Review: LostWinds (WiiWare)

Is LostWinds the innovative platformer Wii fans were hoping for, or just a lot of hot air?

Let's face it, the Wii has already had its fair share of below-average platformers, so it comes as no surprise that, despite the enormous amount of hype surrounding Frontier Development's LostWinds title, Wii owners have approached the game with a certain degree of scepticism. We all know that the Wii Remote is one of the most innovative video game controllers ever created, but so far we haven't seen a lot of originality when it comes to the controller's use in the platforming genre. Sure, Super Mario Galaxy was an outstanding platformer and made solid use of the Wii Remote, but there's still a nagging feeling that so much more could be done with this unique controller. So is LostWinds the game to change all that?

In LostWinds you take control of a young boy named Toku who's suddenly instilled with the power of the wind and the indelible task of restoring peace to the land. Toku must use this wind power to perform a number of tasks ranging from floating into the air to drawing fire from torches and water from streams. The game is labelled a platformer, but you'll find that there are plenty of puzzle elements, not to mention some serious RPG overtones, strung throughout as well. It's this unique combination of gameplay elements that somehow work together in perfect harmony to give Lost Winds its addictive qualities.

At its core, LostWinds is a typical platformer. While you can control Toku using the Nunchuk, it's the innovative use of the Wii Remote to control the powers of the wind that make up the bulk of the gameplay. As you begin, you're given the basic power of wind movement that allows you to wave the Wii Remote at Toku and give him a wind boost in order to reach platforms that are too high for him to jump up to normally. As you progress, you'll be given new wind powers that will allow you even more freedom as to what tasks you can perform. Some of these tasks include using the wind to draw fire from torches in order to guide it to items that you need to burn, or water from streams to shower onto plants you need to sprout up from the ground. It's these puzzle elements and unique Wii Remote movements that add new life to what would otherwise be a fairly standard platformer without them.

The control system might seem overly complicated since you not only have to control Toku using the standard control method, but you also have to make use of the many special wind powers. The game throws a lot of moves at you, but it does so in such a gradual way that it never seems to become overwhelming. You'll always have plenty of time to put a new move to use until you get a solid handle on how to perform it before the game tosses you a new one. The use of the Wii Remote to control the wind is a perfect fit and feels extremely intuitive, even after only a short amount of playing time. The puzzle elements are never too difficult to grasp, but you'll likely spend some time wandering around aimlessly as it's not always clear where you need to go next or what your next task is. Other than this small gripe, LostWinds performs amazingly and is a real joy to play.

LostWinds uses lush 3-D visuals to paint the beautiful fairy-tale world you'll be exploring, but the fun doesn't end there. What makes the game's visuals so impressive is the way in which all of this scenery reacts to your wind pointer as it moves across the screen. If you move the wind pointer across the screen, objects such as trees and bushes rustle as if real wind were passing through them. Even the water in the streams and fire on the torches react every time you move your pointer across them. It's quite impressive and something that must be seen in action to be fully appreciated.

Instead of employing a full-blown musical score, LostWinds tends to stick with the "less is more" philosophy and instead makes use of short bursts of melodies and a hefty dose of hypnotic sound effects to carry the mood of the action taking place onscreen. The bulk of the music is soft flute melodies that are intermittently enhanced with unique tribal drum beats that sound off when the action begins to intensify. It would seem like this unorthodox musical styling might lend itself to becoming repetitive over time, but it all seems to come together quite well and manages to carry the mood of the game without being overdone the way some musical scores are.

Conclusion

LostWinds might not be quite as revolutionary in terms of play control as some had hoped, but it does manage to bring some very new and innovative gameplay ideas to the platforming genre and that's definitely a step in the right direction. It's also the game that proves that Nintendo is on the right track with their new WiiWare downloadable titles and that these games can be every bit as good as those found in retail stores. LostWinds might not have the high production value of a Super Mario Galaxy, but it's every bit as much fun and an absolute steal at 1000 Wii Points.

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