All hail the hundredth WiiWare title. And thank the gods it wasn%26rsquo;t Sexy Poker. Winter of the Melodias is one of few games that deserve to trigger the illustrious milestone. (Frontier also marked the start of the WiiWare hundred with the dazzling original LostWinds). Bigger, better and bolder? It sounds like the crass boast of a Michael Bay sequel, but what is LostWinds if not WiiWare%26rsquo;s very own blockbuster hit?
Bigger is easy to explain. Delightful as it was, LostWinds couldn%26rsquo;t help but seem like the preamble to something bigger %26ndash; two and half hours of learning a brilliant ability set, capped with a sudden boss encounter. Melodias sees Toku get his powers back at such a rate it%26rsquo;s hard to keep up with the guy. That done, it%26rsquo;s onwards to season-swapping, whirlwinds and all the accompanying meteorological baggage they bring.
New powers aren%26rsquo;t as flexible as the old classics, but designed to enable specific puzzles. Shifting seasons lets Frontier%26rsquo;s art minds strut their stuff %26ndash; blustery blossoms making the case for summer, refracting ice crystals piping up for winter %26ndash; but the changes affect navigation more than anything else. Likewise, sucking up water into rainclouds with cyclones allows for precipitation puzzles that will make your head spin, but they%26rsquo;re not that great for messing about.
It%26rsquo;s a shame there%26rsquo;s nothing novel to rival the toybox tomfoolery of slipstreaming, but with all the old favourites returning you can%26rsquo;t really moan. More important is how these abilities are stitched into a grander quest than before. Metroid still comes to mind (especially with a furry suit upgrade) in the back-and-forth structure, but the ideas are pure Zelda %26ndash; helping forest deities, encountering new tribes, exploring temples. Frontier even magic up menial village tasks. No small feat in four hours.
As far as nuts and bolts go, there%26rsquo;s nothing massively different. Yes, there are a couple of great new water-shifting puzzles (with one reminding us of the Caen Hill Locks), but there%26rsquo;s a lot of bramble-burning and Glorb-killing in between. But what it lacks in innovation it more than makes up for with festive character. Part of us wishes they%26rsquo;d held off for two months. You see, for the four hours we spent revisiting Mistralis we felt a little chunk of Christmas whirring away in our Wii.
For all the summery sights, Melodias is an ode to winter. As harsh winds drive Toku further into his furry coat and the cold forces him to huddle around flames, veterans of an icy, blustery midwinter are united in teeth-chattering sympathy. But as ample an approximation it is, Melodias is simultaneously the antidote to cold grumbles, a hot toddy of a game that captures the snug comfort only achievable in these harshest of months.
It%26rsquo;s a difficult vibe to describe, but we%26rsquo;d say it%26rsquo;s the same glow you get from eating a piping hot sausage roll on a cold winter%26rsquo;s night or pulling up your duvet as the wind rattles the window frame. Yes, yes, that sounds sappy, but the nostalgic affection is a big part of Melodias%26rsquo; improvements over its forebear. Talking of bears, Melodias has a great one %26ndash; we defy anyone to find a better character animation than when Sonte (the spirit of seasons) yawns out of his slumber.
Familiarity breeds contempt, but in a few rare cases it breeds a welcoming sense of ease. As the nights grow longer, LostWinds is here to keep you company. For one of them, anyway. There are few better ways to spend a measly few bucks.
Oct 22, 2009