Is this unique WiiWare launch title worth your points?

Posted on May 12, 2008 at 6:54 pm by Eddy Fettig

With the launch of WiiWare comes a wave of titles, mostly from smaller developers. LostWinds has a high asking price of ten dollars, and was definitely one of the most-hyped titles leading up to launch. So what is the final verdict on Frontier's first WiiWare game? Is it worth Wii Points that could be spent on other WiiWare titles? Right off the bat, I'll say this: if LostWinds is a hint of the potential of WiiWare, then Wii owners should support this title. That said, let's dive into the details of this premier WiiWare launch title.

Right from the start, players will see that being a cheaper, smaller game does not necessarily mean that LostWinds is of less quality. The game's presentation and graphics easily rival that of many full-budget Wii titles. The pseudo-cel-shading art style and scenic environments flex some graphical prowess for a downloadable title, and the soundtrack is simple yet elegant. It's not quite as beautiful as Okami or Mario Galaxy, but it also comes from a much smaller budget and development team. The illustrations when giving instructions look sharp and help facilitate understanding of the controls, and the visual cues when using the wind help the mechanic to flow well.

Slick presentation is pointless without a backbone to support it, and fortunately, LostWinds delivers solid gameplay. Players control the little boy protagonist, Toku, using the Nunchuk, moving him around with the control stick and pressing the Z button to activate context-sensitive actions such as picking up objects and talking with people. Enril, the wind spirit, is controlled using the Wii remote, and is the main attraction of the game's mechanics. Players will acquire a handful of abilities that let her manipulate the wind in different ways by holding down A or B while moving the pointer across the screen. The action will come to a near stop when one of these buttons is being pressed so players can take care when they need to "draw" specific paths for the wind. While this mechanic isn't mind blowing in any sense, it is refreshing to see it used in a charming 2D platformer and brings a number of interesting puzzles along with it. The controls take a few minutes to get used to, but a half hour in and most anyone should be smoothly navigating the world.

LostWinds is an exploration-based platformer with some puzzles, but no real head-scratchers, and no emphasis on action, a so don't expect too many foes -- I only encountered three different enemy types in my play time, and all three were handled in very similar ways, hardly ever laying a finger on me. Enril's wind can be used to launch enemies into walls or the ground, splattering them on impact. The enemies themselves are simple and exude comical sound effects, which makes their deaths fairly amusing. Dying is rarely an issue, though, and on the one occasion I did die, all I had to do was shake Toku with some wind to revive him -- it appeared that perhaps if I died another couple of times I would be forced back to a checkpoint, but even so, LostWinds is not a huge game. By and large, "death" is not really an issue, as this title's difficulty is quite "breezy," indeed (pun intended).

Speaking of easy, LostWinds suffers from one main flaw which may dissatisfy certain consumers: it is quite short. I personally completed the title in roughly two hours, and spent another hour seeking out gold statues -- though no where does the title mention what these are or what they do. There was one boss battle at the very end, and, without spoiling anything, the game ends on an abrupt note and a "to be continued" screen. Whether the designers decided to make this game more episodic, or simply create one sequel, or perhaps cut the game in half due to storage limitations, I cannot say, but it was a bit of a downer to end such a well-executed adventure so quickly. That said, this title is only ten dollars, so a few hours for the price of admission into this serene land will likely be well-worth it to most gamers who decide to purchase it, not to mention that three different players can enjoy it at once with three save slots -- two players can even play cooperatively if they so desire. Compared to a movie in a theater, in which one spends roughly the same for an equal length of enjoyment, LostWinds will be worth it to some but not to others. Regardless, its production values are unquestionably setting a solid bar for future WiiWare devs to follow. In my personal opinion, LostWinds will be a title that more casual gamers will enjoy due to its simple nature, brevity, and relaxing yet rewarding gameplay.

Final Verdict - 8/10

A stellar start to the WiiWare's catalog, LostWinds sports great production values, charming atmosphere and delivers a calm, relaxing experience that makes good use of the Wii remote's pointer controls. More casual gamers will likely eat up this brief but satisfying platformer adventure, but many hardcore gamers will find fault with its brevity. The purpose of WiiWare, however, is smaller prices for smaller games, and LostWinds is definitely the type of title that should be supported, as it will be enjoyed by just about anyone and exhibits the level of quality and refinement that all WiiWare titles should strive to achieve from here on out. With a cheaper pricetag or a longer experience, this title would be WiiWare's must-own entry. Unless you need a more substantial investment for your money, though, ten dollars is your fee to an afternoon with a unique and endearing game, so don't pass it up -- developers putting this much quality into WiiWare titles shouldn't be left unsupported. Just be aware that the experience, like the price, is short and sweet.