App of the Day: LostWinds 2: Winter of the Melodias
Inherit the wind.
As much as I enjoy iOS gaming, I have to admit that a vast majority of games on the platform feel rather slight. Many have novel mechanics or neat art styles, but do little more than help fill the two minute gaps when the person we're hanging out with goes to the bathroom.
There are few that I find comparable to the sort of fully-fledged experience you get on a console, and LostWinds 2: Winter of the Melodias is one of those exceptions. This shouldn't come as a surprise, being a port of a WiiWare game, but the new mobile version is a splendid translation of an already excellent title.
LostWinds 2 is a semi-linear 2D Metroidvania-style adventure, with a hint of Okami's gesture-based environment manipulation set in a lovely storybook world. I fear the "2" in the title will scare off newcomers, and that would be a shame as it's not necessary to have played the original LostWinds to appreciate this one. You'll miss a crumb or two of backstory, but all you need to know is that a young boy, Toku, has befriended a wind spirit, Enril. Aside from this very basic premise, LostWinds 2 is an entirely self-contained tale.
After a mysterious intro starring an all-new playable character, we join Toku and Enril as the pair receive news that Toku's mother is in danger after her expedition went missing. Thus, they embark on the back of a mossy stone giant, setting off in search of the missing mum. It's not the most complicated tale, but it holds a fair bit of mystery as you delve deeper into its exotic terrain.
Where the first LostWinds felt like it ended as soon as it was getting interesting, LostWinds 2 builds upon its predecessor in every way. You begin with most of your powers from the last game, but there's a host of new upgrades and set pieces to come.
Right away a new mechanic is introduced as you must find fires to huddle next to in a wintry climate. This ominous early act conveys the lad's despair brilliantly, and when you do finally get a new tunic to survive the inclement weather, it comes at just the right time: both in terms of complementing the story and establishing the game's breezy pace.
This generous doling out of upgrades is the key to LostWind's 2's success. You never go too long before earning a new power, like being able to change seasons, creating cyclones for extra jump boosts, and turning pools into clouds which rain where you desire. LostWinds 2 may be short (about four to five hours), but it feels like a complete journey.
Much of this success is due to the LostWind 2's sterling art direction. Varied sets consist of snowy mountain ruins, lush green fishing villages, and the Ico-like golden remains of a lost civilization. This lively world is teeming with details like stalagmites made of ice that realistically distort your avatar as you pass, snow that flurries around as you manipulate the winds, and cave drawings that flesh out the game's backstory. Even your two different garbs clearly reflect which culture they're from. This is a remarkably consistent world that demands to be explored.
LostWinds 2: Winter of the Melodias isn't just good for an iOS game. It's as attractive and polished an adventure as you're likely to find anywhere. I still mildly favour the WiiWare version for its clever control scheme (where the Wii Remote guided the wind spirit, while the more traditional Nunchuk handled the conventional hero), but the new touch controls are generally up to the task. Those wanting to save a few quid and play it on the go will find this port on a popular platform a more than serviceable substitute for one of the Wii's most under-appreciated offerings.
App of the Day highlights interesting games we're playing on the Android, iPad, iPhone and Windows Phone 7 mobile platforms, including post-release updates. If you want to see a particular app featured, drop us a line or suggest it in the comments.