Stylus-On With Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks is a return to the stylus-controlled Link of Phantom Hourglass, but with a twist.

In Spirit Tracks, not only do you get to play through segments of the game on a train, firing off shots from a canon, but you have a pet Phantom of sorts which is used to protect you and help solve puzzles.

The version of the game on show at E3 this week was broken down into distinct sections so you could get a taste of some of the new gameplay elements easily.

First I checked out a dungeon, with Link and his Phantom cohort. In the game you control Link with a stylus, as with Phantom Hourglass, moving him around by touching the screen and attacking by tapping on enemies.

You can also move a giant, friendly Phantom by touching a symbol at the feet of the armored Phantom and drawing a path with your stylus. Once you lift the stylus the Phantom begins walking the course you drew. There is also a button that lets you switch views between Link and the Phantom when the two move away from each other and another button that allows you to call the Phantom to you.

While it doesn't look like you can use the Phantom to fight, you can use his armored body to unlock rooms by standing on switches, block fire and even ride the thing across pools of lava by standing on his head.

It's an interesting new mechanic that adds just enough to the experience to make Spirit Tracks feel like a fresh approach to the touch-control gaming of Phantom Hourglass.

The train section of the demo was more tutorial than gameplay. You control the train by sliding a lever up and down to speed up, slow down, stop or reverse the train on its tracks. There's also a chain you can pull down with your stylus to blow a whistle and clear the tracks of animals. There's also a canon mounted to the train that you can fire by touching anywhere on the screen.

Played separated from the experience of the game itself, the train section felt sort of odd, like a tacked on experience that didn't really fit in with the bigger picture. But I'm sure that won't be the case once the full game is released.