Like the sad, sad man that I am, I lurked around in the living room on Monday until midnight struck, anxious to see whether Nintendo had indeed opened their WiiWare shop on the 20th of May as they said they would. Why? Mostly because of the subject of this review – Frontier’s 2.5D platform game LostWinds.
It hasn’t been the subject of absurdly expensive ad campaigns, but LostWinds has quietly made its presence known with some enchanting trailers. Not only did it promise to finally make good use of the Wii’s largely untapped control interface, it boasted an impressive pedigree too – LostWinds’ developer is headed up by the illustrious David Braben, co-writer of the legendary space trade-em-up Elite.
It was therefore with considerable anticipation that I handed over my 1000 points in exchange for a download of LostWinds. Forget the saturated hype of GTA IV or Wii Fit – it’s this little £7 game that, for some reason, has captured my imagination and become one of my most looked forward to titles of the year so far (with Super Smash Brothers Brawl not far behind).
So was it worth the wait? The answer is a resounding yes. Who’d have thought that a relatively low-budget, download-only game could feature some of the most captivating graphics I’ve yet seen on the Wii? They may not have the eye-popping impact of Super Mario Galaxy, but thanks to some stunning character design and subtle effects, LostWinds looks every bit as good.
The detail in the game’s central protagonist, a small boy called Toku who sports a strange hat that I wouldn’t mind owning myself, is brilliantly realised and animated. His every movement, whether it’s eating a giant apple or struggling to hoist himself up a ledge, is full of personality.
A special mention must also go to the music, which reflects the game’s whimsical, dreamy nature perfectly.
Thankfully, LostWinds‘ beauty isn’t skin-deep – it’s just as bewitching to play as it is to look at. Toku is controlled by the nunchuck analogue stick, while the game’s main innovation – wind power – is achieved with the wiimote. Striking lines through the screen wafts Toku up into the air, and a scribbling action will gently break his fall.
As you progress through the 2D platform landscape, new powers are added to your arsenal, allowing Toku to drift ever higher to previously unreachable parts of the map.
There are puzzles to solve (blowing flames onto vines to disintegrate them or wafting water onto thirsty seedlings, for example) and enemies to fight, all with your trusty cursor.LostWinds has a quite unique, almost zen-like atmosphere of ethereal calm – think of the best films of Hayao Miyazaki and you’re on the right lines. Most of all, LostWinds feels like a labour of love. It’s a small, modest game admittedly, and doesn’t exactly push back the boundaries of gaming – but it’s beautifully made and a real joy to play.
In an era where games are designed by committee with vast audiences in mind, it’s refreshing to play a game that somehow feels so personal – let’s just hope that WiiWare continues to bring us gems as genuinely shiny as this.
Without doubt the best £7.00 you’ll blow (sorry) on your Wii all year.