Friday, December 29, 2017

Blossom Tales (Switch) Review

What is a grandpa to do when his grandkids demand a bedtime story they haven't heard before?  Make one up, of course!  I really like this premise for Blossom Tales, a retro-styled game obviously inspired by the old 2D Legend of Zeldas.  To better fit that premise, there are times the story has added elements as the grandkids chime in.  There are even a few scant places that have player input, with minor changes.  While a great idea, it would have been better to throw in a few more of those choices to make its unique inclusion better stand out.

At first, the controls felt odd to me.  A is your sword attack, but other usable items and sub-weapons can be mapped to B and X.  After playing for a bit, this configuration worked well and I got used to it.  It is strange that the Y Button can't be mapped to a third item, or do anything at all.  I really like that each non-consumable item just takes your magic meter, which refills over time.  No more running out of arrows or bombs!  The only minor gripe I have with the items is the bow.  You have to hold the button for a second before the arrows can be fired.  I get that it is to represent drawing the bow, but it can be very inconvenient.

Combat in Blossom Tales is pretty good.  The sword's range is decent, but it is strangely weaker than all the sub-weapons, even the boomerang.  It's easy to get hit, but there are plenty of hearts in destructible things.  Plus, the game is generous with money and gives you a good chunk of healing items for free.  I do have a few problems, though.  There are times when there are many enemies on the screen.  Boss fights can get really chaotic when they have fancy effects, attacks, and enemies all over the screen.  Usually at this point it's best to ditch tactics and just keep smashing and heal as needed until the fight is over.  Bosses don't display their health, but the screen flashes a bit when they take damage.  As they do, the flash changes from green to red.  When all the effects are flying around, it is nigh impossible to make out this element.  I'll say it doesn't ruin the game, but some of these aspects should be tweaked to better work together.

Being so inspired by Zelda, there are of course many puzzles to solve in Blossom Tales.  While not nearly as hard as the brain twisters in Ittle Dew 2+, they have their fair share of problems, too.  I'll admit I do like some of the puzzles.  One where pieces are rotated to make connected lines (like the old Pipe Dream game), shooting arrows through torches to light other torches, sliding block puzzles, and walking over a pattern of tiles without stepping on the same block twice were pretty fun to do, and required thinking.

Probably my biggest gripe with the puzzles I don't like is that they just go on for too long.  I can tolerate them in short, small bursts, but they just keep going, which increases my agitation.  There is a Simon Says-like memory mini-game that I really disliked.  Having to remember 3 to 5 in a row is fine, but they sometimes go up to 7+!  That might be passable, but they only show it once, the patterns are random, and messing up at all starts all the way over at the beginning.  If I'm having trouble with 7 in a row, I don't really want to have to re-do 3, then 4, then 5, then 6 in a row before attempting the 7 in a row again.  My short-term memory isn't that great, so you might have better luck than me at these puzzles.

There are also sections where you have to walk along narrow paths without falling.  Again, sounds okay until they have crumbling paths that mean you have to rush.  Oh, and they also throw in enemies, traps shooting at you, and conveyor belts pushing you toward the edge.  Definitely another pain in the butt, amplified by having to do the whole room over again if/when you fall, even if there is stable ground in the middle of the course.

If you rush through the main part of the game, it will last about 8 hours.  If you are poking around for all the secrets and items, it will of course run you a few more.  Unfortunately, there isn't a way to mark which caves/holes/etc you have been in, and which still have something to collect.  There are a few side quests to collect various item drops from enemies.  While these quests aren't tracked, you will basically need 20+ of each item dropped.

Overall, Blossom Tales is a lot of fun.  Even though I have some small issues with the game, it's still worth a playthrough for old 2D Legend of Zelda and A Link to the Past fans.

The Good:
Fun game that harkens back to two of my favorite 2D adventure games.

The Bad:
The puzzles/sections I don't like last too long, and boss fights feel too chaotic as you progress.

The SaHD:
If you are playing for fun, I wouldn't stress about money or getting every heart piece.  You should have plenty by the end.

(Review code for Blossom Tales was provided by the publisher.)

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