LostWinds: An iOS Port Done Right

As I’ve intimated previously, I’m not a huge fan of non-traditional video game controllers. After over five years on the mainstream market, both touch and motion controls still feel gimmicky as all hell, and in 99% of all cases, using a traditional gamepad instead would vastly improve the controls. Despite the seeming popularity of motion and touch controls, Nintendo and Apple have fractured the development industry, forcing developers to either learn how to create games featuring these controllers on the fly (often with poor results) or forgo releasing games on these consoles at all.

Occasionally, we do get an exceptional original game designed for the ground up for these alternative control schemes (World of Goo comes to mind), but it’s rare that we see a game that is improved by porting it to one of said schemes. LostWinds began life on WiiWare in 2008, where it got pretty decent review scores (though it could be argued that those scores were facilitated by low expectations, given that LostWinds was one of the only games on Nintendo’s downloadable service at that time). In my opinion, the game suffered because of its motion controls; the Wii Remote is a surprisingly unintuitive controller for “painting” lines on the screen, which is the game’s main gimmick (you “draw” wind currents to move Toku around or blow fire onto wooden doors).

I recently picked up the iOS app for free, so I figured I’d give the game another shot. Believe me when I say that this game is vastly improved by touch controls, to the point where it feels like it was meant to be on this system.. A virtual D-pad allows you to make Toku run, and unlike other onscreen D-pads (I’m looking at you, Zenonia), LostWinds‘ D-pad feels great. It’ll feel very intuitive to anyone who has experience with the 3DS’ Circle Pad. Furthermore, a swipe of the finger sends out a wind gust quickly and accurately, making triple jumps much easier than they were in the WiiWare version. I’ve been playing with my left thumb on the D-pad and my right index finger controlling the wind, which I’ve found is a pretty good setup, but a number of different control options are offered, including a “tap and hold to walk” scheme reminiscent of adventure games.

The actual game itself is pretty short and laughably easy, but it’s also pretty relaxing. Actual enemies are few and far between and are easily dispatched when encountered, and the environments are bright, colourful, and breathtaking. Like most iOS games, it’s a game that can provide a distraction for someone who’d just prefer to chill for a little bit, but it offers a fair bit more substance than the high-score chasing of Angry Birds or Super Crate Box. Had iOS been the lead platform rather than WiiWare, there’s no doubt in my mind that LostWinds would’ve been considered one of the platform’s AAA titles.

Many people seem to think that a AAA iOS title equates to squeezing a touchscreen version of Gears of War onto a cell phone, but that’s generally not what the audience wants or needs (Ryan Payton and Camouflaj had this problem when trying to drum up support for Republique earlier this year). AAA iOS titles take advantage of the demographic’s casual mindset and the device’s unique capabilities, all while crafting a user experience deeper than Angry Birds, but less involved than Metal Gear Solid. We need more games like LostWinds on iOS.

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