Racing through tunnels avoiding obstacles and trying to reach the end of the song or level has come its own mini sub genre over the years. It is one full of fun, frustration and addictive gameplay. Following in the footsteps of Race to the Sun, Audiosurf and the likes, Lost Wing brings some of the best of the genre with it.
You play as a spaceship screaming down one of three tunnels trying to avoid a variety of objects coming towards you. Unlike many rhythm games where you can move left and right, here you can also jump over obstacles too. As a result the game feels a bit like Velocibox as you need to think about position and height. As your jump has a drift and tiny recharge to it, you’ll need to get used to jumping early incase you are required to jump multiple times in a row. It takes a little time to get used to but soon you’ll be speeding around the screen and getting used to the quirks in the design of Lost Wing that make it oh so moreish.
Each tunnel is procedurally generated but has a constant increase in both the amount of objects to avoid and the minimum speed your ship can fly. You can choose to accelerate faster but I wouldn’t recommend it until you are feeling in a zen mood with Lost Wing. Bullets are liberally scattered around the level to collect and you can blast your way down the tunnel too. This reveals other power ups or score bonuses for those of you chasing the high scores and online leaderboards. It becomes a must later in the game to save bullets and rationalise usage of them as you’ll need to blast a way to clear your path and survive.
The reason the game is called Lost Wing becomes clear if you clip anything – your wing falls off. You only crash and burn when you smack something head on. Instead you’ll limp around with a poorly controlled plane that struggles to turn. If you survive for about 15 seconds or so a replacement wing power up is spawned but you’ll need good wits to survive that long. The other crazy extra I found enjoyable was that there will be random space anomalies which slowly rotate the screen around 360 degrees. It looks impressive, especially when flying at speed. It really screws up with your brain too as your controls will be reversed during it too when your upside down. Talking of upside down – there is a power up that flips the screen and it seems to be everywhere much to my frustration! Those are far less enjoyable and lead to a game over screen far too often.
With all the praise and replayability I heaped on Lost Wing, there are a couple of things that hold it back. Lost Wing doesn’t put its best thruster forward by locking all of its content behind a slow XP grind. You’ll play the same tunnel over and over for a good hour easily before the second tunnel is available. Instead it throws you ship skins which don’t change much. I suspect this is to negate the lack of content. The game only has three tunnels which feels at least 2 lower than it needed to be. The forest themed tunnel is also dark to the point of causing you to crash because sometimes you can’t see anything. The more you grind, the better the game becomes as new modes such as slalom mode become available. The problem is, that’s many hours in and if you’ve struggle to do well and gel with the game, I can see many walking away after two hours never to return.
That would be a shame. Lost Wing has some great production values, great gameplay and some really tense and satisfying moments throughout. It just spreads itself a little thinly at times. If you like this style of runner game though, you are in for a treat. Oh, and for those of you wondering – each tunnel does have a boss to clear but when you clear it, the tunnel isn’t over. You continue on with a harder version of it to clear all over again!
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