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Sonic: Lost World 3DS review

FOUND: one handheld conversion that doesn't upset us

Ah, the cold fate of the handheld spin-off release. How many times have we seen jagged-edged, woozy interpretations of home console games creep onto shop shelves, ready to fool some unsuspecting, soon-to-be-wept-at parent? Players don't want them and developers don't want to make them, so why does 3DS' Lost World feel so loved?

It's an incredibly faithful recreation of the Wii U edition, retaining its abstract landscapes, changes in speed and style, even managing to slam some measure of that neon, HD sheen into your eyes. That first glance might even tell you that this is among the best-looking games on 3DS as a result and you might not be far wrong.

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The more you play it, though, the less it feels like some masterful copy shoehorned into your handheld's tiny innards. Rather, this is game design Masterchef: Dimps has picked up the same ingredients as Sonic Team, but cooked an entirely separate dish.

Those freewheeling, gravity-mangling tube levels have been fenced off into delicately curved obstacle courses built purely for speed, rather than exploration. Sonic's new parkour abilities turn side-scrolling sections into skill tests, asking you to work out how to scale those curved cliffs, rather than seeing how quickly it can be done.

Hog Boast

Even specific set pieces are repurposed. Our favourite, the fruit and blender puzzles, used to create sticky bridges across levels on Wii U, now pipe a floating level hub up a giant spout, lifted only by freshly eviscerated apple juice. The snowballs used as expanding transportation on console, meanwhile, are now elements of strategy puzzles, in which multiple floor-buttons need to be pressed by one huge snowman abdomen, or different-sized holes must be filled by carefully rolled, spherical keys.

These slightly less dynamic, though equally inventive, solutions as to how to use big ideas on minuscule hardware bring us to the truth of Dimps' work. If Lost World Wii U has drawn on Mario Galaxy, this takes its cues from 3D Land. It's in the preference for a puzzle-y core surrounded by solutions reached only through action. It's in the constant focus on Sonic's own abilities (luckily, he controls far better at top speed on 3DS). It's a very different game between consoles.

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Sadly, it also means it has different problems. Some of those new ideas don't hit the mark; underwater sections teeter on the edge of being infuriating, while the snowboarding sections are just dull. On a more technical level, the inability of the 3DS to render too much at once means the camera is in almost constant close-up during 2D levels and the console version's cutscenes are included in destructively compressed form.

Speed also causes its own particular problem: the 3D effect, while not too pronounced, was enough to make us feel genuinely ill when Sonic raced freely enough. While we're impressed at how it simulates the feeling of hurtling along at the speed of hog, a suddenly sick-strewn top screen isn't conducive to high scores.

Those differences still highlight the main point: it's unfair to call Lost World 3DS a spin-off. Dimps has made its own game, albeit within a set structure, and while it's not perfect, there's far more to this than meets the eye.

Comments

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  1. Herbert_Rarr Friday 18th Oct 2013 at 15:21

    You forgot to mention that the special stages are f****** unplayable, unless I'm missing an option somewhere to change control to the circle pad.

  2. sonicka Friday 18th Oct 2013 at 17:40

    Fair score, I would have rates higher, but that's probably my inner fanboy talking. This is such a great attempt (and by all means, a comeback) by Dimps, especially attempting a proper 3D sonic on the handheld at last, with sadly only the 2D levels letting it down for the reasons stated in the review.

    Those Special stages though, I can see why they would frustrate some... But it's one of my favourite parts of the game. It's not broken at all and a completely interactive experience if you just go with it. I was whizzing around the bedroom with a smile on my face playing them. Very intuitive and easy to grasp making it Lots o fun! XD

  3. garywood Sunday 20th Oct 2013 at 06:23

    Would quite like to try this. Given the metacritic score, I confidently predict it'll be about half the price in 3 months.

  4. imbusydoctorwho Wednesday 23rd Oct 2013 at 12:40

    I have the Wii U version,but I wouldn't mind giving this a try when the price goes down.

  5. LFOB Friday 1st Nov 2013 at 21:29

    Getting this rather than the Wii U version.

  6. lewf2001 Friday 29th Nov 2013 at 13:00

    its a good game, maybe worth 85-90%

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