Ah, the wonderful irony that Sonic Lost World is only being developed because of Sega's exclusive partnership with Nintendo. Technically two different games, one for Wii U and the other for 3DS, I was able to try Sonic Lost World Wii U out on the show floor at E3 and I found the experience revelatory. Namely, no one know what the heck a Sonic game is supposed to be anymore.
Case in point the three stages in the Sonic Lost World demo I was able to try. First off there was a Mario Galaxy style 3D world built out of small planetoids of geometric shapes. This stage allowed Sonic free roam of the environment, the ability to walk, run or spin dash at any time, and easy access to power-ups and plenty of secrets spread around. It was an insane mash-up of Super Mario Galaxy sensibilities with some of the unique features of Sonic Colors/Generations... and it works great! It was fun to go slow and explore, it was fun to speed up and burn through the stage, and it felt a lot like a classic 2D Sonic game in 3D. Then the level ended and the second one began.
Stage two was a 2D Sonic game thick and through. It was a bit odd in that it was a candy themed world where donuts and pancakes swam through the background, with truffle cannons shooting chocolate balls through the air, but damn if that wasn't a straight up 2D Sonic level... in 2D. I guess the PR term is 2.5D, as the camera would shift around in the environment to make the traversal more cinematic. I wasn't as impressed with this level as I was the first, but I was again impressed at their ability to rediscover that sort of experience.
Third was a level explained to me as, "This is the one you got fast on." The camera falls behind Sonic on this stage as he races along the length of a tree, charging into enemies and leaping over obstacles. I suppose the parallel would be the old half-pipe stages from classic Sonic titles, though there are more modern comparisons too. I was least impressed with this stage, but it was still fun. Sort of like a mix of reaction-based gameplay with actions that are essentially quick-time-events.
These are the three gameplay personalties battling against each other in Sonic Lost World. Each are said to make up about a third of the levels in the game, so we should probably start asking some questions. Okay, maybe just one question: Does Sega not know the best way to move forward with Sonic? Now, I'm not going to say any of the three or bad, but the lack of a "primary" gameplay experience is kind of disconcerting. Sonic Lost World as it stands almost feels like a marketing test to see what the best way to go forward is.
Now what, Sega? I like all of them pretty well. Maybe you should make games with all three. Wait, that's what Sonic Lost World is. I should be a developer!
Curious is the lack of narrative or story in what was shown at E3. This isn't a big deal considering it's just a gameplay demo, but with the lack of cutscenes or mid-level audio logs I started to wonder if Sega was taking more inspiration from Mario. Maybe it's time to just forego the oddball plot and just focus on Sonic beating the bad guys, or collecting crystals. Just, you know, avoiding situations that end in fanfiction. Eh, who am I kidding, Amy Rose is lurking somewhere in background waiting to return.
I'm just joking about the fanfic, Sonic fans. Write all your zany stories and ship all the lead characters as you will. Perhaps it will be good to hear that there are a ton of throwback references to classic enemy types, wisps from Sonic Colors, and lots of other nods to the dedicated Sonic fanbase. This is coming who doesn't follow Sonic much, but Sonic Lost World comes across as a kind of love letter to fans.