Frontier Developments’ gorgeous platformer – originally released on Wii – finds its spiritual home on iOS…
There are many games built for Wii that have the potential to work great, and possibly even better, on iOS. Max and the Magic Marker was one such game, which turned out to be a natural fit for Apple’s platform. After downloading and playing LostWinds on WiiWare a few years back, I remember thinking then that it would work well on a touchscreen device like the iPhone. Fast forward to the spring of 2011 and we received word that the game was indeed coming to the AppStore. Last week, and on a fitting windy winter’s day, I finally received the game for review. I even put GTA3 on hold to play it.
LostWinds is a physics-based platformer, putting you in control of a wind elemental being, and the lost wind of the title. I love the way LostWinds gently guides you into the game, with the title screen acting as a window into the game world itself. Napping under a tree is our little hero, a boy called Toku. You are instructed that stroking the screen in any direction will bring to life a small gust of wind, and soon you realise that it is this action that will wake Toku from his slumber. It is from here that you discover the mechanics of the game, and how you must harness the winds power to affect Toku and the environment that surrounds him.
One of the great things about LostWinds is that you can play the whole game with just one finger. This gives it appeal for not just core iOS gamers, but the more casual player too. Even my wife was able to happily control Toku without the frustration of other touch-based control systems, which tends to end in boredom. Moving Toku Left or right is as simple as tapping where you want to go, and he will follow. It’s also possible to hold down your finger on the left or right of the screen momentarily to cause the little fella to move in that direction indefinitely until he hits an obstacle, or if you cancel the instruction by tapping elsewhere.
Like classic platformers such as Metroid, your full wind powers are not yet fully realised, with these being revealed to you and Toku though-out the game. To start, you are able to create a simple gust of wind by gesturing on the screen in that direction. Using this you can interact with an object, including making Toku jump. Successive gusts will cause Toku to double jump.
LostWinds is a physcial based puzzle-platformer, meaning that to progress through the game you will need to solve a few environmental puzzles along the way. The majority of these involve switches and levers which must be activated through a combination of using Toku and another object as a counter weight. As with Toku, you can move and influence other objects such as rocks using gusts. Later you’ll learn the ability to create paths for the gusts to follow, allowing objects and elements such as fire and water to travel along it. For example, a closed-off area may require a pile of wood to be burnt. By drawing a path from a nearby fire to the pile of wood, you can spread the fire and burn the wood to reveal a new area to explore. Another will see you controlling the path of flowing water to put out fire, or use it to feed a sapling which will grow into a useful tool for Toku.
Eventually your gust power increases, allowing you to carry Toku even higher to initially out of reach areas. One of the final tricks you’ll learn is the ability to suspend objects, and enemies in the air for a short amount of time. This becomes particularly useful in later sections where you can resonate a wind stone to break ice crystals blocking your way.
As well as obstacles preventing you from continuing on your path, there are also enemies. The main villain of the piece has spread his evil across the land in the form of dark blobs of goo, which attach themselves to Toku and slowly suck away his life-force. Using the wind you can flick these creatures around the environment, splattering and slicing them up. As your wind powers increase, so do the size and variety of blob types, which test your new found abilities. The final boss showdown requires the mastery of all your powers, to default the evil and bring peace back to the land.
The world of LostWinds looks gorgeous. It has a low-polygon stylised look to it, where bright and solid colours rule over detail. This gives the characters and environments a claymation like appeal to them, a style similar to that of the Ice Age computer animated movies. The game might play across a 2D plane, but the game is anything but flat. There is a huge amount of depth to the environments, where you’ll see villages and its people playing far off in the distance.
The aural experience is equally beautiful. Asian-style woodwind instruments play a zen-like theme throughout the game, changing up the tempo momentarily when enemies come into view. This music really sets the scene and pace of the game, which is a platformer to take your time with, and not rush through. Taking your time is a good thing too, because you can probably complete the main quest in around 3-4 hours. However, there are ancient statutes for completionists to collect, which in turn unlocks extras such as wallpaper, and a 3D model viewer and photo manipulation tool.
LostWinds is an excellent addition to the growing library of quality platformers on the AppStore. Its blend of beautiful graphics and sound, compelling platforming, challenging puzzles and of course the intuitive one-finger controls, makes it one not to miss, and a perfect way to round off a great year in iOS gaming. Roll on 2012, and roll on LostWinds 2: Winter of the Melodias.
LostWinds is out now as a universal app for $3.99