“Of all the sounds despatched abroad,
There's not a charge to me
Like that old measure in the boughs,
That phraseless melody
The wind does, working like a hand
Whose fingers brush the sky,
Then quiver down, with tufts of tune
Permitted gods and me.”
- Emily Dickinson, THE WIND
Wind Waker (Gamecube): “Wow, this game really lets you wake the wind! But you know what would be even better? A magic dog.”
Okami (PS2): “Now that’s more like it! But I wish it would come out for the Wii, so I could buy it twice.”
Okami (Wii): “And for my third wish, let’s make it a much smaller, downloadable game, ditch the dog, add more precise wind control, and sexy alien ladies making out with each other.”
LostWinds (WiiWare): “So close! So very, very close.”
LostWinds won’t win any awards for Most Original Premise. An evil spirit, sealed away for many years, gets all ornery. Corruption spreads across the land, day becomes night, property values decrease, and soon a young, exceedingly destined boy named Toku trots off into the underbrush to collect the scattered bits of something important hidden in several inconvenient locations. The usual. The art style seems familiar as well, something like Wind Waker meets Animal Crossing. The wind mechanic has been done before, in games as old as the Klonoa series. Still, despite a nagging sense of déjà vu, I thoroughly enjoyed every predictable moment of this bite-sized download. So what makes it so charming?
Partly, it’s the attention to detail in every aspect of the world. From the sunny pastels of the village to the the shady caverns and ruins, LostWinds overflows with pleasant little touches. There’s something truly adorable about making a little kid in a funny hat soar through the air, or watching him try to eat a berry the size of his head. Some of these elements are just eye candy, but many of them tie together to create a coherent world which reacts organically to the player’s wind powers. Leaves flutter, water splashes, and smoke from chimneys drifts on the breeze. It’s especially satisfying to do a loop-the-loop over villagers’ heads when the clouds blow along with you and they have to hold on to their hats.
As with many Wii games, downloadable or not, the control scheme is the main draw. LostWinds has you move Toku with the analog stick while pointing the remote at the screen to draw gusts of wind. He can’t jump at all, so you’ll need to whisk him into the air all the time. It took me a while to get the hang of it, but eventually I could do it unconsciously. Unlike Okami’s wind drawing, which was about quickly jotting down the right symbol, LostWinds requires a rhythmic series of slow scribbles. I started off with only enough wind to make him hop a little bit, which was frustrating, but better abilities are just a few puzzles away. The game also makes it easier by slowing down time for just a moment after each “breath,” rather than letting the kid plummet immediately as you draw a new gust. The game also forgives mis-timed leaps by dropping Toku into an earlier screen, rather than a pit of instant death, as well as allowing him to slow his own fall.
Of course, I have the uncanny ability to accidentally break even the most forgiving game. In earlier articles, I killed myself with a basketball in Alpha Prime and my copy of No More Heroes glitched right after the final boss. This is how I ended up having to play through LostWinds twice:
The game’s main goal is to find and open four treasure chests in four different locations. After each one, the wind spirit suggests that we go back and talk to the old man, who then reveals the location of the next chest. I decided after the second one to just move on to the third, since it’s pretty obvious where it is. When I returned to the village, the old bastard wouldn’t give me the item I needed to get that last chest. I was supposed to use the item to get the third chest, although there was no barrier preventing me from getting through that section with my current abilities. How did the designers miss that one? Of course, I had already saved and couldn’t go back, because when I screw myself over, I like to do it up right.
LostWinds isn’t an especially long game. It ends just after a very promising boss battle, just when all the wind powers have come together into a single style of movement. At $10, it’s a decent bargain for a couple of hours of fun platforming and light puzzling. Besides, you can lengthen your play time by hunting down hidden packages, or by glitching the game, which adds at least a half hour of cursing and kicking the cat. Even after the second play through, I still want to fly around and explore more of the world of LostWinds. Fortunately, a sequel is already in the works. I look forward to reaching the very last battle and watching my Wii explode.