Creators FSS Software touted Steam indie title Glass Wing as a conscious homage to classic Nintendo 64 mainstays like Super Mario 64 and Banjo Kazooie. And on first impressions, the game certainly lives up to that billing.
As with many of the N64 adventures, the player finds themselves inhabiting a peaceful, forested fantasy land. Controlling a fairy named Mayfly, it only takes a few minutes of leaping around the green pastures before a demon arrives, kidnaps Mayfly and makes off with her special powers. And so begins the quest to regain her abilities and defeat the bad guy. So far, so Nintendo. With its colourful mix of fairies, monsters and magic, Glass Wing certainly calls to mind the Japanese giant’s more fantastical output of the mid-to-late 1990s.
There’s even the usual 3D platformer pick n’ mix of stage backdrops; stereotypical forest, desert and snow levels are all present and correct. Coupled with familiar visual elements (e.g. warp pipes and Zelda hearts for health), the Nintendo vibe has been well and truly homaged.
Visually, the game sits somewhere between its cited N64 influence and early Dreamcast titles, while a surprisingly adept audio performance rounds out the package. Music-wise it’s a fitting mix of well-produced piano melodies and intense action beats, while the ambient audio cues (those of the enemies in particular) are genuinely effective.
The game itself mostly alternates between Super Mario Sunshine-style platforming void levels and more cerebral Zelda-like environmental puzzling involving item or ability usage. In fact, some of these tasks prove to be quietly ingenious in their implementation, especially for such a no-frills Indie release. The Metroid series also quickly proves to be another clear Nintendo influence with the slow drip feed of accumulated upgrades and abilities.
The game is not without some problems. Camera and control scheme issues plague much of the platforming, a deficiency not helped by the inclusion of an auto-jump feature. Unlike Nintendo’s smooth implementation in Zelda, Mayfly is only too happy to automatically throw herself off ledges and into the void below. Graphics and general presentation are also lacking, although that’s to be somewhat expected for an indie project.
Just like many N64 titles of the era, Glass Wing can be frugal in its dispensing of checkpoints. A possibly deliberate old school design decision, but one that means death often hurtles the player back numerous stages. This, coupled with the clunky controls and aforementioned auto-jump, quickly renders later levels a harsh lesson in abject frustration. A hand-holding modern blockbuster this is not, yet for all the exasperation it’s almost refreshing to return to the challenges of a bygone era. Indeed, the sense of reward upon clearing a particularly white knuckle section almost, almost justifies the preceding frustration.
That’s Glass Wing in a nutshell then; a charming and ambitious indie effort that can infuriate in its idiosyncrasies, but an experience that ultimately leaves a positive impression. Certainly one well worth considering next time it’s spotted in a Steam sale.
Available on Steam, the game’s standard price is £3.99/$4.99/€4.99 and a demo is available.
Glass Wing can be bought through ITCH.IO, where a 125MB free trial can be downloaded and the full-game price is $5.00 (USD).