LostWinds iPhone game has ambition, but loses control

Jan 9, 2012
Games

Platform games survive because of their controls. A platform game, where the player is asked to jump and maneuver over treacherous terrain simply does not work if the controls are unresponsive or even too responsive. Of all the things that can go wrong in the platformer genre, from a jittery camera to boring plotline to […]

Platform games survive because of their controls. A platform game, where the player is asked to jump and maneuver over treacherous terrain simply does not work if the controls are unresponsive or even too responsive. Of all the things that can go wrong in the platformer genre, from a jittery camera to boring plotline to anything else, poor controls are the most inexcusable of the bunch, and LostWinds has horrendous controls.

The game plays like a point-and-click adventure that was thrown into an actual game environment at the last second. Players tap on a portion of the screen, and their character, Toku, will walk where the screen was tapped. Things get trickier when the player is asked to start jumping, which Is almost immediately after the game begins. Jumping is accomplished by tapping into the distance and then quickly swiping in the direction of the jump in order to “grab the wind” to get greater height and distance on the jump.

As an idea, it’s at least an interesting option. I’ve never before played a game that asked so much of what should be such a basic action. But that’s also the problem — jumping should be second nature in a game where it’s the primary action. There are platformers, like the famed Nintendo 64’s Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, that understand that precise jumping is so integral to the experience they make sure the player can’t possibly screw it up. LostWinds on the other hand implores you to mess up over and over again. Even the most basic of jumps takes an inordinate amount of time and effort, and suddenly you’ll wonder why you’re even bothering.

Which is a shame, because otherwise LostWinds is a promising game. It looks great, and it has a basic narrative that should hold most players’ short attention spans. But it is a bear to play. It’s not frustrating in the way a challenging game can be enjoyable because you feel like you’re close to solving a particularly tricky puzzle. It’s simply irritating because the thing you need the game to do can’t be done without the most precise of finger swipes. I’d be interested in playing LostWinds if the game had a control option for an on-screen d-pad and jump button, but I don’t ever want to look at it in its current incarnation. Unless you have the patience of a saint, stay away from this otherwise intriguing game.

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Dan Kricke

Dan Kricke has been playing with electronics and writing about them for years. He loved his Sega Dreamcast and now the PlayStation 3. On the iPhone, he's a fan of sports apps and anything that offers new music.

 

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