PAX AUS 2013 was a major opportunity for various international game developers and publishers to show off their latest titles to the Australian public. As a die-hard fan of a certain blue perpetually moving rodent, I was quite excited at the prospect of getting to play test Sonic Lost World months ahead of its release for the WiiU and 3DS. Since SEGA was not in attendance at the event themselves, Sonic Lost World was part of an extensive demo line-up at the Nintendo exhibit, alongside franchises like Zelda, Mario and Pikmin. 20 years ago, who’d have thought that Sonic the Hedgehog would be premiering his new game at a Nintendo booth?
Only the 3DS version was available on the showroom floor, as the WiiUs were each occupied with copies of either Pikmin 3 or Wind Waker HD. Even so, I was excited to get down and give this new little morsel a try. Taking a seat at one of the demo tables, I put away my own 3DS and picked up the demo XL console. The demo started at a title screen, offering a choice of three stages, including a tutorial stage. I recalled the news that Sonic now had access to “all new moves” so I thought it in my best interest to attempt to learn what these were before my ignorance led me to plummet off a cliff. Selecting the tutorial stage, I was dropped right into the 3D action.
My first immediate reaction was in drawing similarities between the stage structure and that of Mario Galaxy. The level layout of cylindrical and circular dimensional stages was the clincher. For those who have played a 3D “modern” Sonic game before, there were definitely a variety of familiar control features. The use of the basic jump, homing attack and stomp moves were as they were before. Interestingly though, this game sees the return of Sonic’s signature ‘Spin-Dash’ move, replacing the ‘Sonic-running-right-through-enemies’ method employed in Unleashed, Colours and Generations.
Numerous other controls have also been added to the mix, such as the ability to now string up to five homing attacks together. The most distinguishing of the new control features however, are the additions of environment scaling abilities, specifically in the form of wall running. This allowed the blue blur to run along or up vertical surfaces of each stage.
Now, while the wall running and parkour-style climbing mechanics allow the stages to be open for greater exploration, each time I had to do so, there was a distinctive break in speed and flow when it came to these sections. Part of what defines the appeal of a Sonic game is to be found in the speed and pacing. Interrupting this flow is fine for puzzle or platform sections that need a bit of consideration before movement, but in the distinct speed oriented sections, the wall run feels a little foreign. Having only a brief ten minute playtest of two stages, I did not have a large amount of time to acclimatise myself to the new control scheme. Perhaps in the final release, the pacing will feel more natural.
The visual design of the game retains the same cartoonish charm that titles like the Sonic Colours and the original Genesis titles were so well loved for. The first stage of the game undoubtedly takes its inspiration from the original Green Hill Zone. Classic enemy designs are found throughout, including the Motobug, Buzz Bombers and several minibosses shown in the form of giant Caterkillers.
Although there was no indication of any story elements thus far, the playtest was still enjoyable. And I for one am happy to see the blue blur back in action. Sonic Lost World is slated for release October 22nd this year.