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Lost Winds is a beauty of a game, so gorgeous that it's tempting to overlook its flaws - the chief one of which is that while its simplicity of story and child protagonist make it appear that the game is perfect for children, the controls are so difficult to maneuver. Very few children under 10 years of age will have the dexterity to play the game. It's like having a kindly, beautiful kindergarten teacher who refuses to teach anything but calculus.
Created by Frontier Developments for WiiWare, Lost Winds is spectacularly pretty. Cherry blossom trees and waterfalls frame a village so quaint and charming that the platform nature of the game seems almost organic. The plot is simple enough: Toku is a young boy who falls into a mine and stumbles across Enril, a wind spirit. Together, they must save the village from the evil Balasar, overcoming obstacles and searching for tools to help them in their quest.
The fact that I've stuck with Lost Winds says something to the merit of the game.
Lost Winds uses the Wii-Mote to add a novel element to your basic two-dimensional left-right, up-down platform movement. You control direction using the Nunchuck's controls, and use the Wii-Mote to control the wind, i.e. Enril. Toku can make only tiny jumps, but with Enril's gust power, he can jump to higher platforms.
While this has potential, for me, this gust power was the source of huge frustration. Basically, I sucked at getting Toku to jump large distances using a 'double gust'. In theory, Toku can take advantage of a double gust by having the wind gust under him (i.e. aiming and hitting 'A' on the Wii-Mote), then doing it again. Fairly early on in the game, however, in a setting that reaped absolutely no clues or benefits, I literally could not make the jump needed to get Toku from Point A on the landscape over a chasm to Point B.
Stymied, I did what I always do when I get good and stuck – I tried to cheat. I looked for a walkthrough to tell me what I was doing wrong. Alas, all the articles and reviews seemed to have far less difficulty with this section than I had, talking about how 'natural' it felt to move Toku through his environment using both the Wii-Motes. Poppycock. To be fair, when I finally got through that section, I had a far easier time with subsequent sections, so it may be an isolated place in the game. But it feeds into my overall ambivalence with the game – the opportunities for saving are few and far between, and certain scenes are needlessly difficult.
Now I must make a confession at this point. I like puzzles, and am not a big platform game fan. I can see the potential for addiction and obsession, but truth be told, I'm just not that good at platform games, so I get annoyed to the point of abandoning them after repeated bouts of failure. The fact that I've stuck with Lost Winds says something to the merit of the game. One nice feature is that there are puzzles to be solved. Albeit, most of them are pretty easy for an adult, but I liked that the game lets you work it out for yourself without laying out the solution. My young daughter, on the other hand, did not like the lack of direction, so alternated in a ceaseless volley between telling me she wanted to play it by herself and then needing to ask for help.
tressed out parents will surely appreciate the calm minimalist flute that plays throughout the game
So again, I must come back to the question of who is the game's intended audience? A child might appreciate the story line, but the only way I can see a child being able to play the game successfully is with an adult assisting with the many jumps and aiding in solving the puzzles. An adult will appreciate the look and feel of the game, and stressed out parents will surely appreciate the calm minimalist flute that plays throughout the game, but experienced platform gamers may well find the game too simplistic.
Lost Winds, while full of potential, ultimately fails to take flight.
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