Wind Peaks review: treasure-hunt hiking

I’m a pretty outdoorsy guy. More to the point, I’m an avid hiker – I grew up in and still live by the Black Hills, and there are few things more enjoyable to me than wandering through a forest and listening to the wind breeze though the pine needles. As a kid, my brothers and I would go on grandiose adventures slaying dragons, single-handedly taking out evil armies and discovering treasure. As an adult I’m still finding treasure – observing wildlife in its habitat, cooling my feet in babbling creeks and taking in the quietude that only getting lost in the woods can provide.

There are plenty of hidden-object puzzle games out there, but none of them have piqued my interest in the way that Brazilian studio Actoon’s Wind Peaks has. Much like a Where’s Waldo? book, the game is segmented into chapters, in this case following a scout troop as they take a trip to a national park. Unlike Martin Handford’s seminal classics, the simple story is told almost wordlessly. Each new stage has a title, but its prose is presented to you as you gather things from your list in each new area. To me it embodies the same observational wonders that real hiking has, meaning if you put forth the effort to look beyond your immediate awareness you’ll discover life’s little secrets. Or garden gnomes.

Wind Peaks is a delight to look at with detailed flora and fauna, a beautiful color palette, and an endearing gang of kids and their scout leader, who wander about giving each new set piece a life of its own. The woodsy aesthetic is wonderful and fun to explore. The package as a whole feels like it’s a cartoon, although the soundtrack is too relaxed to really sell it.

The game play of Wind Peaks is simple, but that’s not a bad thing. You’re tasked with a finding all the items on a pictographic list in a giant picturesque landscape. They’re usually themed (such as finding missing clothes from a kid who lost them while swimming) and surreptitiously tucked away in nooks and crannies. The scenes are very busy, so it takes some astute observation to track them all down. The right stick moves the camera and the left moves your cursor, although I found if I left the cursor in the middle I only needed to move the camera. You can also zoom in and out with the shoulder buttons at your discretion, which is a very handy feature. Lastly you can press a hint button that starts a timer which will set an item blinking to catch your eye, and will then just straight up give you the location when the timer reaches zero. It’s very elegant in its functionality.

Wind Peaks delves into some interesting puzzles beyond the typical hidden-object sort, but not often enough for my liking! Some items require you to do things like build totem poles or find certain objects to uncover another. Sometimes items will turn your cursor into a tool you can use to manipulate the environment in interesting ways. I’m being intentionally vague because if any of this sounds even remotely intriguing to you, I don’t want to spoil any of these moments because they feel special in light of the general design of the game. As I said, the only downside to these moments is that they feel too few and far between; but the ending teases a sequel, so there’s a chance for Actoon to make amends!

Wind Peaks is a wonderfully relaxing experience. It has a brilliant sense of place that leads to a certain ambiance you don’t often find with these types of games. It works part and parcel with the game design to make it feel distinct and memorable. A lot of hidden-object games have busy visuals, but Wind Peaks does so in an intentional manner that feels logical and gives the game a cohesiveness other games in the genre lack. More importantly it’s a good imitation of hiking, even if you’re moving a pointer arrow rather than putting your boots on the ground.

Wind Peaks was developed by Actoon Studio, and it’s available on PC and Switch. We played the Switch version.

Disclosure statement: review code for Wind Peaks was provided by Actoon Studio. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.

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