LostWinds is one of the launch titles for Nintendo's "WiiWare" service; it's a short little quirky puzzle/platformer with an interesting and insurmountably Wii-ish interface.
Maybe I should have put more emphasis on the "short" in that previous paragraph; LostWinds is all of two hours start to finish, and really seems more like an introduction and a proof-of-concept than a complete game in its own right. Even so, it's an entertaining two hours, and it's not exactly like it costs a fortune -- it's ten bucks as I write this, which isn't a terrible dollars-to-play-hours ratio. Does it seem to anybody else like I've already written this review just recently?
You play as Toku, a young boy with a large head and curious floppy Elmer Fudd hat. You also play as Enril, a magic wind spirit. Toku is controlled by the nunchuck, moving with the analogue stick and performing contextual actions (almost all of which are "grab") with the Z button, while Enril is controlled with the pointer, and can perform various wind-related actions with the A and B buttons. You control both Toku and Enril at the same time, which isn't as confusing or as difficult as it may seem; Enril is invincible and can't be obstructed, so the only one you need to be careful with is Toku. That said, Toku can't do very much on his own, and needs Enril around to accomplish things, so some coordination is necessary. Throughout the game, you wander Toku around the village and environs, searching for shrines (and, later, treasure chests) that contain magic powers you'll need in order to oppose Balasar, the evil spirit who's terrorizing the land.
The game looks really nice. It has a bright, almost claymation type look to it, with highly detailed backgrounds and smooth animation. The characters are a bit indistinct, but it seems to be intentional; I haven't even figured out what the basic mob is supposed to look like, which makes me think it isn't. That could be just me. In the sound area, the game is sufficient but not outstanding, with effects that are clear enough and music that's subtle and fits the mood.
The main problem with LostWinds is that, as with Portal before it, there really isn't a lot to do. You wander around the world advancing the storyline, but the only other thing to do is the rather meaningless "totem collection" sidequest. In addition (and notably unlike Portal), there's a very large amount of backtrack in LostWinds; it's not as bad as it could be, though, since the areas change in minor ways as the game progresses, so at least there's some element of the unexpected. LostWinds is also very easy, to the point that I don't even know what happens if you die. The physics model also appears to be slightly buggy in some minor ways; it can sometimes be a bit difficult to get Toku off the ground when you're trying to fly him someplace, and once I had an item fall into the ground, thus forcing me to reboot and pick up from my last save in order to progress.
Those are fairly minor problems, though, and the game is a fun and innovative experience as a whole. Be aware before you plunk down your ten bucks that you're probably only getting two or three hours of game out of it, though; if that's not cool with you, look elsewhere. But if you don't mind the length, you'll find LostWinds worth the investment.
Not available from Amazon.com
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