Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Bloom Review

Bloom, developed by Karma Team and published by Elephant Games.
The Good: Easy to learn gameplay, editor
The Not So Good: Repetitive and not challenging, some flower locations are inaccessible, distracting backgrounds
What say you? A puzzle game that’s fun for just about five minutes: 4/8

Gardening is a time consuming activity where you get to sweat and handle fertilizer. I fail to see the appeal. Still, it’s popular enough to warrant plenty of “garden centers” in large stores around the nation, and its appeal could be carried over to computer games in some way. In Bloom, you must water spouting flowers by diverting water pipes to the appropriate locations. How will Bloom stack up in the pantheon of puzzle games?

Bloom is presented in a 2-D, top-down format. The game does feature some pretty flowers and some nice detail for the genre, but the backgrounds are too similar to the foregrounds. Therefore, it is very, very difficult to spot new flowers when they are camouflaged by the background foliage. This makes playing the game ultimately frustrating as you squint in order to hunt for new sprouts. It is realistic to have flowers placed in a flowery garden, but the decision makes Bloom tricky to play, and this should not be caused by the graphics. The background effects are not much better, featuring a single looping song and some effects that accompany the flower growing. It’s rare to find titles where the graphics actually hinder the gameplay, but Bloom attains this dubious feat.

As I stated in the introduction, “in Bloom, you must water spouting flowers by diverting water pipes to the appropriate locations.” Copy and paste is so much fun! The method to the madness involves rotating pipes to complete connections to the various sprouting plants that randomly appear in the map and growing enough flowers before the water supply runs out. There are forty levels to complete and they go by fairly quickly; there is a pretty decent level editor that comes with the game to add some replay value. Bloom’s controls are simple, as the entire game is controlled with the mouse and the gameplay consists of clicking on pipes in order to rotate them. The game is pretty easy, once you learn that there is one solution that will divert water to almost the entire map and a couple of key points that can be switched. Some of the levels are poorly designed, however, as there can be large portions of a map that is inaccessible without the use of a bonus. There isn’t any change in the gameplay as you advance through Bloom: it’s all very monotonous. There are no difficulty settings in the game, and Bloom is too easy for players with any gaming experience. The game never really has a hectic feel that makes for good, challenging puzzle gaming. The bonuses available in the game, that do things like add more water, switch an existing connection, speed up growth, or slow time, make Bloom even easier. Because of the straightforward levels, there can be a lot of sitting around waiting for the level to end once you have set the perfect solution. Money you earn from growing flowers can be used to purchase upgrades to your house: this is pointless and doesn’t impact the game at all. It would have been much better to allow for buying bonuses instead of superfluous upgrades. Overall, Bloom’s gameplay is too easy and too repetitive to be enjoyable in the long run.

Bloom has a decent concept for a game, but the execution is definitely lacking. I don’t mind a repetitive game as long as it is fun, but Bloom is far too easy and it doesn’t offer anything different as you progress through the game. While the game mechanics are certainly easy to learn, the game becomes very boring after the first couple of levels. This game was obviously designed for the very casual player in mind, as anyone with any gaming experience will find Bloom to be too easy. There are no interesting strategic decisions to do with your earned money: instead of deciding on game-changing upgrades, you get to pick between a pond and a tree. The graphics even impair the gameplay, obstructing the flowers on the map. I do like the inclusion of an editor, but this isn’t enough to save this doomed puzzle game. Bloom wilts under the heavy weight of poorly designed aesthetics and features with uninteresting, repetitive, and effortless gameplay.