Review – Lost Wing

Lost Wing is a game that has been stuck in the nearly inescapable limbo that is the Steam Early Access phase ever since 2017. It was supposed to be fully released way back in 2018, but for reasons unknown it just stayed there in perpetual “early access-ness” up until now. It’s finally getting a full release not only on Steam, but also on consoles. What better way to tackle a small arcade-like shooter like this one than playing it on the Switch? Let’s see if this was worth the wait.

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Don’t shoot, just avoid.

The premise is simple. After choosing a stage and a ship, you’re tasked with getting the highest score possible by racking up points in a procedurally generated straight line. You do so by shooting obstacles, collecting orbs, multiplying your meters, and above anything else, not getting hit: you obtain points by simply going forward without dying. This is actually the polar opposite of a bullet hell shooter, as your main task is to survive and avoid obstacles, not shoot everything in sight.

You can’t even do that all the time, as Lost Wing gives you an ammo meter. The “collecting orbs” bit I wrote on the previous paragraph refers to collecting energy that allows you to actually shoot things, this game’s version of a bullet crate. Try to save as many bullets as possible and only use them when absolutely necessary. Whether that’s to destroy an unavoidable obstacle, or more than likely when you’re fighting a boss if you actually manage to reach the end of a level. You don’t necessarily have to finish a level in order to upload your score to the game’s global leaderboards, nor do you need to beat a boss in order to gain experience points used to unlock new levels and ships.

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There’s a boss at the end of each stage. Reaching them is actually much harder than actually beating them.

If you hit an obstacle with one of your ship’s wings, you won’t completely explode, but you’re going to lose said wing. That will make your ship way harder to steer, but that sounds way more challenging than it actually is. You will eventually see a small wing icon that will immediately restore your ship to how it used to be, without any compromises. The only moment when Lost Wing becomes absolutely infuriating is when it randomly decides to spin the screen, making you completely lose your sense of direction. You will most likely crash right into an obstacle and lose a life as a result. I didn’t see that as a challenge, I saw that as the game poking fun at my expense.

Technically, Lost Wing is just adequate. Its visuals are repetitive and its framerate doesn’t provide a decent sensation of speed, but it gets the job done. It also features a somewhat underwhelming electronic soundtrack. I can’t say I particularly enjoyed it, nor found it memorable, even though the developers made sure to brag about how good it was prior to release. I’ve played some much better spacecraft games with electronic soundtracks in the past few months and this one doesn’t even come close.

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The game occasionally decides to deliberately ruin your ruin by spinning the screen and messing with your sense of direction.

The worst thing about Lost Wing isn’t even in its gameplay. In fact, as flawed as it can be, the game features decent controls and a very replayable gameplay loop. Even if it’s grindier than the grindiest of JRPGs when it comes to unlocking new content. No, the main problem lies in its UI and main menu. They are terribly designed to the point of confusing players, as you need to constantly press the A button in order to choose an option, instead of just putting all options on a vertical list and using the right and left buttons on the d-pad to choose them like virtually every other game ever invented.

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These little orbs are your ammo. Use them wisely!

I may have been a bit too harsh, but in reality I actually enjoyed Lost Wing. It’s poorly designed in some areas and it’s stupidly unfair at first, but its bite-sized length and engaging score system make it a very replayable game that ended up being a perfect fit for a portable like the Switch. It becomes a lot more enjoyable once you finally start unlocking new levels and ships in order to add some extra variety to your runs. I doubt I would have enjoyed this game as much as I did had I decided to play it on literally any other current-gen platform, so go for the Switch version in case you really want to give Lost Wing a shot.

 

Graphics: 6.5

The visuals are repetitive, but they get the job done. What really hurts the flow of the game is the fact that it only runs at 30fps, meaning that it doesn’t provide a sensation of speed as other ports out there.

Gameplay: 6.5

The controls are functional and responsive enough, even though the game loves to throw tons of inconveniences that are meant to ruin your runs in the most unfair ways. It also features one of the worst menu UIs I have ever seen in any game, ever.

Sound: 6.0

For a game that brags so much about its electronic soundtrack, I can’t say I was that impressed by it at the end of the day. It’s not bad, but it certainly did not leave an impression.

Fun Factor: 7.5

Despite its series of shortcomings, Lost Wing is a fun and replayable arcade title that is perfect for a portable system. It would have been even more entertaining if its progression system wasn’t so incredibly grindy, however.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Lost Wing is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Lost Wing was provided by the publisher.