Weathering Any Storm – SunFlowers Review
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation Vita
Once in awhile, we all need to put down our violent shooters, choice-heavy RPGs, and brain-racking real-time strategy games to just unwind and play something. Sometimes we just want a title with simple, yet elegant game mechanics, so we can sit back and relax with it. Thankfully, such a title exists! SunFlowers is a downloadable Vita game developed by The Game Atelier that features hours of uncomplicated fun, without burying you in a mountain of complex mechanics.
The premise of SunFlowers is very simple: Players take control of the sun and grow as many flowers as possible. To achieve this goal, players (holding the Vita sideways) move the sun across a 2D sky while shooting sunbeams down towards the ground. As these rays pass through clouds, they turn into rain and water the flowers on the ground – which causes them to grow. The more clouds you pass through per shot, the bigger the drops! If a flower is watered after it has fully grown, it will disappear and spit out two seeds, which will bounce around until it finds an open space in the ground to plant itself. Gamers simply need to keep this system going until either they reach and complete the final level, or until they let three flowers die. While this may sound like a terribly boring experience, you’ll be surprised at just how addictive and entertaining it is. Something about the seemingly never-ending cycle of seeds and flowers just pulls the gamer in, round after round. SunFlowers is one of those games that you sit down for a second to play, but before you know it you’ve been playing for an hour, and it feels like it’s only been minutes!
Not everything is a sunny walk in the park though; there are a few obstacles to overcome. For starters, your sunbeams will burn the flowers if they don’t pass through a cloud and turn to rain. Since the clouds float across the sky aimlessly, it can sometimes be a challenge to avoid setting your plants on fire. As well, there are the occasional dark clouds that turn your sunbeams and rain into lightning – which will also set your flowers ablaze. To put a little extra pressure on, if you don’t water your plants in time they will dry out and eventually wilt. Gamers need to balance constant change with careful accuracy, or else risk a plane of dry, scorched earth.
To help keep things interesting, the in-game seasons will change after a set period of time – progressing through spring to winter and back again! As the weather starts to change, so do the flowers that grow, making for a completely different aesthetic. With the change of scenery comes a new set of challenges, as each time of year brings a themed obstacle to overcome. For example, in winter, there is a chance that your flowers will all freeze and must be thawed via sunbeams; in the fall, leaves may blow and bury your flowers, causing you to shake the console to get them off. Not only does this mechanic make for some visual variety, but it keeps the gameplay interesting as well.
As you grow your plants, you’ll eventually start filling up a bonus meter. Once it reaches the top, you’ll enter a special nighttime mode where you play as the moon. Instead of sunbeams, you shoot special moondrops (which work similar to rain from clouds), and every cloud is replaced with a dark variant. This mode lasts until your bonus meter runs out, or until you strike a flower with lightning – but gives you extra points for every flower you grow.
The only real issue with the game comes from its controls. Players have the options of moving the sun or moon back and forth with either the front screen or rear pad, and shooting with L/R, or by tapping the screen. While players are free to mix and match the controls (for example, I move with the rear pad and shoot by tapping the front screen), the sideways position of the console necessary for play makes it hard to hold without accidently touching the rear pad or hitting a trigger. Should you opt to turn these inputs off via the options menu and only use the front screen, your hands will end up covering some of your vision – which can lead to many accidental flower burns. I recommend spending a few practice rounds to find the control scheme and hand position that’s right for you so that you can avoid these frustrating issues altogether.
Part of what makes SunFlowers such a fun and relaxing experience is its visuals, which are very cartoonlike in nature. In fact, the entire game is done without any 3D models, replaced instead with flat, 2D graphics. This helps to draw the gamer away from the concept that a great game needs to be a powerhouse of CGI imaging, and allows them to rest their eyes and simply enjoy the show. It also eliminates the possibilities of graphical tearing or texture pop! Even if you are a massive fan of blood and gore, you’ll be able to see the brilliance in Sunflower’s adorable simplicity.
Another key feature of SunFlowers is its soundtrack, which puts a modern twist on a classical masterpiece. A lot of music in the title is actually from composer Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, though remixed into a slightly less complex version. What this does is it allows gamers to hum, whistle, or sing along to the soundtrack as early as the first time they hear it, and it transitions perfectly when the seasons change, making for a very memorable game.
When winter becomes spring and a new set of plants bloom, gamers everywhere will see that SunFlowers is a wonderful distraction from the plethora of complex games and AAA titles. With simple yet entertaining gameplay, vibrant visuals, and a soundtrack the matches gameplay perfectly, this is a must-have addition to your Vita’s library whether you’re a hardcore or casual gamer. Don’t believe me? Give it a download, I bet you’ll love it!
Final Score: 4.75 / 5.0 and a beautiful, strong, and healthy flower.
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