Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad
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Every so often a game comes along which seems to exist solely to defy classification and attempt to separate itself from the crowd simply by being utterly unique. Eufloria was that sort of game when it was released on consoles last year, a real-time strategy title which pumped the brakes and came across as more an audio-visual experience than a game. Now the title has been translated to the iPad where, while it manages to retain its charm, it has a harder time standing out amongst a plethora of strange and different games. Thus the pretense is stripped away, the core gameplay mechanics are laid bare, and the result is rather humdrum.
Eufloria is an RTS which trades troops and resources for trees and seedlings. In each level players must send out their seeds to discover and colonize nearby asteroids, which in turn produce more seedlings and allow for greater exploration. Of course, the player isn't alone in the universe and must contend with rival seed colonies who wish to claim the same extra-solar real estate. There's a think plot involving the "Growers" and "Mother Tree," but the aim of the game is to balance expansion with preservation, conquering other planets while protecting the ones you already posses.
The game gets high marks for its visuals and sound, both of which are an absolute treat. The seedlings appear only as tiny dots when zoomed out, but pinch in and you'll see a nice variety to each seed type and some of the nitty-gritty action when battles break out. The color palette and general style evoke games like FlOw and FlOwer, with a sort of watercolor look that absolutely nails the title's sensibilities. The soundtrack is also beautiful, providing a nice combination of soothing beats and tracks that would feel right at home in the local yoga studio.
Where Eufloria may lose most of its goodwill is in gameplay itself, which is incredibly slow and sometimes nearly impossible. Cultivating enough seedlings to colonize an asteroid takes time, and if an enemy is already present then you can easily triple the amount of time spent waiting around for enough floating troops to amass to stage an attack. Furthermore, some levels seem to have a very specific methodology required for victory, and unless you learn it quickly you'll likely waste a lot of time in stalemates. I recall one stage in which the enemy horde beat me to a particularly valuable meteor which I had to hold in order to win the level. Even when I sent in enough seeds to outnumber my foes five or six to one I was still continually beaten back. After a half hour I reran the level, racing straight to the critical asteroid, and proceeded to clear the stage in under five minutes.
Still, waiting is incredibly common in Eufloria and that likely won't sit well with many players. This is a game that wants to relax, unwind and enjoy the experience, and while I can respect the intentions there is a thin line between being artistically expressive and being boring. Even with a fast-forward button there are still long stretches of sitting around doing nothing, which isn't the ideal game type for a device meant to be played in short bursts on the go. What we're left with is an interesting premise that many players will give up on quickly in order to try something more exciting.