£0.00 Treasures: Windosill

This is a text that I found to be nigh impossible to write without coming across as at least a little bit, shall we say, wanky. So I thought I should warn you right from the get-go that this could get a little ugly.

Now, let’s consider the word “beauty” (told you).

It is one of those words that people tend to throw about quite carelessly in situations when it might not be entirely warranted, like “love”, “hate” and “awesome”. We don’t really think that “black shoes are awesome” because simple black shoes are not as worthy of awe as, say, seeing the Earth from space or shaking hands with a dead royal. When we use powerful language like this in a casual way it causes the meanings of the words to deteriorate and lose their strength. Nobody is guiltier of this than writers and critics, because it is easy and tempting to sprinkle a text with superlatives to better convey your feelings for whatever cultural artefact you have the pleasure of writing about. God knows I have called a fair few relatively average games “beautiful” in my time, so I am just as much to blame as anybody else.

Makes perfect sense to me.

The reason I start this text like this is because I wanted to make it clear that this time I, for once, actually mean it. Windosill is a genuinely, undeniably, fo’ real beautiful game. On the face of it, it is a puzzle game with a striking visual style and a well-balanced physics engine. You use the mouse to drag, drop, throw, push and pull objects on the screen in order to uncover a simple white block which you use to move on to the next level where you will find a brand new challenge.

What makes Windosill so worthy of awe is the way it forces you to think creatively and not in a bogus Scribblenauts-sort of way either. It is only by experimenting with the levels and trying out different methods that you will be able to progress in the game as you are never given even a single word of instructions. The very first screen is a great example; you start off in a darkened room filled with various contraptions and toys that seem to serve no purpose. That is because almost none of them do, but in order to find this out you need to click everything and notice how it reacts to your interactions. Eventually you will think to drag a white block to the block-shaped hole in the wall and the door to the first level will open. In one screen, with no visual aids, the game has set the stage perfectly for the rest of the levels, subtly building a desire to click around and play with the environments.

The first puzzle of the game.

The levels themselves vary greatly, from simple timing puzzles to devious chain reactions in which you need to activate certain functions in a very specific pattern. Some utilise the physics engine while others are plain old point-and-click fares. The variety is brilliant and every room feels like its own contained little world with brand new rules and factors to consider. Every time you drag that little wagon through the door to the right you feel a sense of excitement and curiosity about what you will find on the other side.

It obviously helps that the graphics and sound effects are stunning and do an excellent job in making every puzzle feel unique. But I award the biggest gold star to the controls. It is hard to explain in words, but when you drag, drop and throw objects there is an almost tangible sense of each individual object’s mass. That’s something you don’t even get with a lot of Wii games with similar controls.

I had this dream once.

So we come full circle again and I find myself again addressing that elusive term “beauty”. When I think of genuine beauty – renaissance painting-type beauty – I think it comes down to a mix of harmony, balance, skill and aesthetics. It’s that gut-rousing sense of satisfaction that ultimately determines it, whether it’s a poem, a movie or a game you are experiencing. Windosill manages to tick all boxes and then leaves you pining for more at the end. Awesome.

Play Windosill at Vectorpark

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Written by Rikard O

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