On The Wind iPad Review
Developer David Buttress is probably getting a little tired of hearing thatgamecompany's Flower referenced whenever videos of On the Wind are commented upon, but it's an unavoidable comparison given the pollination gameplay and ambient feel shared by both titles.
Like all of the best mobile games, On the Wind is a deceptively simple one at first. It tasks you with grabbing the leaves from a tree that marks the start of each session, and then taking them on a rolling journey through a brooding and barren forest, picking up extra leaves along the way as you pass through the four seasons. The landscapes within each season are randomly generated and the visual mood itself changes accordingly, from the deep reds of autumn to the crisper ground that marks the end of your journey.
As you move around the screen, any contact you make with the shadowed, Limbo-esque undergrowth causes a leaf you've collected to bloom into a little flower that both brightens up the world and awards additional points. There's a balance to be maintained however, and each flower you create removes one leaf from your swarm. Run out of leaves entirely and your current game session is over.
You take control of your grouped-up foliage by making a smooth finger motion anywhere on the screen, sending it darting off in that direction. The movement sensitivity can be tweaked to provide either a slower swoop around the forest or a far twitchier blast, although an option that sits somewhere in between the two would have been welcome as you make your own transition from gardening apprentice to Capability Brown.
It's a wonderful game that manages to combine a soothing journey with the intense concentration required to chase a high score, but the audio does seem a little confused with itself. While the intent to showcase a contrast between the gloominess of the world and the importance of your actions is obvious, there's a sense that this could have been developed further. The ominous two-tone string section that hums away in the background certainly contrasts with the the bright symphonic stabs that mark the collection of new leaves, but these latter never really string themselves together in a way that feels meaningful.
This is a niggle though in the grander scheme of things, and On The Wind also ticks some very welcome boxes: there's full Game Center support which provides not only leaderboard competition, but also some horrifically challenging achievements that will keep you engaged with the game for a very long time. It's a universal app too, something we're always happy to tip our hat to these days.
While we would have liked to hear (and feel) more from the audio, the combination of soothing yet tense gameplay and the gorgeous landscapes that gently ebb and breathe, makes On the Wind a very easy recommendation to make.
What's Hot: Beautiful animations, soothing gameplay, and a title you'll be playing for a long time to come.
What's Not: More work on the audio could have led to perfection.