LostWinds is the new Portal

Okay, that might be an overstatement. LostWinds, a new game for the Nintendo Wii, doesn't quite reinvent a video-game genre or deliver innovative gameplay the way Portal did, but it's part of the same tiny revolution in console gaming that Valve's miniature masterpiece exemplifies.

I could seriously listen to that music all day.

Both Portal and LostWinds can be completed in about three hours, a good length for those of us who can no longer spend entire weekends planted in front of the TV grinding levels and racking up kills. (I miss you, youth!) These are stripped-down, focused experiences with little filler and almost no repetition.

While Portal delivered a fresh take on the first-person shooter, LostWinds (from UK studio Frontier) is a variation on the 2-D platformer, a genre that pretty much attained perfection with Nintendo's Super Mario Bros. franchise. But where the Mario games focused on precision jumps and exact timing, the experience here is more akin to adventure-oriented games like The Legend of Zelda or Castlevania. (Veterans of those series will have no problems picking up on the logic of the game's design.) Essentially, players are given a game world in which "puzzles" must be solved to open new areas. As you progress, you gain new skills that allow you to float farther, jump higher, etc.

The art style of LostWinds calls to mind Capcom's beautiful Okami (another Zelda descendant), and the controls owe a lot to one of my favorite Nintendo DS titles, Kirby Canvas Curse. In that game, players guide Kirby through 2-D levels by drawing strange, rainbow-hued conveyor belts (brilliantly illustrated here); Kirby simply launches through the air or rolls until he hit something. LostWinds gives players direct control of the main character, Toku, via the Wii nunchuck's thumbstick, but the real power comes from Enril, a spirit who commands the wind. Using the Wii remote as a pointer, you trace out precisely controlled gusts to lift Toku into the air, toss baddies into walls, and blast obstacles and enemies with flames from nearby torches (check out the above gameplay footage).

LostWinds is one of the first titles released under Nintendo's Wii Ware program, which, like Xbox Live Arcade and Sony's PlayStation Network, allows users to buy original games online directly through their consoles. It'll cost you 1,000 Wii Points, or ten of your Earth Dollars. If you have a Wii and a love of exploration and puzzle-solving games, it's definitely worth a look. A sequel has already been confirmed, and I can't wait to see where they take the series from here. (And Nintendo, I'd like my Canvas Curse sequel now, please.)