The WiiWare platform has certainly not been as successful as either PSN or XBLA. Sure there are gems here and there, but when attempting to find a defining set of titles it is more of a challenge than you would imagine. The original LostWinds is certainly one of those defining titles, and to this day remains one of the best downloadable games available on the system. As you can imagine when they announced the sequel we could not wait to get our hands on it. Winter of the Melodias takes all of the amazing innovation of the first game and combines it with a set of new features and challenges that once again set the bar for WiiWare titles.
Much like the original game you play as Toku in the fantasy land of Mistralis. This time around he is on a mission to figure out what happened to his mother. Along the way he will meet up with some intriguing characters including a giant rock creature that plays a role in the puzzles, as well as discover what happened to his mother and the tribe of the Melodias. The catch to LostWinds is that you can manipulate the wind with the flick of the Wii remote, and of course with the assistance of the Wind Spirit Enril. The story feels more like a catalyst to invoke the creative gameplay elements, but the limited presentation does do a nice job of at least keeping you occupied between each section of the game. Rarely did I find myself skipping dialogue, and Toku and his companions are certainly easy to like.
As I mentioned the premise of the game is simple enough, but also highly polished and inspired. You control Toku with the analog stick on the nunchuk while using the Wii remote to create gusts of wind that can be used for various actions. What was most surprising about the original game is that this method felt better than almost any other game on the console. Developer Frontier has done an amazing job of tweaking the motion controls to near perfection. You can use the gusts wind to help Toku jump, attack and even remove obstacles and solve puzzles. This new take on the platforming genre makes this and its predecessor an absolute joy to play.
In addition to the traditional platform and puzzle sections you will also gain access to abilities such as the cyclone and vortex. These are also used in creative ways to solve puzzles such as draining water out of certain areas, or simply trapping enemies. I know I have mentioned the idea of creativity a bit much in this review, but the first time you use the wind to manipulate a flame to burn an enemy you will understand. The developers at Frontier have created a game that is such an amazing experience that it should be experienced by anyone who enjoys a great platformer.
The inventive control scheme is accompanied by the design of the game. Controlling Toku is a breeze (yeah I will take credit for that pun) using the Wii remote. Frontier has tuned the controls from the previous game making simple gestures more recognized. The other major difference from its predecessor is the ability to change seasons in order to solve puzzles. For instance there could be a giant block of ice obstructing your progress. Simply changing the season to summer will melt the block of ice and thus allow you to pass. These types of puzzles are what make LostWinds such an innovative experience, and one that should not be missed.
Level designs also stand out as absolutely engulfing. Instead of the claustrophobic levels of the original game, the sequel sports some truly inspired outdoor locales that are breathtaking. The effects of the wind gusting over open flame and moving the vegetation is stunning to say the least, for one considering this is a downloadable title and two that it is in fact a Wii game. The sheer amount of detail conveyed within the environments is staggering. Developer Frontier has truly outdone themselves in both design and execution when it comes to the subtle nuances.
Speaking of detail as I have mentioned over and over again this is one beautiful game. Considering the platform and delivery you would really think this was a retail disc simply from its excellent presentation. Little things stand out such as animated backdrops, elegant animation and truly inspired art design. All of it moves along at a steady clip and amazingly all of it comes packaged at the low low price of ten bucks or 1,000 Wii Points to the purists. The music is equally impressive delivering a sooth sounding score that is reminiscent of Japanese platform titles. It is catchy and mood setting, just as much as the outstanding visuals. It continues to boggle my mind that this somehow is a WiiWare title, even now when I boot it up.
LostWinds: Winter of the Melodias is one of the best downloadable games you will play this year. The sheer amount of detail and care poured into this title secretes from every flick of the Wii remote. The motion controls are better than most every other game on the system and the art directions is absolutely jaw-dropping at times. I cannot recommend this title enough to anyone who enjoys a solid platformer. The ten bucks you drop on this title will be more than worth it. While it may only last four hours, it will be four of the best hours you spend on your Wii this year.