Anyone hoping for a good schooling in Nordic folklore is going to be seriously disappointed with Wisp: Eira’s Tale (Out Now for $2.99, Lite), as there’s precious little “tale” to be found within. If you came here looking for an impeccably designed casual adventure/action puzzle game, however, you’re in a lot of luck!
Billed as a “Nordic ambient puzzle adventure,” Wisp stars a little ball of light determined to make her way through thirty sprawling mazes, the player in charge of guiding her from a sidescrolling perspective. A gem collection goal and lots of time attack puzzles stand in Eira’s way, but her main nemeses are dark globs that can suck up unwary pixies faster than the La Brea Tar Pits.
Eira’s pretty much alone in the wilderness aside from all the sticky blobs apparently out to get her, but at least someone’s had the courtesy to leave elemental shrines strewn about the game’s levels: passing over these grants Eira temporary abilities useful for breaking through obstacles. The crux of gameplay here lies in the task of maneuvering her from a shrine to the target obstacle before her elemental state wears off, and this yields plenty of hair-raising ventures in a game that pulls off level design so well!
The first thing to strike any player willing to take a chance on Wisp is its one-touch-plus-accelerometer interface. Holding anywhere on the touchscreen commands the diminutive protagonist to charge upward; releasing allows her to float down, tilt guiding her sideways momentum at all times. Eira’s way of getting around is leisurely enough that I yearned at first for player control over the game’s physics, until I realized that her elemental abilities come with physics handicaps critical to the game’s design. Passing through an Earth shrine lets Eira bust through cracked blocks at the price of being weighed down in all respects; an Ice shrine gives her the ability to freeze her way past blobs that would otherwise make a snack out of her, but she’ll shatter T-1000 style if the player accidentally rams her into a wall. The developer introduces these quirks gingerly enough but gradually challenges the player to confront Eira’s handicaps in a way that lends the game some incredibly addictive re-try magic, eased along by mid-level checkpoints. Its simple interface makes Wisp perfectly approachable to casual gamers, but even hardboiled adventure fans will appreciate the evolving depth on offer — especially once those nefarious blobs start giving intelligent chase! The only thing I’d be tempted to ask for would be level maps, as the mazes get pretty big compared to the spec-sized protagonist.
Backed up by a subtle visual presentation and a nature-friendly ambient score, Wisp proves just as absorbing on an aesthetic level as it does in challenging game design. Triolith welcomes you to check out the Ekelund & Johansson soundtrack – sure to make its way to some yoga class eventually – if you have any doubts. Wisp‘s 30 levels are good for three to four hours’ worth of play, and the grapevine has it that Triolith plans some expansion packs for updates — whether those will be In-App Purchases is presently unclear.
iFanzine Verdict: Wisp: Eira’s Tale must have been sprinkled with some really good pixie dust, because it has that magic combination of depth and perfectly crafted pick-up-and-play simplicity that should appeal to casual and hardboiled gamers alike. Every iOS gamer who can do without intense action or gore owes it to him-or-herself to check out the Lite version at least.