In this topic I'm not trying to be needlessly negative, but I am honestly stumped by Sonic Team's ignorance on what makes Sonic good, or even popular. And no I'm not talking about 'physics' or 'rolling', I'm talking about the basic principles of game design. Now Sonic Team are very skilled in some ways, and I'm not trying to accuse the development team of ineptitude. They are clearly incredibly skilled in creating stunning graphics. In fact, they are arguably getting better in this regard. Sonic Unleashed, Sonic Generations and Sonic Lost World are examples of games that had stunning graphics upon their release. I would also say that Sonic Team have very capable composers who create consistently excellent music in the games. Even unpopular games like Sonic 2006 and Sonic Black Knight have popular soundtracks. Thus, I would like to give the team credit where it is deserved. However, with every Sonic release I find myself wondering if Sonic Team are even aware of what makes Sonic good. I'll start with Sonic Team's lack of understanding 3D levels since it is the most apparent and discussed. Let's look at Sonic Generations, a game which the majority of fans and critics like. I don't even think Sonic Team really knew what they were doing here. People tend to like the levels in Generations for two reasons: either because certain levels (like Sky Sanctuary and Seaside Hill) are so open and expansive or because specific levels are blindingly fast (Speed Highway and Chemical Plant). Players tend to like both type of levels, but they also tend to prefer open levels over linear ones, or vice-versa. But to be quite honest, I'm not quite sure if Sonic Team are even aware of this basic fact. In most games levels tend to get more complex and difficult as the game progresses. Sonic Team do make their levels progressively more difficult in Sonic Generations and Sonic Lost World but they do not make the levels more complex. In Sonic Generations the levels seemed to be more complex for seemingly no reason at all, as if Sonic Team are just throwing ideas at the game and hoping they stick. Why is Sky Sanctuary, the third level, way more complex and intricate than every level that comes after it barring Seaside Hill. One could make the argument that it is to capture the spirit of Sonic 3 and Knuckles: making the level complex and multi-tiered like the game the level comes from. I cannot agree with this though, simply because of Seaside Hill. Seaside Hill is the most complex and, arguably, best level in the game, but it does not capture the spirit of Sonic Heroes. Sonic Heroes had far less complex levels than Sonic 1, Sonic 2 and Sonic Adventure yet these games are represented by much more linear levels than Sonic Heroes is. In short, the complexity of the level designs make absolutely no sense, either from a sense of progression or a sense of capturing the spirit of the games the level represents. I had hoped that Sonic Team would learn to make the levels more complex and open in the next release by capitalizing on what they learnt by crafting Seaside Hill and Sky Sanctuary....but Lost World launched. Whilst Sonic Lost World may have ditched the boost levels and doesn't have any levels that are as corridor-esque as Green Hill or Chemical Plant, I would not call the levels as a whole particularly complex or open. In fact, none of the levels in Lost World even come close the complexity of Sky Sanctuary or Seaside Hill. Lost World also suffers from the same problem Generations had: that there is no clear progression in the levels. Aside from the trial-and-error crushing difficulty, the levels do not become more complex as the game progresses. Arguably, Tropical Coast 1 is the most complex level, yet it is one of the earlier zones. Even Windy Hill 1 is more open than later levels, and Windy Hill 1 is the first zone! How can Sonic Team not even understand this most basic principle? As for the levels that are designed to be all about speed, Sonic Team clearly have absolutely no understanding of this either. Sonic Lost World threw speed completely out the window, and made Sonic much more slow than he used to be. They do throw a bone for the speed junkies in the form of 'mach speed' zones, which amounts to secret areas and a total of two zones: Dusty Desert 2 and Sky Road 1 which are so randomly thrown into the game it is quite jarring. That's without even mentioning Lost World's final boss: which also follows this game-style for no clear reason. It feels as if Sonic Team throw in these areas to please speed fans and to create more game variety, but they fall flat on both fronts. Whilst many liked this move after the automated nature of Unleashed, and even Generations at times, was it really necessary to just throw speed out the window completely? The move was almost an admission by Sonic team that they have no idea what they are doing. Slowing Lost World down did also not take automation out of the game. Levels like Frozen Factory 1 are incredibly automated, much more so than Generations, and feature booster-spring-pipe chain areas that require literally no input. In