Winds & Leaves from Trebuchet Studio is one of those rare titles that’s currently a PlayStation VR exclusive, so for that reason alone we were very eager to play it. Described as a “flora builder”, it’s a fairly laid back experience – at least it was after we got around the technical issues of running this on a PlayStation 5, where it kept crashing. Switching over to a PlayStation 4 Pro solved the issue, and from what we understand there’s also a patch coming that will smooth out the experience for PS5 players with PSVR as well.
As you might gather from the genre description they’ve attached to the game, a lot in Winds & Leaves revolves around growing plants and trees around you as you travel through the environment and discover fragments of a forgotten past. The tutorial starts off by teaching you some of the basics, but ultimately Winds & Leaves is all about discovery, mostly leaving you to your own devices when it comes to what you need to do besides bringing back vegetation to a now barren landscape.
To do this, you can plant seeds, but you also have a time manipulation device that lets you see your seed sprout and grow into a big tree right before your eyes. This brings life and color back to the world, and helps combat the darkness – which is also visualized as a reminder that you need to keep planting rather than walking into the shadows. Seeds aren’t always compatible with the soil you’re on though, so you might need to experiment a bit while you do so.
Since there aren’t any stores around that sell you seeds, you’ll also have to climb up into your freshly grown trees to collect their fruit (and thus seeds). While a staple in VR, with games like The Climb that are entirely based around it, the climbing here is of a very rudimentary sort – it has all the finesse of someone acting out “climbing” in a game of charades in two seconds, without any need to be careful where you look and grab.
As you grow a forest of diverse trees and learn about seed and soil types, you eventually settle into a relaxed rhythm where you can enjoy the serene audiovisual style of the game and the impressive effects that show up whenever you fast forward through time and clouds, shadows and light perform a dynamic spectacle for you. Winds & Leaves may be low on traditional gameplay, but it’s a unique experience that works well in VR, even though it doesn’t make the most out of its motion controls – even as limited as the Move wands are. The movement mechanics are fun (you use the Move to walk on ‘stilts’), but the ability to interact with the environment feels underused and underwhelming at times. Move past that feeling, and you’ll enjoy this game that’s unlike anything else on PSVR.