Gaming with a 3 Year Old: LostWinds

This is an experience that will always leave a little bit of a sour taste in my mouth, not so much that game itselfs, but for the company that made it. (I worked for both the company that made this game and the iOS port of the game.. but that’s best left for another story) However I always thought that this series in particular presented a great opportunity for gaming with my kids.

While LostWinds is mechanically too advanced for a 3 year of to play, given it requires the dual use of a mouse and keyboard (though the tablet version might be more child friendly, at least for controls, not so much meaningful progress given the text centric nature of plot advancement) I saw an opportunity to play the game side by side with my little boy. With myself in control of the game and doing suitable voices for the various characters as their text was displayed on screen and the little boy who’d watch in awe and tell me what to do at each stage as I’d say what our overall objective was for each area.

LostWinds is a simple platformer at heart and its touch screen based releases are a great early years game in general for developing gaming skills. The setup on a pc requires due use of the W,A,S,D keys which move the character left and right across the screen. While the mouse allows you to control the wind; as well as a few other powers you’ll obtain through out the game and it’s how you’ll be making your character jump, handling simple combat and solving puzzles. You draw a line (or touch and drag if your on a tablet) and a gust of wind will follow, carrying Toku or objects, or you can slam the games squishy enemies again the walls or just safely out of your way as you move around.

While the game is most made of simple platforming and very basic combat it does present puzzles that will present a challenge, this is where we had the most fun. With my little man trying to offer advice on what we could do to solve the puzzles. The fun part of playing with such a young child is that his solutions to the puzzles would be very logical, but not within the rules of the game itself. For example trying to make me make Toku fly up high, when the wind only allows you so many jumps in the air the reduce in strength every time you use it until you hit the ground again.

It gets a little more complex as you gain more skills, it won’t be long before the power of the mouse can control fire and trees and much more, all based around the idea of drag and drop. So at the very least it gets some good core mouse skills instilled in your child, touch screen however will always perhaps be the superior version of this. even is the left and right movement doesn’t feel as fluid when not using a PC.

Despite all the above I’ve somehow not managed to talk about the visuals of the game yet, Lost Winds is a simple, but beautiful game. Originally one of the first WiiWare titles it was never aiming to stand out around the big AAA games or even the Wii’s limited power. But it uses simplicity and color to make a great execution, with characters and the world they inhabit always looking amazing and another aspect that helped my little one keep his attention on the game for so long.

Like many games we’ve played, our time with LostWinds was short, but so is the game in general and has a refreshingly small price point to match. It managed to leave a lasting memory because it has charm and yet I feel like it’s been something of a forgotten gem over time. Being a digital game it’s never likely to be stumbled upon but it’s often in sales for a very respectable price and I’d say it’s worth trying out on whatever platform you choose.

Ryatta

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