Sonic: Lost World is Sega's latest hope for its mascot. A story as old as time itself*, the publisher has constantly longed for days of old as it tries desperately to put the hedgehog back on top of the heap. Yes, there have been a few highlights, such as Sonic Generations, but even these gems are dragged down by the ever-present knowledge that Sonic Unleashed exists. If E3 2013 is anything to go by, though, the hog's fortune is certainly not about to take a turn for the better here.
Lost World's biggest issue is that there just doesn't seem to be a lot to it. It's certainly tries to be varied, often asking Sonic to switch from his usual bat out of hell, pure-speed gameplay to your more traditional platform sections that scream Mario, but it all feels so straightforward.
A certain portion of individuals - no doubt far larger than you may think - have always scratched their heads when it came to Sonic, not 100% sure why dashing like a madman across the screen was any fun. Obviously there was depth to the formula - it wouldn't have reached the levels it did otherwise - but that's not present in Lost World. When it's trying to ape the 3D entries of old, merely holding up on the analogue stick is enough to get you through most scraps, while the 2D areas seem to exist in order to do nothing more than change up the pace. Jumping over a couple of enemies' heads isn't enough to seriously shift focus and there's a horrible sense of routine about it.
Although short, what I had access to also felt incredibly by-the-numbers. While true to a lesser extent in recent years, the reason Mario has managed to stay relevant for so long is that no two games ever really felt alike. There was always something to separate them, even if it was only a small detail. This used to be the same with Sonic too but here, it feels like Sega is running through the motions so it doesn't completely screw it all up. There's logic to such a train of thought - people have been burned far more constantly they'd have liked - but a game like this needs some sort of USP if it's to truly kickstart the hedgehog train again... whatever that is.
That's not to say I'm expecting Lost World to entirely evolve the franchise, mind, and there are ideas here that bring the precision-engineered approach Sonic has utilised well in the past back to the forefront. Speeding down a winding path before meticulously timing a jump through a gap in the wall has a certain pleasant way about it, as does the rhythm of your attacks. The fact it can prove to be quite unforgiving - the more challenging scenarios accepting nothing more than a near-perfect attempt - is a hint that as the game opens up its true appeal could become clearer.
Currently, however, these high points appear to be incredibly spaced out, the majority of your time being consumed by just letting Sonic do his own thing. With Nintendo more directly involved than ever before (my 12-year old self will never get over that) combined with Sega's desperation to get all things Sonic right, we should see the experience as a whole offer trickier, more involving layouts as you progress.
It's an advantage too that Lost World is a Wii U exclusive - that doesn't happen much these days, first-party aside. As it stands, though, I worry this is another Sonic iteration that just fails to find the hook that it needs.
At least he won't try it on with a human woman this time...
*No research was done when stating this as fact