A 3D Sonic Adventure in the Palm of Your Hands
With all the hype and anticipation surrounding Sonic Lost World, the Wii U version of the game tends to overshadow its handheld counterpart. To that end, I was a bit surprised to see the 3DS version of the game on the show floor as I didn’t expect it to make an appearance. After sitting down and playing through the entire demo, I walked away relatively pleased.
Right off the bat, I was impressed by the controls. Even while running at top speed, I was able to maintain my direction and sense of speed very well. I felt like I was in control of Sonic at all times, considering how much the series has struggled with this over the years. This is helped, in part, by the fact that Sonic moves a bit slower than he does in the console games, and to be quite honest, I find it to be a refreshing change from the all-out speedy style that recent handheld Sonic games adhered to. That said, the series’ famous sense of speed still remains, and the game finds a happy balance between speed and control…for the most part.
The first two levels of the demo, Windy Hill Tutorial and Act 1, were a blast. The levels are fairly straightforward, with their design more focused on a single forward path instead of the spherical experience found in the Wii U version. However, straightforward is not the same as bad, and both levels gave me plenty of opportunities to explore on my own terms. Both were fairly expansive, and multiple playthroughs will yield plenty of surprises for those who choose to dig in a little more.
The third level, a 2D stage set in Desert Ruins, is where the experience began to sour. Here, players are tasked to solve a series of puzzles based around switches, rolling balls, and enemies surrounded by fire. While playing, my intrigue quickly dissolved into frustration as the puzzles became more demanding and the level design became less clear. Although some of the puzzles are interesting, many of them suffer from a field of play that is far too big to support the setup. This resulted in some sections trapping me for well over a minute, and it really hurt the flow of the game. Additionally, Sonic’s running speed is less practical in this more constrained 2D environment, so you’ll end up either moving more slowly or running and bumping into or wall jumping off of most of the obstacles you hit. Admittedly, I did play the sections rather poorly, but that doesn’t stop the overall design of the level from awkwardly clashing with those that came before it.
Graphically, Sonic Lost World looks good, especially for a handheld game. Despite some more muted colors and less flashy effects, it reproduces its console counterpart’s unique art style very well. The animations of both Sonic and his enemies are varied and energetic as well. The framerate is rock solid for the most part, although bashing through enemies using the Yellow Drill in the Desert Ruins stage did slow things down to a crawl for several seconds. So, despite some minor flaws and a few frustrating puzzles, Sonic Lost World on 3DS is shaping up to be a respectable entry in the franchise and one of the better handheld Sonic games in recent memory.