Lost Winds 2: Winter of the Melodias
iGamer With his Chibi proportions and boyish looks, Toku cuts an extremely familiar figure, as do most of the things around him: talking animals, impish sprites and elemental deities. So pervasive is Nintendo's influence throughout Winter of the Melodias, in fact, that neither the land of Mistralis nor its diminutive hero would seem out of place in a Mario or Zelda game.
Could be Mario, could be Zelda
That's understandable. As the launch title to its WiiWare service, Nintendo worked closely with coder Frontier Development to produce the original Lost Winds, and its influence over the game's aesthetics, ambience and characterisation remains strong. But, just as in that original, there's enough novelty in the central conceit to distinguish Winter of the Melodias from the crowd of Nintendo knock-offs.
Willow the wisp
If you never played the original, that conceit is - as the title suggests - the ability to control the wind. By using the game's impressive range of gestures – which transition effortlessly onto the iDevices from the Wii's motion controls - you can harness the wind to enhance Toku's jumps, immobilise or defeat enemies, and solve puzzles. All of which you'll need to do to find your missing mother in the game's familiar 'rescue the princess' proto-plot.
The mechanics provide for distinctive platform puzzling, with wind also harnessed to channel water, fire and snow to solve more complex puzzles. And a steady trickle of new abilities delivers a degree of variety to gameplay, by making new areas of Mistralis accessible through a Metroid-vania-style exploration system. As does the game's halfway point, which subtly alters the dynamic after your actions bring Mistralis out of its perma-winter and into a warm and verdant summertime.
Why does it always rain on me?
The variety proves illusory, however. Despite the novelty, Winter of the Melodias constantly struggles to find use for its ingenious toolset outside of tired hit-switch-open-door mechanics. True, one or two of its multi-screen puzzles can confound temporarily, but overall they're simply not difficult enough, their solutions seldom more taxing than stringing together an obvious sequence of Toku's abilities in mechanical fashion.
There's also very little in the way of hazards or enemies, at least until the game's final third. The cold is Toku's first and greatest danger, requiring you to reach sporadic fires to recharge his warmth meter, but that's negated early on when Toku receives a winter coat. And the common enemy, bouncing globules, pose little threat in any guise, being all-too-easily dispatched with a swipe of your finger.
The lack of danger isn't so apparent when solving puzzles to progress, but you're frequently forced into lengthy backtracking to reach previously inaccessible areas, and it's here the game can feel empty.
So, Winter of Melodias lacks profundity – and indeed challenge. But taken as a gentle, whimsical adventure, there's a fair amount to enjoy here. It's platforming might be pedestrian and its puzzles rarely taxing, but its crisp, beautiful art and animations never disappoint. And, if you're not allergic to a little saccharine gaming, its charm and character rivals any of Nintendo's output.
Lost Winds was as much praised for its novel mechanics as criticised for its brevity. But while Winter of Melodias cleverly expands the adventure with Metroid-vania-style exploration, the initial gust of innovation just isn't strong enough to keep this breezy platform-puzzler aloft. ®
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