A unique arcade shooter that could use a little polish.
Lost Wing is a hard game to nail down in simple terms. It is a rail shooter, or perhaps a vertical shoot-em-up, that feels like a racing game without anyone to race against. I could tie various elements of its gameplay to possible influences, but suffice it to say, Lost Wing is a very unique, challenging, and addictive game.
Lost Wing is separated into a variety of worlds with multiple tracks in each, along with adjustable difficulty. The goal is simply to survive from one end to the other, where you’ll confront a boss. If the boss is defeated, the level will simply continue allowing you to stack up a higher and higher score for the online leaderboards. Your ship moves forward automatically and can move left and right as well as jump. It also has a gun that can destroy obstacles and enemies for extra points. However, this gun uses up charge. To recharge, you’ll either need to pick up orbs littered across the track or accelerate to top speed. Speeding up makes the course more difficult, but so too does not having enough charge to clear a path. The balance between these two is excellent. It is also the setup for Lost Wing’s difficulty, which is not lacking.
It took several tries to clear each level even at the lowest difficulty. I’m not saying this was a bad thing, though; I was always eager to get back in and try again. Elements of Lost Wing’s stages are somewhat random in their exact layout, so every attempt is a fresh challenge. Your final score in each level feeds into your rank, which you increase as Lost Wing goes on. Each course is gated behind a certain rank and after completing a few, you may find yourself needing to revisit courses on a higher difficulty to earn the next one. While I didn’t mind at first, it slowly started to feel like an artificial grind to pad out the experience. Playing a course over and over again only to finally complete it and find that you need to go back and do it even better to unlock the next course is frustrating.
Lost Wing runs great on Nintendo Switch. I had played an early beta version on PC last year and was pleased to see how closely the Switch visuals hold up. Lost Wing is full of neon glow and dynamic lighting, and reads great both docked and handheld. A dark electronic soundtrack accompanies the experience nicely. In fact, you can freely skip through songs to find your favorite while zooming through dark corridors. The presentation as a whole is solid, with the exception perhaps of the menus. In particular, the track selection screen has separate toggles for worlds and levels. Whenever you push either of these, there is a brief freeze making getting to the later tracks a chore. There is also no back button, rather clicking the level button just cycles through to the next one (showing all the locked stages as well) making things even slower. It’s a nitpick but one that will slow you down when trying to get into a course.
Lost Wing has a fantastic gameplay loop, housed in a shell that shows some rough spots. Actually playing Lost Wing is sublime, but progressing through it can be an occasionally frustrating grind. It looks and sounds fantastic once you get past its menus. In this way, Lost Wing perhaps presents more of a challenge than it intended, but it’s a challenge I am happy to accept.