So Sonic Lost World was one of the 3 Sonic exclusives for Nintendo systems back during the Wii U era. Remember this one? The one that looked like Mario Galaxy?
Based on its poor reception, I never felt like getting back around to it until recently. So I just literally played this with my 6 year old daughter as my wingman and I found it to be... alright? Neither particularly special nor particularly horrible. Like a C+ or even B- kind of game. It's definitely not a classic, but it was entertaining enough.
Here are my random impressions (with spoilers, so stop now if you haven't played it):
-The Deadly Six aren't as bad or boring as their reputation had led me to believe. There is an attempt to give them basic characterization throughout which I didn't expect considering Sonic fans seem to consider them flat stock characters. The voiceovers during gameplay do a good job of giving me an idea of what they're all about. They aren't as memorable as Eggman, but they already have more characterization in this one game than the Koopalings have had in about half a dozen. A few of them - Zor and Zik in particular - have potential for further development. Zavok himself may be a bit of an ersatz Bowser - and I'd probably agree with whoever said that their designs are a bit too much like rejected Skylanders villains - but I genuinely enjoyed his boss battles. And I do think the Sonic series can use a set of villains unaligned with Eggman.
-The biggest complaints I have are the unusual controls. I've just finished the game and I feel like only during the final fight with Zavok did I get a good handle on what the parkour system was trying to do. I'm not sure I even hate the parkour system so much as I never quite understood it and just avoided using it whenever possible. If SEGA was coming to me for advice, with only a few months left until release, I would say scrap the circus bonus stages (which feel Atari-esque, but not in a good way) and replace them with optional content built around the parkour system. If you can have extra content that's a stealth tutorial for that system, I think it'd feel less awkward when you were required to use it.
-I do like the extra homing kick move, which I believe is introduced here. It made a couple of the boss fights a little of a "paper, rock, scissors" to figure out the best strategy, which was a little frustrating at first but something I eventually grew to like as the game went on. Particularly after playing Sonic Forces, which felt a bit like "repeatedly press A to home in and kill everything" Lost World feels like there's a bit more strategy at play.
-The cylindrical level design is ok for a one-off. I think the biggest problem with it is that, while it sometimes gives you fun alternate routes, it's not as satisfying to "find" alternate routes when it's just a case of running around to the other side of a cylinder and seeing what's over there. Compared to something like Generations, that's pretty unexciting.
-The Mario Galaxy influence is undeniable, so much so that it almost feels like the original plan was to actually use Bowser and the Koopalings. Not a far stretch, considering the exclusivity deal. That said, apart from a few mechanical things like fire bars, canons and those small moon boss battles, it didn't really feel much like Mario Galaxy.
-I'm not a big story guy. I like my games to be games, not 10 hour movies. This story was fine - probably a bit more sensical than Sonic Colors but not quite as much fun. Eggman had a few absolutely ruthless lines, which were kind of the highlight for me.
-Ultimately, I recommend Lost World for Sonic fans or Wii U owners who are looking for a platformer that's a little experimental. It's not a must own game and it'd be a poor place to start with Sonic, but I think it's still a worthwhile project, all told.
If you've packed away your Wii U but have a decent PC, the game is also available on Steam, weirdly enough. (sans the Yoshi and Zelda content, obviously)
I gave it a try myself some time ago, both on Wii U and 3DS. I remember being sorta impressed with having a fully 3D Sonic game on a handheld, but it was really rough to actually play.
As for the Wii U version, like you I really didn't gel with the parkour system in my brief time with the game. And yeah, the cylindrical stage layouts just seemed like a gimmick that maybe simplified camera management but didn't seem to have any substance to it in and of itself.
All that said, I had a lot of respect for Sonic Team to try something new immediately after Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations were the two most favorably received Sonic games in a long time (which is to say, moderately so). After the success of Generations I was certain they would milk that formula for all it's worth. I was very surprised that they didn't get around to it again until Forces, the failure of which hopefully has them seeking yet another new 3D Sonic formula.
Ok. I've now played the NiGHTS, Yoshi's Island, and Zelda themed worlds. Aaaaaand... they're good-natured but nothing special. If pricing was the same across both Wii U and PC platforms I'd say they might be worth getting the Wii U version, assuming you still have any space left on your Wii U (I sure had to move a bunch of stuff around recently). But right now there's a fire sale on Sonic games going on with Steam. If you ever had Sonic games you were curious about, now is the time to buy them on PC. I think Lost World is like 5 dollars, which is definitely worth picking up if you have any curiosity about the game at all. I'd give the game 3 out of 5 stars, but even with controversial controls the price is right.
Here's a break down of the DLC:
NiGHTS: This is a very basic boss rush mode where some of the Deadly Six battles are remixed with NiGHTS elements. I loved seeing the NiGHTS stuff in full HD, but from a gameplay standpoint it's something anyone from Negative World can knock out in 5 minutes flat. You'll enjoy that 5 minutes, but I wouldn't expect anything much more than just a quick romp. In fact, the bosses have been greatly simplified for this mode, which I think was a mistake.
Yoshi's Island: The better of the two Nintendo DLC packs because it does a bit more with the idea of remixing Sonic with a Nintendo property. Using the spin dash on Shy Guys surprisingly scratches a Mario/Sonic crossover itch that I guess I still have. And seeing the classic Sonic loops rendered in Yoshi's Island style is a little fun. That said, the level itself is like a Yoshi's Island tutorial level. There's no real challenge to it. The pleasure is entirely about seeing Sonic in the Yoshi's Island context, eggs tagging along behind him and everything. Which is fine, but we didn't really dream of seeing Sonic on Yoshi's Island. We want to see him in the more standard Mushroom Kingdom style. Not sure how they missed the opportunity to do a Mario Galaxy homage. Still, a fun little remix while it lasts.
The Legend of Zelda: As fun as it is to see Sonic dressed up as Link and hear the music playing, ultimately there's nothing much going on here beyond that. There's a very small field to run around in and then a Zelda-themed tube to run through that's transparently one from the main game that's just had a simple Zelda paint job applied. It's amusing, but from a mechanical standpoint it's probably the least interesting level in the entire game.
Final Verdict: In light of the sale going on right now, I would recommend getting Lost World on PC, assuming you have a good setup to play it there. The DLC is worth a download if you already have the game on Wii U, but it's not worth the extra 15 dollars between the Wii U and the PC version right now. Just watch a YouTube video of the DLC and be done with it.
From what I remember seeing of Fire & Ice, it looks like a competent if bland platformer, but seemingly has no real Sonic DNA to it. Which, sadly, qualified as one of the less awful Sonic games of its era.