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Critical Reception: Frontier Developments' LostWinds

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to LostWinds, a $10 WiiWare launch title from UK developer Frontier (Thrillville) that critics describe as "better than a lot of $49.99 Wii games" - a plethora of responses,
This week's edition of the regular Critical Reception column examines online reaction to LostWinds, a $10 WiiWare launch title from UK developer Frontier (Thrillville) that critics describe as "better than a lot of $49.99 Wii games." Nintendo's WiiWare service launched in North America this week, offering Wii owners a selection of original downloadable software. Since its debut on Monday, Frontier Developments' LostWinds has earned widespread acclaim and recommendations from early WiiWare adopters impressed with its innovative take on the exploration-based platforming genre, and critics have weighed in with positive reviews that average a score of 84 out of 100. Kristan Reed at Eurogamer rates LostWinds at 9 out of 10. "Considered by many to be the premier WiiWare launch title, it's not difficult to see why Frontier's LostWinds has garnered such an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response during recent sneak previews," he writes. "Knocked up in little over three months, it's a reminder of the kind of offbeat creativity UK development talent is capable of when given an outlet, and when publishers don't interfere." Reed praises LostWinds' wind-based control scheme in particular. "Perhaps the most interesting facet of LostWinds control system is how quickly it becomes second nature to pull off complex-sounding actions," he describes. "With basic left-right movement assigned to the nunchuk, and an auto jump system whenever you reach the edge of a platform, the more complex manouevres are given over to the remote." "Rather like Okami, you must physically draw actions on the screen," Reed continues, "in this case controlling gusts of wind by holding down the A button and drawing the wind you want to create." Reed finds that this setup works well in the context of gameplay. "Crucially, all of it feels instantly intuitive, and adding extra abilities does little to derail your progress," he writes. "As with the very best Wii games to date, it utilises the control system in a manner that's incredibly accessible but extremely clever at the same time." Reed emphasizes that LostWinds' achievements are all the more impressive when considering its price. "At 1000 Wii Points, it absolutely shames most full-price releases," he asserts. "True, the gameplay length at 3 to 4 hours (on your first play-through) isn't that big, but for the price you can have no complaints whatsoever." "LostWinds is a great example of what can be achieved on WiiWare," Reed concludes. "By combining a few simple gesture-based controls within a tightly focused platform-puzzling framework, Frontier has created a mini-masterpiece at the first attempt." IGN's Matt Casamassina scores LostWinds at 8.2 out of 10, describing the title as, "Better than a lot of $49.99 Wii games." "The WiiWare launch effort, created by Frontier Developments, does more with 43 megabytes than too many Wii developers do with a whole Wii optical disc," Casamassina claims. "That says two things: first, that Frontier actually cares to take advantage of Nintendo's console and second, that too many software makers don't." Casamassina gives praise to LostWinds' presentation quality, explaining that its detail and style is impressive given the medium's limitations. "The game's presentation [...] is altogether remarkable, especially when you consider that Frontier has squeezed everything into a relatively small download," he says. Casamassina continues: "The environments are beautiful, featuring lush greenery with interactive vegetation (if you point over trees and flowers with the Wii remote, the wind will blow through them); there's a well-used depth-of-field blur, reflections and transparencies, detailed particle and lighting effects (fire, which is interactive, looks great); and lots of bloom." LostWinds' gameplay is similarly impressive, according to Casamassina. "The wind controls feel very good and they work in conjunction with some clever puzzles," he writes. "Draw a slipstream from a torch to a wooden door and the wind will carry the flame to the wood, burning down the barrier. Draw a line from some water to a seed and you will birth a sapling, which can be used to gain new heights." "LostWinds is as its best as you're connecting together wind gusts in order to float through the air or solving simple, but nevertheless enjoyable puzzles by thinking about how to best use the wind," Casamassina notes in conclusion. "Here's a game that proves with smart play mechanics and a beautiful visual style that developers can do so much with 43 megabytes, let alone the disc space available for full Wii games." At Zentendo, Eddy Fettig contributes a LostWinds review scored at 8 out of 10. "Is it worth Wii Points that could be spent on other WiiWare titles?" he asks. "Right off the bat, I'll say this: if LostWinds is a hint of the potential of WiiWare, then Wii owners should support this title." "Players will see that being a cheaper, smaller game does not necessarily mean that LostWinds is of less quality." Fettig notes. "The game's presentation and graphics easily rival that of many full-budget Wii titles." Fettig agrees with other reviewers that LostWinds' controls are fluid throughout, and that its time-slowing mechanic during wind-guiding sequences allows for greater precision. "While this mechanic isn't mind blowing in any sense, it is refreshing to see it used in a charming 2D platformer and brings a number of interesting puzzles along with it," Fettig writes. "The controls take a few minutes to get used to, but a half hour in and most anyone should be smoothly navigating the world." Some may be disappointed by LostWinds' length, however. "It is quite short," Fettig cautions. "I personally completed the title in roughly two hours, and spent another hour seeking out gold statues -- though no where does the title mention what these are or what they do." "Without spoiling anything, the game ends on an abrupt note and a 'to be continued' screen," he continues. "Whether the designers decided to make this game more episodic, or simply create one sequel, or perhaps cut the game in half due to storage limitations, I cannot say, but it was a bit of a downer to end such a well-executed adventure so quickly." "That said, this title is only ten dollars, so a few hours for the price of admission into this serene land will likely be well-worth it to most gamers who decide to purchase it," Fettig assures. "Its production values are unquestionably setting a solid bar for future WiiWare devs to follow. In my personal opinion, LostWinds will be a title that more casual gamers will enjoy due to its simple nature, brevity, and relaxing yet rewarding gameplay." Critical reaction to LostWinds so far has been largely positive, and many claim that the title is the best of WiiWare's initial software lineup. Though some warn that its short length may be a disappointment, it's generally agreed among critics that LostWinds remains a fun, satisfying experience that aptly demonstrates WiiWare's potential.

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