Fly High or Crash and Burn…
Launching Wide Sky for the first time is awesome. The presentation is immediately top notch, all the way from the writing to the visual design. The tutorial is clever and thorough, and you will be anxious to get started playing the actual game. This is destined to be the most fun you will have playing Wide Sky: enjoy it. Once the actual game starts, things go downhill quickly.
There are so many things that Wide Sky gets right that it’s particularly jarring when you come to realize that the most important facet of the game is flawed at best, and completely broken at worst. The game’s achievement-based progression structure is rewarding, and would absolutely keep you coming back to get one more goal, if playing the game was any fun. The problem with Wide Sky is exactly that: it’s not any fun.
The crux of the gameplay revolves around flinging your hedgehog character into the sky with a rope that he can use to grapple onto clouds. Once you’re attached to a cloud, you can tilt left and right to swing and gain momentum and release to fly through the air. The mechanics of the tilt controls are a little There are seven targets to smash into in the sky, and you must crash into all of them within twelve minutes, which is a bit problematic. A truly effective portable game should allow you to pick up and play for a couple of minutes, and then put away. Forcing you to get all seven orbs to complete a level will take, for beginners, seven minutes at an absolute minimum. Unless you are sitting down with the intention of sinking time into Wide Sky, it’s hard to justify it as the go-to game when you only have a couple of minutes to spend playing on your iPhone.
Theoretically, you could get better at the game and hit the targets faster. There are two flaws to be found here. First, to progress in the game you must accomplish various challenges which often detract from collecting the seven necessary orbs. One challenge, for example, is to collect 100 stars without touching the ground. The stars are littered in clumps around the sky, but trying to find 100 of them means that you’re spending all of your energy trying to get the stars. You still have to find all seven orbs before you end the level, but you will almost certainly be pushing the twelve minute mark to do so.
The other flaw in speeding up the game through practice is that the controls simply don’t work well enough. The rope you are equipped with cannot be aimed, and thus always flies out of your character at the same point. This means that when you are in a free spin, which is almost all of the time, the rope will fly out randomly and probably not hook onto the cloud you intended. While it’s not difficult to generally fly left or right, trying to hit a specific location to smash an orb can be incredibly frustrating. As you unlock ropes, you will gain additional powers which give you a little more control over your trajectory. For the most part, though, it’s guesswork, which is incredibly frustrating.
In addition, while you are given the option to tweak the flexibility and length of your rope to fit your play style, this is only available after you have completed all of the challenges for the rope you are playing with. New challenges will open up for the next rope you unlock, meaning that you have very little incentive to tweak the rope you were playing with previously. It’s a nice feature, but there’s just no reason to use it.
Wide Sky is a very difficult game for the wrong reasons. The structure is sound and the presentation is above and beyond, but the gameplay is lacking. The potential is there for this to be a major hit, but an update is needed to sort out the control issues. If that happens, I can’t wait to come back and enjoy this game. Until then, I’m not inclined to revisit it any time soon.
Wide Sky is out now for $0.99 (£0.69)