It’s not everyday a game comes around that on the surface appears to be a clone of another beloved franchise. At first glance, it can come off as uninspired, or even a rip off. It can also appear this way when FDG Entertainment at one point released Oceanhorn, which was touted as the same, and didn’t quite deliver. This is where Blossom Tales is different. It is more than just a clone, and is a great adventure and a charming experience that is executed greatly.
In Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King, you play as Lily. In the real world, Lily and her brother Chris are merely children eager to hear their grand fathers story about, well, Lily and her adventures through a vast open game world. In this story, Lily must save the world from eternal darkness from the evil wizard Crocus, who has put the kingdoms king into an eternal slumber.
The story telling angle of Blossom Tales is more than just a narrative tool. It is charmingly used in select places to throw a little fun into the mix. As you approach a murky swamp, grandfather talks of an approaching enemy. Lily and Chris both exclaim what it could be, a pirate, or a ninja? The two argue and you are left to decide what the enemy is. You face off against your selected foe. It has no impact to the story, but it’s always fun to see this dynamic play out and puts a smile on your face as you see kids being kids.
Besides it’s charming story telling nature, one of the most talked about aspects of Blossom Tales is the way it controls. The controls are tight, accurate and for something that resembles an old 2D classic, there are some fun little things thrown into the mix. Aside from your standard sword attack and spin attack, a well timed attack while spinning has you leap into the air and come down with pulverizing force onto your enemies. You can also perform a swift three hit combo that ends with your spin attack.
In addition to sword play, there is a wealth of items at your disposal. You can equip two items at a time for all sorts of different scenarios and enemy encounters. Some are more useful than others, however. There are a few that made me wonder why the designers bothered to put it in the game in the first place. But the amount of good items easily outweighs the not so important ones. Using the boomerang is loads of fun, especially when needing to hit switches to solve puzzles. Raining down bolts of lighting to obliterate most of the enemies around you is also pretty cool.
Now, it’s only fitting with the refined sword controls and wealth of items at your disposal, that enemies in Blossom Tales don’t hold back. Enemies come in all sorts of varieties, from little skeletal creeps, to gigantic trees that sprout vines at you through the ground. Some enemies can deal tons of damage if you’re not careful. The game also throws many types of enemies at you at any given moment, so avoiding attacks and dealing them as well can be involved.
As much as I enjoy most of the challenge the combat gave me, there were some moments where the game did feel unfair. I felt overwhelmed as the game threw too many enemies at me at a single time. There are situations where the game could throw you on platforms moving across lava. You are required to move from platform to platform while fending of hordes of enemies. It was too much at times, as the game allowed very little room for error. Dodging attacks and fighting back was hard in these moments, but this doesn’t happen too often.
The world of Blossom Tales is quite vast and holds many secrets. Like those that inspired it, you can stumble along cracks in the walls the hold hidden treasures. You can collect items to provide to a black smith to help upgrade weapons. There are mini games to be found in the form of mazes that require you to complete them within the time limit.
Each section of the map is also designed in different manners. You have your dark murky swamps, mysterious green forests, snowy wastelands. Each bring their own unique enemies to the mix and in some cases, environmental challenges. For example, you can’t run fast through grass or marshes
You have your trusty map to help guide you through the vast world. However, I found the map very hard to view. It was far too pixelated to be of any use I found, even when zoomed in. It tells you the general area you need to go, but good luck trying to discern paths you can walk through or obstacles.
Of course, the highlight of Blossom Tales, like those that inspired it are it’s dungeons. There aren’t a huge amount of them, given the games overall length. But those that are present are pretty well designed and fun. They won’t offer anything too mind bending, but still present a good challenge. The puzzles they throw your way are quite thought provoking, and although they aren’t too challenging, you do feel good completing them and advancing in the dungeon. They are also themed, so you’ll have your fire dungeons, ice dungeon and so on.
At the end of each dungeon, you’ll encounter the much expected and anticipated boss fights. Let me tell you, these are quite the spectacle. They aren’t the most challenging thing out there as they are primarily based around hacking and slahing. Even though I managed to beat them all in my first try, the visual effects implored is quite impressive. They are some neat lighting effects used and particles being thrown everywhere and the colours all mesh well and look great.
Blossom Tales visually is a well done game. Its top down, 2D pixelated look easily shows where it’s inspiration came from. Despite it’s simplistic look, it’s pulled off very well and extremely charming. I love it’s use of colour, everything just seems to appear more vibrant and colourful than most games like it. It reminds me of the Minish Cap, which has colours that appear extremely bright without that grey, dullish overtone. Effects look especially good with things like enemy projectiles, lighting effects and haze glaring over the screen. Aside from the aesthetic, the art direction is also very nice. Enemies look great, bosses look even better. Every environment is also distinct with their respective themes.
In the audio department, Blossom Tales does its job well. Nothing about the sound effects will blow your mind, but hearing your sword swishing through the air as you do spin attacks adds a nice feel to your attacks. The music of Blossom Tales is also quite fun to listen to and it does a great job of giving you that heroic, save the world feeling. The style is very 16 bit inspired, with simple sounding drums, and those boomy overpowering bass lines that just don’t seem to lose their sustain. There are some tracks that have elements taken straight from past Zelda games, but do it in a way to avoid being complete rip offs. Like the overall game, it finds a way to make this it’s own thing. Overall, I did enjoy the music, particular what was used in the dungeons and near the end of the game. A couple of these managed to get stuck in my head and I caught myself humming them from time to time. Take a listen below form some cool tracks.
Blossom Tales can be a very challenging game overall. Enemies are pretty ruthless, and as mentioned earlier, the game throws some pretty hectic situations at you. The difficulty spikes can seem a bit uneasy at times as you can go from casually strolling around killing skeletons, to dying over and over again. The puzzles in the game for the most part are much better balanced. They are quite manageable and finding the solution can take some time, but it’s far from impossible. There were some extra ones I encountered in the world that I for the life of me couldn’t solve and I had to move on.
Blossom Tales has several secrets to uncover if you’re willing to look for them. It’s world has many upgrades and items to be found. The main game can be completed in around seven hours, however should you look to find everything, the game boasts it’s 15 hours of gameplay. It could be more really, as there were puzzles I simply could not solve that had me scratching my head. As for replayability, for me, Blossom Tales is great for a one time play through, but I don’t see too much reason to get back into it after that. I still felt very satisfied once I got to see the end credits roll and see the story come to a close.
Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King is a great addition to the Switch line up. It may not be the most original game, but it’s done well and really shows that clones of other great games can be done well without feeling like a rip off. Furthermore, there’s very little like it on the Switch. It has tight controls, a big world to explore, well designed dungeons with climactic boss fights, and puzzles that can really make you scratch your head. The whole idea of how the story is told through Grandpa to his grandchildren is a great take on the narrative. It’s so charming and something I haven’t quite seen other games do in the way it ends up being interactive at times. Blossom Tales at it’s price is a good value, clocking in at round seven hours or more, there can be quite a bit to do. However, more important than that, Blossom Tales is a game that manages to put a smile on your face, and for that reason I recommend it for anyone who is a fan of these styles of games.
Disclaimer: This review was done using a Nintendo Switch copy of Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King provided by the game’s publisher, FDG Entertainment. Please be assured that this did not affect my opinion of the game, and that my criticisms are an honest and true representation of my thoughts on the game.