LostWinds Boasts a Visual Wind-O-Rama for the Senses

Posted: December 21, 2011 in Platformer

Many of us gamers grew up with platformers, and I wouldn’t doubt that Mario or Sonic were among the first words some of you spoke.  With the success of the iTunes store, we’ve seen plenty of console games ported over to iOS.  One such game is LostWinds, a platformer adapted from the Wii which as a whole delivers an entertaining, albeit not perfect experience.  LostWinds is lively and soothing all at the same time that will have you smiling with glee one minute, and i-device smashingly frustrated the next.

The story in LostWinds is about a boy named Toku who is empowered and assisted by sidekick Enril to defeat Balasar.  You see Balasar is an evil spirit who escaped imprisonment is now intent on ruling the beautiful island of Mistralis.  Speaking of beautiful, the devs behind LostWinds built the game using a 3D engine so everything from the trees and caves to the towns and fields take on a surreal aura.  Arguably, this receives high marks on the gorgeous meter, providing a peaceful and pleasant environment.  The shadows and background movement are additional touches that add to the experience.  One of the things that struck me right away was how everything in each scene felt alive.  While trees sway with the wind, blades of grass flap and mushrooms have a bit of bounce.  Just what you want from a platformer, right?  Well, it works, and I would be surprised if you turn some heads firing up this game out in public.

In addition to the great visuals is the equally entrancing soundtrack which I’d almost equate to listening to waves while falling asleep.  Again, the devs create a rather dreamlike experience in LostWinds unlike what is typically seen in platformers.

The objective in LostWinds is to find Balasar which undoubted takes you through a muckety-muck of strange creatures and a discovery of new abilities and items for out little Toku.  It’s also about exploration and puzzle solving so all the elements are there for a solid platformer.  In LostWinds, the premise is about rediscovering memories, and there are several that you’ll be tasked with finding.  Along the way, you’ll uncover abilities such as gust, slipstream and vortex among others, which by the way are catalogued in a special section accessible anytime during the game.

As you progress through LostWinds, Toku and you will need to solve a number of puzzles.  Because the game is designed for a younger audience, many will find the puzzles rather simple.  In many cases, it’s locating and placing something onto another (e.g. activating switches, pressure points). The best part of LostWinds is the exploration because you’ll come across doors and passages.  It’s really this discovery that offers the most challenge because if you miss and item early one, you’ll likely need to go back and find it before being able to progress.  Of course, the enemies are always fun such as the Glorbs (looks just like they sound), crabs (not the Boston kind), and birds (not Big Bird).

For many, the movements in LostWind will require a bit of patience and open-mindedness.  Unlike the typical directional control pad and action buttons found in platformers, movement is done by touch.  Moving from one place to another requires tapping the location.  Movement from one side of the screen to other can also be accomplished through tap and hold.  To jump, create wind or even burn a path (via slipstream for example), requires swiping the screen.  For example, destroying enemies is done by gusting them—swooping them up with your wind (exactly as it sounds) and then slamming them into the ground.  It’s not elegant, but it works.  Put another way, line drawing to direct your abilities is a key part of the LostWind.

Initially, I found the control mechanism frustrating and somewhat tedious on my iPad.  Jumping from a small ledge to another could be rather imprecise which often led to slowing my progress in the game.  However, after playing through LostWinds and gaining abilities, the control scheme does become more second nature.  Drawing straight lines—like a mad hatter in some cases) seems to work best.

Playing the game on the smaller screen iPhone, I found the touch controls can be difficult to use effectively which noticeably came down to finger size.  The bigger your fingers, the more frustrating the controls could be.  (Note that I have average-sized fingers perfect for a hand model, but not for throwing shot puts).  For most, the controls will be a hit or miss proposition which simply comes down to personal preference.  In considering alternative control schemes, a directional control pad with special ability buttons may be a necessary compromise in order to appease a wider audience.

LostWinds is a polished and imaginative experience that offers a change of pace from the typical fast-paced platformer.  The wonderful environment and soothing soundtrack along with the relatively low stress gameplay makes it accessible to audiences young and old.  However, the touch controls are a mixed bag, and won’t be ideal for those expecting a more traditional platformer control scheme.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (offers a unique personality and charm in a highly polished 3D/2D package; difficulty level of puzzles more ideal for the younger audience; touch/swipe controls work well after practicing, but some may find them frustrating; controls more ideal for the larger screen iPad)

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