Trebuchet’s chilled out walk through the woods with Winds & Leaves is simple, short, and enjoyable.
I liked Winds & Leaves. I loved Winds & Leaves. I also hated Winds & Leaves. It’s very much a game of flavours despite being fairly one-note with its gameplay.
The game begins by giving you a quick tutorial on how to get around and how to use your inventory. This is where I hated Winds & Leaves. The tutorial worked as a series of pop-up text boxes and I missed a few of them because I moved a bit too far forward, causing the vital info to disappear. I tried turning around but the prompt was gone and I was left to figure it out for myself.
Release Date: July 27th, 2021
Developer: Trebuchet Studio
Publisher: Trebuchet Studio
Availability: PSN (Digital)
In fact, that’s a lot of Winds & Leaves right there: figuring it out for yourself. The game tries to tell its story and give guidance via in-game visual cues, but it falls far short of being helpful and informative. It’s actually annoying and confusing. I was stood staring at a painting on a rock for five minutes trying to figure out what the game wanted me to do.
I’m not one who needs to be guided through every step of a game, but a few helpful pointers would have gone a long way to easing my frustrations with Winds & Leaves.
The gameplay is fairly simple in that you are the caretaker of a world gone to dust – quite literally, actually. The landscape is a sad one and it’s your job to bring colour and life back to the moody dustbowl. You do this by planting seeds which then turn into trees.
This is really cool and this is what I really loved about Winds & Leaves. You have a time-turning tool that speeds up time as it catches the wind. You plant your seed, hold your time-turner to the wind, and then watch as the world moves on around you and a forest grows before you. It’s striking and I was in awe the first time I saw it.
The idea is that you make progress by growing your forest as you move. If the ground beneath your feet isn’t lusciously green, you’ll be suckered in by the darkness and then kicked back to a safe area. You need to keep planting your trees, then.
It may sound simple but there’s an extra layer in that different area of the world have different soil types and you need to plant the right seed, otherwise what grows will quickly die. Again, the game doesn’t explicitly tell you this, though it was firmly simple to figure out. Still, I’d have preferred some direct or indirect guidance – the game feels like it’s missing a Stephen Fry narration.
Getting seeds is as simple as planting your own goods then climbing up the trees and collecting the fruits from its branches. I liked this, but I do wish there was more to it.
Climbing trees is something I’ve not done since, well, last week actually, but I’ve not enjoyed it since I was a kid. I thought I’d get a kick out of Winds & Leaves tree climbing, but instead, it’s overly simple. You don’t need to grab any particular branch; you just hold the move button on each controller and reach anywhere around the tree. You don’t even need to have your clawed hands on the tree itself – you can seemingly grab the air around it.
This was a disappointment but I can see the reasoning – this is on PSVR and the controls just aren’t there for such finesse. Maybe in a sequel or a PSVR 2 re-release? Maybe.
Winds & Leaves isn’t particularly fun – there’s very little action outside of climbing and gliding – but it’s a step away from the norm, and I appreciate what the developer was going for with its chilled-out gameplay and Zelda-meets-Viva Pinata aesthetic, even if it looked a bit rough at times.[UPDATE: July 28th, 2021 – 12:00pm BST: I have since had some major issues with Winds & Leaves crashing on PS5. On going back to the game to get extra video footage for the video review, I started a fresh save file and towards the end of the first island, the game crashed. It crashed so hard I was unable to use my console until I did a full factory reset. The developer is aware of crashing issues with the game and a fix is coming in an update. This does not mean you’ll face the same issue I had – you may just have a “normal” crash, but it’s something worth noting.]
Winds & Leaves PSVR Review
Overall - Good - 6.5/10
Winds & Leaves is a really laid back VR experience that is home to some striking imagery. Unfortunately, it’s a little too simple for its own good and how much you get out of your hike across the dustland fairytale will depend on how well you can connect with the game.
- The time-twisting mechanic forces some really cool scenes
- The controls are fairly good, considering you’re stuck with the Move wands
- The simple gameplay is enjoyable and relaxing
- Far too abstract with its guidance
- Gameplay is literally: plant, grow, repeat.
- Lots of pop-in while walking through the world, as well as a loading icon every couple of minutes.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Primary version tested: PS4. Reviewed using PSVR on PS5.