fact, the game only seems to get fast during these automated sections. So we have this disastrous situation where Sonic Team have literally learnt neither the speed thrills and pacing of Unleashed, or the more speedy levels of Generations, and have also learnt nothing from Generations' open levels. What the heck are Sonic Team playing at? Then there is the complete failure in the geometry of the landscapes. Generations was able to offer sprawling organic landscapes, even in the automated sections, that looked good (even if one could not interact with them). Yet even Generations has levels too straight and forward. Look at games like Mario, Spyro, Crash and Jak and Daxter: these games offer all kinds of movement to the player. Indeed, Sonic is at his best when he is going 'up down and all around' in his levels, such as the good levels like Speed Highway and Twinkle Park in Sonic Adventure and Seaside Hill in Sonic Generations. However, this is unfortunately a rare sight and often Sonic is tasked with simply running forward in a straight line in Unleashed and, yes, the majority of Lost World's levels. The Casino level and Frozen Factory 1 are the biggest offenders of this in Sonic Lost World, but this mentality is present all over Lost World. It isn't helped by the fact that Lost World's controls only feel natural when Sonic is running forward too. Even good levels in Lost World, such as Dusty Desert 1, suffer from this problem. However, I don't want to put all the focus on 3D, as I don't believe Sonic Team have any idea what they are doing with Sonic in 2D either. That may seem like a sacrilegious thing to say...how could Sonic fail in 2D? But he clearly has at points in his life, and it's now all down to DIMPS as fans often like to shout out. I personally feel that Lost World has some of the most appalling 2D sections in Sonic history. If you honestly look at levels like Dusty Dessert and Tropical Coast 4, you have incredibly simplistic and straightforward level design that is virtually one straight line from A to B. It's honestly ridiculous and no worse than the 'boost to win' mentality that hovered over the 3D sections of Unleashed and Colors that so many like to mock. Many Sonic critics like to mock the series as being simply 'hold right to win' and this statement does not hold up with games like Sonic 1, 2 (mostly) and 3AK, but it certainly does with Lost World. And it's not just Lost World, Unleashed's 2D areas were just as simplistic, as was Modern Sonic's 2D sections in Generations. What I am not trying to claim here is that Sonic Team have never made good 2D levels in modern times. I think the Classic Sonic levels, such as Sky Sanctuary, Seaside Hill and Rooftop Run, are all fantastic and even Lost World has some great 2D levels, such as Windy Hill 2. However, are Sonic Team actually aware that these more complex levels is what makes Sonic as good as it is in 2D? The majority of Lost World is host to incredibly simplistic 2D levels that have to compensate the overly straightforward design with cheap and unpredictable difficulty, with an overabundant use of bottomless pits and sudden enemy jumps. This not only irritates fans who like Sonic for the complexity, but equally infuriates the fans of the series for it's unique speed appeal. There is nothing worse than having your speed session interrupted by cheap enemy placement and bottomless pits. I never remember Sonic 2 having these problems Lost World suffered from, aside from a few areas like Mystic Cave's spike pit which has become infamous for this reason. So, yet again, Sonic Team seem to not have a single grasp on how to create 2D Sonic levels. It's not that they can't create great 2D levels, they just don't seem to understand what it is that makes specifically Sonic great in 2D. The ratio of good:bad levels seems to be completely random depending on what Sonic Team feels like putting out. It's no doubt that Sonic Team are aware of the complaints from critics. Their paranoia of using Sonic's friends in either Color's or Lost World's multiplayer sections, the simplification of the story (for good or bad) and the safety they take with art design, drawing from nostalgia rather than creating new designs (which is a double edged sword) show that Sonic Team are aware of popular criticisms of the franchise. Yet, Lost World is a complete failure to even answer the most common criticisms even the critics have: a lack of flow and speed. They can't even answer this with the 2D sections. I do really like Sonic Generations, and parts of Lost World, but it is also becoming increasingly apparent that Sonic Team have no idea what they are doing, in either 2D or 3D. Is it acceptable to only have a few levels in a game be to up to par? It's at moments like these that I question if Sonic Team have any idea what they are actually doing. It's honestly stunning that this is the team that made Sonic 1, 2 and 3AK on Mega Drive/Genesis. Would it be better if Sonic Team simply took the role as producers and hired another team to design Sonic games? In all honesty, I have lost almost all faith in Sonic Team.