April 30th, 2012 | By Geoff Hathaway
Playing an app that brings on the feeling of whimsy is rare in these days. Touch controls, and noisy conditions don’t always allow for the player to get in — what I would call — ”in the zone”. Dulcet tones, easy, yet challenging gameplay bring On The Wind to the forefront in my mind. The game combines many of the same mechanics that Flower from ThatGameCompany did for Playstation 3 players, but does still achieves it’s unique visual style and sometimes sporadic gameplay keep it on the level of that masterpiece?
Learning the controls of On The Wind is a quick process. You use your finger to move a group of leaves through a dark, gloomy landscape. As the season pass, you will lose your leaves at a pretty rapid pace, so collecting more will be necessary to make it through Spring, Summer, Fall and eventually Winter. Collecting all of the leaves improves your score and the amount of time you have to continue through each progressing season. Here in lies the problem, if any of your leaves touch the landscape you will lose them. Finding the path of least resistance is not always the best option, because the majority of the leaves that can be gained will be in the tighter areas.
Speed and acceleration are not controlled by the player, so repetition through the game is always helpful. I found myself finding a rhythm whilst playing. The sounds produced when gaining leaves helped me find that zone. On The Wind is not a producer of Zen, but it is a challenge in its own right. It creates a balance between zen and frustration that is rare. More challenging than a physics based puzzle game, but still giving me that “one-more-try mentality.”
The idea of On The Wind is simple, but stunning. The rolling vistas keep the game from looking too generic. The plants themselves have a uniquely artistic look as well, but are colorless. The contrast between the landscape and the foreground provide an interesting stylistic choice as well simplifying the gameplay. These artistic moments combined with the realistic wind sound make On The Wind unique compared to other high score games.
My biggest problem with On The Wind is the controls. Not that they are difficult or do not feel right, but my fat fingers. On the iPhone 4, your finger just takes up a ton of the screen’s real estate. This can lead to mistaken moves that remove a ton of your leaves, making the game end or shortening your game to the point of futility. However, on the iPad, the game flows nicely without much of the screen space being taken up.
The high scores in this game are huge and playing through showed that the community is hugely dedicated, or have a ton of free time on their hands. The more leaves you get, the higher the score. The inclusion of Game Center leaderboards is huge for this game. Some people topping out at over 200k, which is astounding to me, but my top score at over 75k was not too shabby. The achievements in On The Wind are tough, especially those where you have to collect all the leaves in specific season. Trying to complete those will definitely keep you busy for a very, very long time.
On The Wind is in the low price range, but is filled with enough challenge to keep you coming back for more. The rhythmic feelings I got while playing helped me feel more in tune with my movements. It is hard to explain, but even with its drawbacks, On The Wind seems to fulfill that small void that games like Flower and others fill. I can highly recommend this title, and hope to see more from the developer in the future.