Vectorpark, App Store
Unique; interactive; beautifully drawn
Limited shelf life
It doesn’t seem entirely accurate to describe Windosill as a game. Games, after all, evoke things like rules and objectives and winning. And while there’s certainly a goal to strive for in the $3 iPad app from Vectorpark.com – solve one puzzle to move onto the next one until you’ve completed all 11 vignettes – the real joy in Windosill comes in the journey, not the destination.
Windosill takes place in a dream world, where the mood is set from the moment you launch the app and the scene opens on a darkened room where only a few objects are visible. It’s only after you tap on a lightbulb that you see a cubby-hole filled with fantastical toys, each one responding to your touch. It’s a little toy train you want to pay attention to – that’s the object you’ll be leading through Windosill’s dreamscape, as you figure out how to lead it through a series of locked doors to get to the next scene.
To unlock each door, you’ll need a square block, but getting that block to appear is at the heart of every puzzle in Windosill. In one puzzle, you’ll have to find the block and then get your train past a trio of friendly – if somewhat grabby – monsters. In another, you must figure out a way to get your train across a chasm under the watchful eye of a rotating moon. In still another puzzle, you have to assemble a Mouse Trap-style contraption that lands the wooden block where you can grab it.
The puzzles, though, are almost secondary to the world that Windosill inhabits. Nearly every object in each scene is tappable or swipeable and will respond to every poke and prod. That’s the why the app is aimed at children – they may take or leave the puzzles, but I bet they’ll want to explore every last aspect of Windosill’s 11 scenes. In the App Store description for the game, Vectorpark.com says Windosill should be played in a single sitting and that it will take anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours to work your way from one end of the world to the other. Given all the objects there are to explore, I can easily imagine kids immersing themselves for hours in what creator Patrick Smith has put together.
Windosill actually started its life as a Flash-based game, but I think it’s a more natural fit on the iPad. Gesture-based controls give you the chance to really interact with the objects, discovering what happens when you tap, drag and swipe. To add to the fun, Windosill’s settings let you turn on complex gravity, which makes the objects respond when you tilt your iPad. (That setting can affect performance, particularly if you play Windosill on an original iPad.) Regardless of its Flash roots, this game was born to be experienced on Apple’s tablet.
It’s Smith’s distinctive artwork that really helps Windosill shine, giving the app a look that sets it apart from the other 500,000 or so offerings crowding the App Store. Dig a little deeper into Windosill and you can find selections from the production sketchbook that show how the objects and scenes evolved into the final version. It’s a real visual treat.
Audio is also part of the Windosill experience and a lot of care went into creating the right kind of ambient sounds – the scrape of blocks as they’re dragged across the screen, splashes of water, even the click of your train’s wheels as it scuttles across the screen. That said, the sounds can be pretty subtle and a little background music in some of the scenes might have made things even more immersive.
Perhaps the biggest drawback to Windosill is its replayability. Even if you spend a lot of time exploring the game’s 11 scenes – and you will, if you have any ounce of imagination – you will eventually work your way through all the puzzles. As delightful as Windosill’s world may be, once you figure out how to move your train to the next scene, you may find yourself firing up the app less frequently. This is probably less of an issue for children then for it is for adults, but even so, Windosill is one of those games with a limited shelf life.
But what a life it has within those limits. In an App Store that’s becoming overly crowded with a lot of games that feel like pale imitations of each other, Windosill offers something truly unique that showcases the very best aspects of the iOS experience. The app creates a distinctive-looking world that’s well worth a visit.