It's easy to think of LostWinds: Winter of the Melodias, the sequel to last year's enchanting WiiWare platform puzzler, as yet another inspired game from UK developer Frontier. It's spell-bindingly beautiful, packed full of wonderfully designed characters, and has an eerie yet entrancing atmosphere that forces its way under your skin.
But it's the fact that it improves upon its predecessor in almost every way that makes it a better game than the original. It's bigger, harder, the puzzles are more challenging and the number of abilities the adorable Toku, LostWinds' hero, has at his disposal has increased two-fold. Bar a few control problems, Winter of the Melodias is an almost perfect modern day downloadable video game.
LostWinds is powered by air. Young Toku can't do anything out of the ordinary, but with the help of Enril the Wind Spirit, who is represented on screen as the Wii Remote pointer, he can ride gusts of wind that lift him into the air.
Take jumping, for example: holding the A button and flicking the Wii Remote in the desired direction will cause a gust of wind to lift Toku off of his feet. You're able to do this three times in a row, with a slight pause in between each, to help our hero reach areas he would never be able to otherwise.
Winter of the Melodias picks things up almost immediately after the end of the first game. Toku and Enril head off in search of his mother Magdi, who has mysteriously disappeared while searching for the ruins of Melodia City. The game begins with a quite stunning opening section that sees Magmok, the giant rock creature and final boss of the first game, help Toku up Summerfalls Mountain. Magmok swings in and out of the background, picking Toku up with his huge hands and lifting him to new heights. It sets the tone perfectly - immediately it's clear that Winter of the Melodias is a quality title with incredibly high production values for a 1000 Wii Point WiiWare game.
At the mountain summit, Toku finds Summerfalls Village racked by an eternal winter. It's bitterly cold, and, at this early stage, you're forced to move from lit torch to lit torch to prevent yourself from freezing to death. Soon, though, you snag a coat that keeps Toku warm. This is your first new ability, one of many that you'll pick up Metroid style as you unveil more of the game's innards. Toku eventually discovers a cave full of villagers, as well as his mother. Unfortunately she's stricken with a mysterious illness that will soon kill her; Toku and Enril then head out in desperate search of a cure, and, along the way, attempt to rid the village of its wintery curse.
As a result of the winter, Toku can perform some new abilities. The Vortex ability from the first game (hold A and draw a small circle) forms a snowball, which can be used to defeat Glorbs, the small blobs from the first game, as well as press down switches and destroy ice barriers.