On The Wind should be on your playlist

I’ve always been a big fan of games as art, but at the same time, I’m also a big fan of mindlessly addictive games about fast reflexes and trying to outshine your previous score. With that in mind, On the Wind is a game that’s exquisitely tailored to my sensibilities.

If I were to draw comparisons, I’d be tempted to say On the Wind is equal parts the 2009 PSN-exclusive Flower and the 2010 mobile release Solipskier. Like Flower, On the Wind is an artistically lovely experience about controlling the wind as it collects and carries nature’s debris. Like Solipskier, it’s a fast-paced frenzy of finger-movement about safely guiding your avatar for as long as you can while it continually increases in speed. In Solipskier that avatar was a man, while in On the Wind it’s, well… the wind. But despite the thematic difference, the feeling is very much the same.

As the wind, players are tasked with collecting leaves from trees by tracing their finger over them. Your finger never lifts from the screen (unless you want to pause the game, which is a nice touch), and if your finger happens to touch the ground, the leaves that make contact will turn into flowers and be lost. Likewise, leaves will disappear over time of their own accord. If you run out of leaves, its game over. Survive from the start of Spring until the end of Winter, and you’ll have shown Mother Nature who’s really in charge.

While the gameplay is relatively simple on paper, the speed with which the wind moves as the seasons march forward can really keep you on your toes (or fingertips, I suppose) as you try to endure. It’s a common enough mechanic, but it does the job here in a way that’s bound to keep players coming back for more. That said, the game isn’t without its flaws.

If you’re prone to motion sickness (as I am), On the Wind can give you a touch of the dizzies. The speed with which things move combined with not having something in the foreground to focus on (the leaves are usually obscured by your finger) is not unlike staring out the window of a Greyhound bus. If you can do that without an unpleasant feeling, then you’ll have no problems with On the Wind. If the thought of that makes you queasy though, this might not be the game for you. That said, it’s a problem that will only affect a small minority of players, and so shouldn’t be weighed too heavily in your purchasing decisions.

On The Wind

On The Wind

What should, however, is how slick this game’s presentation is. There’s a certain simplicity to the art style, but at the same time, the colors pop right out at you. On the new iPad’s retina display (yes, this one’s retina-ready at launch), it looks simply gorgeous. Add in the music that’s player-driven (every leaf you collect creates a single note), and you’ve got a game that gets a great big A+ in terms of presentation.

The gameplay feels a tad familiar, but it’s also rather addictive, so it’s hard to fault it too much on that. Combine the fun you’ll have with the great art style and mood presented, and On the Wind is a game that’s easily worth checking out for those whose curiosity has been piqued.