Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 3GS
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Even if the graphics are of a much higher quality, Emberwinds harkens back to 16-bit platforming classics the likes of Super Mario World. And while the game's mechanics aren't nearly as spot-on as those of its spiritual predecessor, it feels familiar in a way that many modern platformers don't. That said, this game is not Super Mario World for the iPhone. It has its own take on the genre and is packed full of whimsical heart.
Emberwind follows the journey of a gnome watchman, named Kindle, and his trusty owl friend as they battle to save the city of Grendale from armies of gremlin invaders. Much as one would expect from a platformer that emulates the late, great 16-bit titles, Emberwind is divided into levels that are each accessed via a world map with nodes for each level. The world map is the first piece of the game players will see and it sets the visual bar for the rest of the game. One glance at this map and players will know what kind of gorgeous environments await them in each level.
Once a level is selected, Kindle flies to that point on his owl and the level begins loading. Once loaded, Kindle touches down and dismounts his owl in one of a variety of gorgeous environments including forests, villages, and snow-packed tundras. The variety of environments is quite impressive considering the amount of work that must have gone into creating each one. The level design in Emberwind is very organic. Platforms are part of the environment and players will need to train themselves a bit in order to recognize the paths they can use to traverse a level. This can be quite frustrating at times. There are sections of the game where it is almost impossible to guess what Kindle is supposed to go and do, and how he can get there to do it. There are screen prompts (such as green arrows) that help a bit, but these prompts are vague and only imply a general direction.
Kindle is controlled with a virtual touch joystick and buttons for attacking and jumping. The controls work well enough to make navigating the levels possible, but the platforming is very tricky and it isn't rare to repeat sections of the game several times before successfully making the correct jumps and landings. This problem is helped a bit with checkpoints, but the player must specifically activate these checkpoints and it can be easy to miss them in the frenzy.
Emberwind is possibly one of the most gorgeous iOS platformers currently in the market. Players looking for a lush, detailed visual experience won't be disappointed. Progressing through the game will take some time and frustration, but unlocking new environments to enjoy almost makes it worth it.