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Review: SunFlowers for PS Vita

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Title: SunFlowers
Price: $3.99
System(s): PS Vita (Also available on iOS)
Release Date: October 9, 2012
Publisher (Developer): Game Atelier (Game Atelier)
ESRB Rating: “Everyone” for Mild Fantasy Violence
Pros: Simple to control, with multiple control scheme options. Bright visuals, where each flower has a different appearance/personality. Classic and Tropical worlds, each with their own flowers and unique challenges. Three difficulty levels. Can pick up from certain level plateaus after reaching them. Can view, share and cross-breed collected flowers.
Cons: Having the front and rear touch controls enabled on the Vita version at the same time can lead to inadvertantly moving the sun or shooting a ray. Some “challenges” like shining light on the system in Tropical are annoying to deal with.
Overall Score: Two thumbs up, 94/100, A, * * * * out of 5

Game Atelier is the face of the North American cute’em up. I highly suspected this would be the case when their first game, the side-scrolling shooter Flying Hamster, was released in all it’s adorable glory, but it’s only been confirmed with SunFlowers. While some people may look at this game involving a sun helping flowers grow as a puzzle or action game, I believe it is yet another addictive, too-cute shooter from a new developer that obviously knows how to hook players.

When you control the sun, you control everything.

SunFlowers tasks players with controlling the almighty, smiling sun. It shines benevolently down upon the flowers in both the Classic and Tropical modes. Alas, as kind as the sun is, it’s powers are cruel. Directly sending a sunbeam down to a seed or flower will set it aflame. Instead, players must aim the sunbeams so they first fall through clouds. A ray sent through a happy cloud releases life-giving rain upon the plants below. Caution is key though, as not all clouds are happy clouds. Grumpy storm clouds also roam the skies and any beam of sun or raindrop that goes through them sends down lightning on the innocent plants below.

The overall goal is to make as many flowers grow as possible, earning a high score, collecting special flowers and filling every spot in the garden. Do well and higher levels can be reached, not to mention a moonlight bonus round that switches the formula by making the moonbeams life-giving and the clouds dangerous. Not to mention other hazards like frost, darkness, floods or drought can hurt the flowers. Players are only allowed to lose three flowers to various calamities – any more and the game is over.

The sun is shining, the flowers are blooming and… that dang storm cloud’s in my way again!

Part of what makes SunFlowers shine is its simplicity. The entire game relies upon the touch screen and touch pad. Players move the sun back and forward, aiming and tapping to send rays of light down through clouds. Sending a sunbeam through multiple clouds results in a bigger raindrop that makes the flower it lands on grow faster. It’s a shooter in disguise, tasking players with properly timing their shots to ensure the flowers below grow up healthy. Once a flower is fully grown, two seeds shoot off to the left and the right until they find an empty plot, granting more points. Filling all plots leads to combos and bigger point boosts. It’s a formula that works well, as it allows for complexity should people want to look for cloud clusters and plot out where seeds will land, but also offers mindless gameplay for people who want to play something fun for 15 minutes.

Not that SunFlowers is simple. It’s pleasantly challenging with three levels of difficulty. In each one, the challenge gradually increases with more environmental hazards or dark clouds showing up and the speed of all clouds increasing. Reaching the 21 and 41 level plateaus in each difficulty level allows players to pick up and play from that point as well, which is a handy extra. This is especially helpful as rare flowers pop up more often at higher levels and throughout the Normal and Hard difficulty levels. The only downside is, the environmental challenges that occasionally appear are hit or miss. I didn’t mind the frost (which requires sunbeams to be sent directly to plants to melt) or leaves (shake the system to get them off of plants), but the sudden darkness didn’t seem to have any effect on the game other than to make it a little more difficult to play and I wasn’t quite sure what to do when the screen temporarily flooded.

SunFlowers also has a My Garden area, which collects all of the flowers earned during the Classic and Tropical modes. You can coo over how sweet each flower looks, send them to other SunFlowers players over Near or even use Labee the Bee to try and unlock flowers you haven’t grown during the Classic or Tropical mode by dragging and dropping two flowers you’ve collected to have Labee blend them together to possibly create a new flower. Odds are, you won’t create one of the “legendary” flowers, like the Parrot Flower that can only grow during the moonlight mini-game, during cross-breeding, but you could fill up your garden with more common plants you’d missed.

SunFlowers is cavity-inducingly cute.

I can not stop playing SunFlowers, even though I have Retro City Rampage, Suikoden and Disgaea 3 on my Vita, all waiting to be 100% completed. I think that’s the best and strongest endorsement I can give this game. It just sucks you into its cheerful world. You’re taunted by the thought of flowers that haven’t been discovered. You want to show those storm clouds what for and create the best garden ever. For something so cute, it diabolically burrows into your brain. If you need a Vita timesink, then the $3.99 you pay for SunFlowers will be money well spent.

Site [SunFlowers]

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