Over the past few years, Sonic the Hedgehog has made the transition from classic 2D side-scrolling games to full-blown 3D adventures. Sega’s mascot started out with the solid Sonic Adventure series before eventually moving into much bigger endeavors like Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations.
The next big step, Sonic: Lost World, will be sprinting its way exclusively to the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS. Rather than just focus on the usual 3D antics that fans have seen over the years, Sonic Team has rebuilt the levels from the ground up, giving them a Super Mario Galaxy-like flair to them. That means you'll be running in various directions across each stage, even to the point where you're defying gravity – and not just in the loop-de-loops.
The story will be familiar to long-time Sonic fans. Dr. Robotnik, aka "Eggman" since he's shaped like an egg, is back, and he's called upon the services of a group of foes known as the Deadly Six to do his bidding. Unfortunately, that partnership goes sour when Sonic accidentally knocks "Eggman"'s control over the group loose, causing them to run wild and overtake his army as their own. Left with no other choice, Robotnik opts to team up with Sonic, as well as his young pilot friend Tails, to stop them from destroying the mysterious Hex World.
Sonic does most of the work in Lost World, as he'll run through stages at top speed while they mesh between old-school 2D and 3D areas almost seamlessly. To keep players in utmost control of their hero, Sonic Team has included a "run" function, which is activated by holding down the left trigger. While some may question why Sonic doesn't "run" automatically, it makes sense, as there are some sections where speed isn't everything. He'll need to be precise moving across certain platforms to avoid falling to his demise.
Holding down the run button also serves a couple of other purposes in Lost World. By holding it down, Sonic automatically vaults over certain objects, without losing his precious speed. In addition, he can launch into a sliding attack, knocking an enemy off their stance then taking them out with a quick bop to the head. The classic homing attack also makes a return, allowing Sonic to zero in on launch pads and enemies alike. If hit in succession, the homing attack can take out a string of enemies at once, earning Sonic some bonus points as a result.
Sega's hedgehog also has parkour in his skill set. During one particular stage run, we found ourselves with no floor to run on, but rather two walls that to switch across before running out of space. With the press of a button, Sonic can launch into the run, then switch back and forth between the walls while keeping his momentum going.
Along with his own talents, Sonic can also call upon the helpful Wisp powers that first debuted in Sonic Colors on the Wii a few years ago. Using these, he activates new powers to help him through particular areas of each stage. The Eagle ability, for instance, lets him fly over perils on the ground; the Asteroid turns him into a running wrecking ball, destroying everything in his path; and Rhythm opens up a string of notes he can bounce on to keep out of harm's way. The Wisp powers differ on each level, so there's always something new to try.
Both the 3DS and Wii U versions of the game feature unique level designs, so you won't be playing through the same adventure twice. Each version is different, even though the general themes – like jungle run or candy land – are the same. This may entice players to check both versions out, just to see what they missed on the other platform.
Multiplayer will also play a huge part in Sonic: Lost World. The 3DS version supports four player multiplayer modes, either locally or through the Nintendo Network. Friends will compete with one another in level races to see who's the fastest. The Wii U version will also connect with the handheld edition of the game. Not only will you be able to compete in stage runs, but you can also send special customizable remote control vehicles for people to use in the game. Sega hasn't explained what extent these cars will play, but we're interested in finding out.
Sonic: Lost World is a nice "next level" step for the Hedgehog, with its unpredictable level design, refined gameplay – yes, the "run" button is actually a good twist -- and multiplayer features. We'll see how well it opens up when it ships on October 22nd.