Saturday, October 20, 2012

Review: Sun Flowers (Vita)

Remember waking up on Saturday morning, popping that game into your Nintendo, and then having your mother call you to come help her with the gardening? If you haven’t harboured a lifelong death wish over caring for plants, perhaps you’ll get a kick out of Sun Flowers for the PlayStation Vita. Its simplistic gardening action brings something fresh to the gaming world while minimally compromising depth.

Sun Flowers puts you in the primary role of the half-eponymous sun. You can rain down heat waves upon the flowers and buds below, but they will quickly become scorched. Rather, you’ll want to fire waves at the clouds, which then convert the heat into watery nutrition for the aspiring plants. Doing so rewards you with points and then gradually increases the level. You’ll also have to keep watch for flowers that have begun to decay due to neglect. Should your flowers be burnt, the space will be unavailable for growth and cost you points. Sun Flowers largely sticks to the puzzle game/arcade formula of the level increasing based on your performance. Simple stuff, but it becomes mundane rather hastily.

Luckily, the developers have foreseen this simplicity and sought to keep the gameplay fresh through several twists. Right at the point where you contemplate giving up due to the game’s repetition, there’s always something as fresh as the buds staring you down at the bottom of the screen.

What excitement awaits you? Occasionally, your vision will go foggy and you’ll have to wipe away the screen whilst making sure not to fire any heat onto the innocent blossoms. Other times, you’ll get to play as the sun’s whiter counterpart – the moon. There, your goal is to shoot directly at the flowers to develop them. You now have no need for clouds; in fact, an angry variety patrols the screen in an attempt to undo your work by crossing paths with your droplets. Over time, the seasons change. Winter will come and you’ll need to thaw out the frozen flowers using your heat (and making sure not to burn them upon saving them).

These may seem like gimmicks to the uninitiated, but they certainly do create an involving experience. They’re also rewarding in the sense that the more you play, the more variety you can bear witness to. Besides, if you’re bored, you can crank up the difficulty. The only issue with that is the necessity to unlock the hardest mode. I continue to question why players must unlock harder difficulty settings in modern games.

Beyond the main gameplay, there is a fairly entertaining diversion that relies on it. This is the “My Garden” mode, where you can view witty descriptions of all the flowers you’ve given birth to. You can even create more via crossbreeding if you’re into that. It’s nothing too grandiose - the descriptions are to-the-point and the flower images are decidedly light-hearted. Still, this little extra mode provides incentive to keep playing and track down all the possible variations of flowers.

The cheery visuals and atmosphere, though a tad generic, allow for a friendly and genuinely uplifting experience. You certainly can’t fault the music for being bland as it constantly shifts to keep things spanking new.

The last real aspect of note is the vertical hand positioning you must use to play the title. Indeed, you’ll need to flip the Vita on its side and tap away. This might seem somewhat unnecessary for a puzzle game, but the longer length offers much more space for keeping track of the droplets and clouds.

Sun Flowers is repetitive in some capacity, but there are enough twists to keep it interesting. If you’re craving a good puzzle game that cares to switch things up, Sun Flowers is your jam.

-Clark A



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