On the Wind is an enticing mobile side-scroller from ex-Rare developer David Buttress. It's also impossible to describe without mentioning Flower, thatgamecompany's brilliant first-person adventure that allows you to craft vibrant gardens of colour by controlling the wind.
Like Flower, On the Wind allows you to control nature through the creation of gusts and flurries. Flower's influence is evident from your first swipe of the touch-screen, but there are enough differences to keep things fresh.
On the Wind places its world in a third-person perspective. Gone, too, is Flower's ability to soar around levels at will. Gameplay is transferred to a fluid 2D side-scroller, with Flower's sedate pace cranked up to arcade-like levels as you fight to keep your gust of wind alive.
This is Flower re-imagined for a touch-screen, then, but not as a direct port or cheap copy. Instead, On the Wind is a version rethought for handheld platforms that offers a suitably more impulsive experience.
Touching and dragging across the screen guides your wind gust, which you must keep topped up with leaves in order to maintain its breezy, flowing tail. Picking up more leaves is as easy as passing over nearby trees, but you must gamble which to aim for. You can't harvest them all, and while the more generous clumps might seem the best to target, these are often found on a narrower path. Trace a route too close to obstacles and you'll shed leaves at an increased rate. Lose them all and it's game over.
The game starts you off in a gentle spring environment, all lush greens and healthy, heavy trees. Progress further and you'll find the seasons changing, the world's arty silhouetted landscapes adapting until you hit the faster-paced autumn and winter sections, where leaves are naturally scarcer. On the Wind is a battle against the elements compared to Flower's leisurely exploration, but it's a change of pace that fits the game's handheld home.
The concept's transition to touch-screen is not entirely without fault, however. Controlling the game can be a bit of a struggle, as your gust of wind directly follows your finger's path across the screen. On the Wind originally launched with a single control option that forced you to trace a path for the wind to follow. This caused your finger to obscure the level ahead, frequently causing collisions into upcoming objects.
Thankfully a new update has tweaked this slightly. You can choose to push your wind gust from behind, giving you a clear view of what lies ahead, and also adjust the game's control sensitivity. It's still not perfect (using the other control method means you sometimes find your finger blocking what's happening with your gust's tail) but overall is a huge improvement.
An ideal control scheme would remove your fingers entirely from the game's key on-screen real estate (something similar to Cave's Bug Princess 2, perhaps, where you use the bottom of the screen like a trackpad), but this is something for another update. As it stands now, On the Wind is a perfectly playable and ultimately enjoyable portable experience.
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