LostWinds has received a much-needed update that adds the option to use a traditional D-pad to control your character, as well as an option to slow down your jumps, making for more precise platforming. In a word, these new options are terrific.
Our biggest complaint about the game originally had to do with the controls, and replacing the “tap where you want to go” mechanic with a D-pad makes a big difference. In addition to slowed-down jumping, the swiping effect seems to be more effective now as well, meaning you’ll be able to blow what you’re trying to blow much easier. The controls still aren’t as tight as a Mario game, but they’re hugely improved and much less frustrating.
What’s great about this update is that it lets you stop worrying about the controls so you can focus on the gameplay, which really is a lot of fun. The gorgeous graphics and the serene audio are much easier to take in when you’re not wrestling with the controls. The game still isn’t very long or challenging, but for a couple of bucks, it’s now an easy title to recommend for any platformer fans.
LostWinds is a port of a 2008 WiiWare game that has you help a boy named Toku and his wind elemental friend battle an evil spirit called Balasar. The unique thing about this game is that you don’t control Toku direclty. Instead, you tap where you want him to walk, and swipe to direct gusts of wind that make him jump. It’s a bold design choice that worked fairly well on the Wii. Unfortunately, it doesn’t pay off on iOS.
The game is set up in a Metroidvania style, so you’ll explore a big 2-D world, but you’re restricted from entering certain areas until you gain a an ability that allows you passage. For instance, some ledges are too high for you to reach until you learn the double-jump, and certain blockades can’t be passed until you learn certain a particular wind ability.
Light my fire.
But about that control system… There’s no D-pad or jump button. Instead, you tap where you want your character to move. If you hold down to the left or right of him, he’ll continue walking that direction until you tap elsewhere on the screen. Those inputs don’t feel very intuitive in a platformer, but they’re easy enough to acclimate to. The real problems come in when you have to jump.
When you swipe the screen, you create a gust of wind that follows your finger. To jump, you swipe through Toku, and he’ll be boosted in the direction of your swipe. This would probably be doable if the swiping input were as responsive as it is in Fruit Ninja. Unfortunately, it’s not that good. Oftentimes your swipes won’t register until halfway through, meaning you’ll miss Toku with your gust, or he simply won’t be lifted by your swipe, which leads to some extremely frustrating platforming.
Slippery when wet.
Worse is when you have to move items to complete environmental puzzles, like when you need to fling a boulder onto a pressure switch to open a gate. If Toku is difficult to control, items can be nearly impossible to juggle into position. Complicating matters further, when you swipe at an item, the game often thinks you’re trying to tell Toku where to go, so he starts walking that way, taking the camera with him. It’s enough to make you toss your phone across the room.
To put it in perspective, the game isn’t unplayable. Control issues aside, it’s not a very challenging or long game, which is certainly for the best. But playing LostWinds on iOS isn’t ever really fun, either, and that’s what counts. It’s a shame, because the graphics and music are great, and it seems like there’s a solid platformer in here, hiding just out of sight.