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Joystiq hands-on: LostWinds (WiiWare)

Zack Stern

Briefly previewed at GDC, LostWinds is a stylish, creative take on platforming. The Nunchuk analog stick moves your small character over obstacles from a side-view. But the the character can't jump or climb very high; he needs the wind to push him up and over pits.

The Wii Remote fills this role naturally. A pointer swipe and button push gusts the wind into the world, lifting the small character to higher plateaus. Even ambient background objects like trees and grasses sway with the breeze. Later puzzles require you to guide the wind into other objects, not just the small fellow.

These techniques feel fresh and the visuals rival other Wii games. LostWinds was one of my favorite experiences from the Nintendo Media Summit.

Gallery: LostWinds | 17 Photos

The beautiful game progressively builds more complicated controls through its several hours of play. The character can open his coat with one button, catching more wind and lifting even higher. Or he might not have the strength to move an object without a heavy gust.

Because of game's playful controls, I wish I could have spent the time progressing through the entire game. David Braben, founder of the developer Frontier, mentioned that his team has crafted a narrative adventure story around the character. I briefly saw some interstitial, 2D, cut-scene art and was impressed by the care put into the canvas-style paintings. I noticed many graphical flourishes in the 3D world, too, with several layers of the 3D background moving to show depth. Soft lighting effects shaded everything, from ambient plant life to beams streaming through trees.

LostWinds is finished, although it hasn't yet been scheduled for release. Braben hopes it's among the WiiWare launch titles. Pricing details and a confirmed ship date will follow.

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