It's fair to say that LostWinds has taken the iPhone/iPad world by storm. Whilst it might not have quite the same broad appeal as, say, Angry Birds, it deserves to be mentioned in the same breath. A stunning, high quality game, it should really shows what iOS devices are capable of in the hands of a talented bunch of programmers.
You play as young Toku, a young boy who holds the fate of his world in his hands (no pressure, then). When he discovers Enril, the Wind Spirit he must set off on a quest to save the land of Mistralis from the power of the evil Balasar. Using the powers given to him by Enril, he must harness the energy of the wind to complete his quest and defeat Balasar forever.
LostWinds looks incredible and is easily the best looking iOS game I have come across. The graphics that would not look out of place on a full-priced, more powerful console - they are that good. They look impressive enough on an iPhone, but stick them on HD screen of the iPad and they look nothing less than stunning. The introductory cut-scenes achieved something few games manage these days - they genuinely made my jaw drop in astonishment at their quality. There is a cartoon-like vibrancy behind all of Lost Winds' graphics. Backgrounds are full of sumptuous colours that bring the landscape to life; characters are cartoon-like caricatures, without ever being silly and the main character is cute without being vomit- inducing. It's hard to talk about the graphics in Lost Winds without starting to sound like some rabid fanboy, but they really are that good.
Sound is not too far behind, either. A stunning oriental theme plays throughout, perfectly suited to the game's look and feel. Like the graphics it's that rarest of things in a game: something so damn beautiful and haunting that it can evoke a genuinely emotional response in the player. The rushing noise made when you use the various wind abilities sounds realistic, as do the rustling of plants and trees. Whilst there is no dialogue in the game, characters utter cute little grunts and other noises that say far more than full voice acting ever could.
Too often with good-looking games, it's a case of "nice graphics, shame about the gameplay", but LostWinds gets it right here, too. The game is a mix of platforming action combined with simple RPG elements. You must explore the various areas of your world, leaping from platform to platform (using your wind-based powers to reach certain areas), collect objects that might come in useful, meet and talk to the inhabitants of Mistralis and carry out tasks for them in order to progress. The fusion of platforming and RPG elements is excellent balanced, so the game will appeal to people who like either sort of game, without putting off those who are not keen on one or the other. I'm not a big RPG fan, for example (I don't have the patience), but here it adds an extra dimension to the game and stops Lost Winds from simply becoming another platformer.
Every element of the game blends perfectly to make it a huge amount of fun, and it's clear that a lot of play testing has gone into getting everything just right. Save points, for example, are scattered liberally throughout the levels, but are not so numerous that the game becomes a walkover. By the same token, though, they are numerous enough so that if you die you don't end up constantly having to replay the same bits to get back to that point.
The element which most often lets iOS games down is controls, the lack of a physical controller all too often forming a barrier. LostWinds is a welcome exception. The controls have clearly been developed from the ground up with the benefits and drawbacks of touchscreen in mind. As such, they work perfectly. To run, for example, you simply touch Toku and then touch the point you want him to run to; to carry on running, hold your finger on the far left/right of the screen and he will run in that direction until remove your finger. Using your special wind spirit powers is equally intuitive, involving swiping your finger across the screen; the more times you swipe, the more powerful the wind you will conjure up. The controls feel incredibly natural and are so intuitive that you scarcely have to be told what to do. Within minutes of playing the game for the first time, it will already feel like you have perfect control over your character.
If there's one criticism, it probably surrounds the game's longevity. It's not a particularly large or difficult game and most gamers are going to reach the end of it without breaking a sweat. Yes, there are some hidden areas and objects to uncover, but even allowing for these, there's probably not much more the 10 hours or so of gameplay in there. Still, the game is so beautiful and so much fun that you won't really care. Yes, you'll feel a small pang of sadness when you reach the end, but you'll also feel a burst of joy that you have been privileged to play such a fantastic game. And at least you can console yourself with the fact that LostWinds 2 is now available!
The game is available for iPhone/iPad for just £2.49, which I'd normally suggest was a touch on the expensive side. For LostWinds, though I'm prepared to make the exception. Even allowing for the relative shortness of the game, it's a title which I can recommend wholeheartedly. When you consider some of the dross that gets a full priced release, it's a real pleasure to see a smaller game that takes such care over presentation and matches it with some superb gameplay. Quite simply, if you own an Apple device, you owe it to yourself and the developers to buy this game and show there is still a market for high quality, original games.
Being the jaded old gamer that I am it takes a lot to impress me these days. LostWinds is one of those truly special games that will make you fall in love with gaming all over again. So much care has been taken over almost every aspect of the game's design that it's hard to find fault with it. No game is perfect, but LostWinds is about as close as you can get.
(Note: LostWinds is also available to download for the Wii for 1000 points)
(c) Copyright SWSt 2013