LostWinds, a hauntingly beautiful platformer from Frontier Developments, is now available from the app store. Despite its pretty visuals and engaging story, the swipe-based control method is simply too imprecise, causing a great deal of frustration that ultimately squelches our enjoyment.
- Beautiful graphics with rich colors and great lighting/shading effects
- Top-notch soundtrack that nicely complements gameplay
- Simple controls
- Fun exploration elements and kid-friendly puzzles
- Swipe gestures are inaccurate and unreliable, leading to a great deal of frustration
- Trying to pull up pause button to access map is difficult
- Campaign is short and lack replay value
LostWinds follows the adventure of a young lad named Toku who happens upon a magical stone with an interesting backstory. The stone is a piece of the former prison of an out-of-control spirit whose growing power threatened the land. The wind spirit became entangled with this spirit when locking him away, causing it to become imprisoned, too. Eventually, the other spirit broke forth from the stone, shattering it and freeing himself, though the wind spirit remained trapped in a fragment. With the stone in tow, Toku can command wind to move about his world as he sets out to defeat the escaped spirit. His powers are limited at first, becoming stronger as he presses on. For example, the ability to double-gust is a major advantage earned in the early stages. This control element becomes crucial to leaping onto higher platforms and preventing Toku from plummeting into holes due to his inability to jump. Along the way, you’ll meet many individuals who further the story and objects that both assist and hinder your journey. Some plants allow you to gust higher than normal, while black goo balls are made of the same evil as your nemesis, clinging to you and depleting your health. There are a number of small puzzling elements that must be solved to gain passage, often requiring the use of wind to effect some change in the surroundings. One of the early puzzles requires you to blow water from a waterfall onto a sapling, which causes it to grow instantly into a plant that gusts Toku high into the air.
Graphically, LostWinds has a polished and beautifully-presented interface, punctuated by rich colors and the absence of buttons. It’s not quite as crisp and sharp as we’d expect, with a good deal of jagginess throughout. Animations are pretty fluid, and exploration is necessary to figure out how to get to the next location. The audio is one of the game’s high points, offering a beautiful soundscape that complements the visuals well. Unfortunately, things fall apart due to the awkward controls. Movement requires taps to send Toku to the desired spots, which can get tedious and boring. Holding your finger for a few moments on either side of the screen will set Toku in motion in the appropriate direction, stopping only for an obstacle or when you tap on the screen again. Interactive elements cause an icon to appear, requiring a tap as well. Controlling the wind requires swipes, which can boost Toku and impact other on-screen objects. The reliability of these swipes performing the intended action is quite low, and double-gusting is brutally frustrating, especially when its failure results in falling between platforms. With some tweaking and significant improvements, it could be a decent mechanic, but its current state typically causes enough frustration that we end up quitting before we can get truly engaged.
Replay value is not great, as the puzzles are basic and there isn’t anything in a second playthrough that you won’t have seen the first time around. Gameplay is relatively short, too. GameCenter provides a number of achievements to earn. A universal app for $3.99, LostWinds ultimately fails to create a fully-engrossing experience, earning a 3.5-Dimple score.