Back in 1996, Mario stepped into a 3D world and changed gaming forever with Super Mario 64. Sonic the Hedgehog, on the other hand, has been limping behind ever since. For a character once defined by his rebellious spirit and unstoppable speed, this was painful to watch. But, according to what I saw of Sonic Lost World at E3, 2013 might be the year he finally catches up.
For far too long, Sonic’s developers have simply been focusing on the wrong things. See, Sonic has always been known for going fast, and that was an element that was frustratingly difficult to carry over to a 3D space. The obvious solution was to create game worlds that felt like obstacle-filled racetracks, allowing the Blue Blur to reach breakneck speeds while collecting golden rings and blasting apart robots with his spiky blue body.
But lost in translation was the exploration element of the 2D Sonic games. And for many people, it was exploration, not speed, that Sonic did best. I remember fondly the era of Sonic 2 and Sonic CD, with sprawling levels composed of several different pathways each, all interconnected and brilliantly maze-like. Both of those games were so incredibly replayable because of how many various pathways each stage contained, and it was fun to just step into those worlds and walk around to see what you could find.
Sonic Lost World is finally a return to that. It’s this crazy world that transitions between 2D and 3D segments, filled with objects that each contain their own gravity as well as their own dangers. Essentially, Lost World is Super Mario Galaxy with an extra dab of blue paint. The thing is, there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, from what I experienced of the game, this is the direction Sega should have taken 3D Sonic fifteen years ago.
The level design, while paying homage to a bygone era in aesthetics, is clever and interesting. The long, fast straightaways have been replaced with winding, twisty, danger-filled platforming segments. Yes, I said “platforming.” Remember when Sonic games were platformers, not glorified one-way racetracks? Lost World is bringing that back.
While I’m sure Sonic fans are tired of getting their hopes up by this point, I’m almost willing to say that this is finally the game to make Sonic worth paying attention to again. I just hope I won’t be sticking a gigantic red sneaker in my mouth when Sonic Lost World launches for Wii U and 3DS later this year.