If there's one genre I enjoy the most on my iPad or iPhone, it's puzzle games. Developer Reality Twist brings us an interesting puzzle game called DaWindci [99¢/HD] that has a fresh feel and great atmosphere, and although it was released a couple of months ago I've been enjoying it a lot as of late. In DaWindci you peacefully guide a hot air balloon through the skies and mountaintops using simple swiping gestures, navigating terrain and solving various puzzles. The game provides a very zen-like experience with a soothing acoustic guitar track and calming ambient wind noises. It's almost impossible to not want to just sit back and explore the different levels as you float about.
The game is presented with a 3d overhead view of the landscape. The graphics look great, and combined with the amazing ambient noise effects everything pulls together beautifully to provide a very surreal, lifelike experience. The goal of each level is to reach the finish line, but with mountaintops and trees blocking your path, it's not always a simple solution. Switches are scattered across the levels which must be navigated to and activated to open new pathways to allow your balloon to pass through.
There's only two gestures for controls, both of which are simple and work well. A swiping gesture will create a current of wind that pushes your balloon, and a circle gesture will create a tornado which can be used to activate switches or rip up trees and farmhouses. The real challenge is in the simplicity of the controls and finding the smoothest way to operate your balloon. While you can swipe as fast as you want to, it's much too difficult to control your balloon in the tight spaces that are all too frequent, and if you hit a mountaintop enough times you'll fail and have to restart the level. Small, gentle swipes is really all that's needed except when trying to work through a forest of trees. Keeping a slow and steady pace is the key to finishing with minimal damage and a good time.
In addition to getting level bonuses for finishing quickly and carefully, each level also holds 3 hidden items that you'll have to find in order to get the maximum possible score. These items can be found along your path or sometimes in the farthest corners of the map, as well as underneath trees or farmhouses. This really gives you something to look for and forces you to cover the entire level while figuring out how to pass the level itself.
You can always replay a level to complete a bonus you may have missed, but for your first play through I recommend just enjoying the ride and finding the hidden items naturally as you solve the puzzles. Plus, it gives you a better idea of how you'll want to complete a level on those eventual speed runs. With all the goals necessary to get 100% completion, it's easy to say that this has some serious replay value as it's almost impossible to find the three hidden items and make the required time in a single run.
The puzzles have a good amount of variety to them, and later on the levels get pretty crazy and begin to provide a good challenge. There are 45 levels split up between different themed worlds, each offering their own unique types of puzzle elements. Each of the levels are quite a lot of fun, especially when trying to find all three hidden items on every single level. Completing enough levels with enough points awards you stars which you can use to buy new skins for your hot air balloon, allowing you to customize it with your own choice of colors and designs. Finally, the game also has multiple Game Center achievements for you points junkies out there.
DaWindci comes in two flavors: an iPhone and iPod touch only version and a universal version with additional iPad support. Normally, the universal version will cost you more, but as of this writing it's on sale for just 99¢. With a smooth soundtrack driving the action and excellent puzzle solving gameplay, DaWindci is a complete, beautiful, and unique puzzler that you really shouldn't miss out on if you're a fan of the genre.