Wind Wind

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4
Genre: Puzzle
Publisher: Eliot VFX and VR Studio
Developer: Eliot VFX and VR Studio
Release Date: Feb. 1, 2021


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PC VR Review - 'Wind Wind'

by Cody Medellin on March 11, 2022 @ 1:00 a.m. PST

Wind Wind is a puzzle adventure game where players lead the souls to the top floor of a tower while avoiding enemies along the way.

While VR games are usually about immersion, some use the platform to try out conventional titles using unconventional means. There are platformers like Lucky's Tale and Trover Saves the Universe as well as traditional puzzle games like Tetris Effect that can be played on a regular TV or monitor but get some additional flourishes when played in VR. Wind Wind somewhat falls into this category as a puzzle-platformer that works fine without VR but shines a bit more on the platform — if it weren't for some missteps along the way.

While the opening scenes make the game feel like it's intended for all audiences, the narrative is unbelievably dark. In this world, most people who die have their spirits eventually transform into stars across the universe. That only seems to apply to adults, as children who die don't have enough power to escape the Earth's gravity, causing them to stay behind to fade away slowly or be eaten by black stars, which are souls that eat other souls to become stars. As a benevolent soul, you take it upon yourself to help some of those left behind by giving them a boost to climb a tower that leads them to becoming stars.

After going through that somewhat morose opening, players head to the tutorial level and meet two characters. Koji is a girl who can leap, while Joe can punch boxes and block lasers. Instead of directly controlling each character, players use wands to influence their movements and actions. Press the wand against them and hit a button to have them perform actions, but most of the time, you'll use the triggers to create a stream of air to propel them in the chosen direction. You can also create a burst of air to push them forward at a greater speed and distance, but it comes at the risk of them falling off the stage due to the varying widths of the paths and the lack of barriers on them. You can influence each character by switching between them, but ultimately you need to coordinate both of them to open passages, take down walls, and flip switches to ensure they both reach the top of the tower and ring the bell.

The tutorial level immediately shows some issues that make the game tougher than anticipated. The shoddy translation job of the tutorial text can make it difficult to decipher what's being asked of you. The broken English can get confusing, and the text boxes don't follow you, so you may not know what to do next. At one point, the text can become so confusing that you may accidentally exit the tutorial and have to restart it since the tutorial doesn't move forward in time. Of the two characters, Koji is the one you hate to influence because of her imprecise jumps. It's easy to see her power meter but difficult to see her arc, and even if you get everything lined up just right, her paltry jump height and distance make it a roll of the dice. You can't assist her with wind, either, making those jumps even more frustrating to perform. With the game's minimal checkpoints, failure is devastating, especially since the tutorial level takes a significant amount of time to complete. Finally, while you can rotate a level to get everything at all angles, each rotation changes the camera's zoom level, so you'll often readjust after every camera spin because things can suddenly become too far or too close.

Get past the tutorial, and the rest of the game opens up with essentially more of the same thing. The towers are much taller than expected. The hazards have increased to include things like mines, larger gaps to jump over, and more complicated laser patterns to navigate. The pathways remain narrow, so imprecise fan controls can blow your souls off course; that can be disastrous given the death of checkpoints. That sense of frustration melts away once you finally reach the bell at the top. It feels like a major accomplishment, and some of the puzzles feel clever enough that completing them feels rewarding. However, if you die before reaching a checkpoint, you must conquer the puzzles all over again and reset your partner's position in doing so.

The levels can be fun and maddening, but the game's real crime is that there are only 10 of them. It takes some time to beat the levels, but the game feels like it reaches its conclusion just when you're getting a hang of the mechanics, quirks and all. Wind Wind doesn't feature anything else once you reach the end, so those looking to play at an easier or harder level of difficulty are out of luck. With no plans for DLC for more levels, this falls more in line with most early VR games with bite-sized experiences. At the $20 price point, it loses its instant purchase appeal unless you're aiming to get all of the Achievements.

The presentation is almost perfect. The music is soothing enough to make the game feel less stressful. The characters are drawn in a cute Korean style that comes packed with adorable facial expressions. The environments also look quite nice thanks to their slight cel-shading, and the particle effects blend in well with everything. The only problem is that the game seems to stutter constantly when you decide to move around the tower instead of using the analog stick to turn the tower. Since moving your body around the tower is a more natural thing to do, players opting to do this have a better chance of getting disoriented due to the stuttering, producing that discomfort that VR can be known for.

Wind Wind is a game with a good idea and a not-so-great execution. Indirectly controlling the two characters seems novel until you realize that some actions done this way can only be executed by dumb luck. The levels are challenging, but there aren't enough of them to explore before it's all over. With a playfield that can't stop jittering and a poor translation job, it's difficult to recommend Wind Wind to anyone looking for their next quick VR fix, especially at its current $20 price tag.

Score: 5.5/10

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