The Sonic series has settled into a predictable rhythm over the last few years. Developer Sonic Team creates a new console game that blends side-scrolling and 3D gameplay, then partners with Dimps for a 2D-focused portable title. Sonic Lost World for the 3DS marks the first time true 3D platforming has made it to a handheld Sonic game. Sonic Lost World looks and feels strikingly close to its console brethren, and that’s the problem.

Sonic zips around in 2D and 3D, using his homing attack to strike enemies and traverse across hazards. This strategy falls apart with the restrictive camera (clicking the left trigger only sometimes centers the view behind Sonic). The auto-homing ability consistently locks onto offscreen enemies – often catapulting you in unwanted and fatal directions. These misfires result in repeated deaths and general frustration. 

One of the most aggravating and repetitive 3D segments involves rolling snowballs until they’re large enough to fill holes. At one point, a giant snowman head rolls after you, constantly destroying your snowball and encasing you in ice. The camera angles and the abominable snow head’s invulnerability tested my patience, and the situation was made worse by Sonic’s painfully long knockdown animation.

The side-scrolling stages fare slightly better, but come with their own frustrations. Sonic’s default movement speed is a slow run, and holding a shoulder button makes him break into a sprint and run up walls. Switching between these two opposing speeds is jarring, and can lead to touchy platforming. One area that highlights this troublesome gameplay is a forced pinball sequence that gave me flashblacks to failing repeatedly in Sonic Spinball. 

Even after you get a handle for the basics, Sega likes to throw constant, lengthy tutorial text at you. One moment you’re cruising through a stage or fighting bad guys, and then you accidentally run into a floating question mark that initiates an annoying lecture about something you already know. I’d tell you just to turn these off right away, but you might miss something crucial early on. I wish Sega could’ve found a less intrusive way to demonstrate Sonic’s abilities and power-ups.

The story is identical to the console game, complete with the inane boss characters that usurp Dr. Eggman. The series’ peripheral characters have never been incredible (looking at you Big the Cat), but these idiots enter a new realm of dumb. The only female boss obsesses over her nails, shopping, fashion, and thinks Sonic is cute. An old evil sensei rattles off Mr. Miyagi-style proverbs. This story is not just below Sonic, it’s below video games in general. Making matters worse, the ultra-compressed videos from the console version look like fuzzy garbage on the 3DS’ screens.

Nintendo’s handheld systems used to be the last refuge for quality Sonic titles, but the series’ awful 3D gameplay has infected that lineage with Sonic Lost World. This portable version of Sonic’s latest adventure hits the same sour notes as the recent console games, while maintaining the subpar side-scrolling feel established in the 3DS version of Sonic Generations.