pinball bumpers that not only bounce you around, but send you shooting off to new sections, or the lasers that need to be outrun before you get trapped and have to gingerly walk around. The objective for each level is still to collect rings and save Sonic's animal friends, but there's much more to do throughout each stage. It's somewhat polarizing, as going through each level at high speeds feels natural, yet finding all of the collectables that unlock certain things will require you to take your time and search each level.
The gameplay mixes both traditional 2D Sonic mechanics with 3D ones, as well as adding some new features. Running, jumping, and spinning at fast speeds is still the name of the game, but now Sonic can also perform homing and kicking attacks to deal with enemies. If you double tap the attack button, you'll home in on the nearest target, allowing you to chain a bunch of spin jump attacks on surrounding enemies, though it gets a bit finicky when going after more than three. The kick attack allows Sonic to hit enemies into others, allowing him to easily take out ones that have shields to protect them from normal attacks. It's a nice little addition to Sonic's repertoire, which allows you to keep moving fluidly throughout the stage without getting hung up on defensive enemies.
Some levels let you collect casino tokens, and if you have enough you'll be able to play the pinball minigame to gather more rings and collectables. It's a rather simple version of pinball with no real surprises or challenges, and simple button mashing will suffice. Eventually, these collectables will unlock supporting characters that can be played cooperatively, and the 3DS version of the game will unlock even more.
While most of the gameplay is tight and focused, there are times when momentum takes over and it feels as though no one is in control. It's not too often, but it happens enough to be noticeable, and could benefit with some more refinement.
Sonic: Lost World keeps to the same polished visual style of the most recent Sonic games, and it looks fantastic on the Wii U. Colors vibrantly pop from the screen and fly by as Sonic speeds on through. Lighting helps in creating a good sense of speed with well designed blurring effects. Sonic and his enemies are animated crisply and move fluidly, holding the same cartoon/anime style that the series is known for.
Sonic fans should rejoice; Sonic: Lost World takes some major steps in the right direction, featuring mostly tight gameplay and some great new additions. However, like all recent Sonic games, it's not without its faults, and those not completely dedicated to the series should be wary. Look for Sonic: Lost World in a couple weeks on October 29th.