Developer: BitMonster Games
Price: $4.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0.1
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Game Controls Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

Lili is two things: first, an Unreal-Engine-powered adventure game with one-on-one ‘combat.’ Second, it’s a treatise against going to graduate school. See, eponymous hero Lili is a grad student who travels to an island to study flowers for her graduate degree. While there, she discovers a race of Spirits and the wooden Construct creatures that serve them. Staying cool, she starts helping the Constructs literally de-flower the Spirits. She gets flowers and it helps the rebellion against the Spirits because they’re jerks. I am not kidding. I mean, they are jerks who appear to trap people’s souls in wooden bodies, and that Mayor is a shifty character, but still.

Combat involves chasing down the Spirits through city streets, then hopping on their shoulders and plucking white flowers off until a red flower sprouts, which then defeats the Spirit, and helps fuel the revolution, somehow. The Spirits can grow bombs and thorns on their back, which decrease Lili’s grip meter, which will eventually throw her off. There’s no real death–it’s often just a matter of running a short distance back to the Spirit to take it on again.

I described the game on Twitter as the Infinity Blade of flower picking and while the one-on-one battles have that feel it’s actually far more open, even with the similar Unreal Engine look. The game is a beauty to see, pushing the boundaries of even 2011 devices, though be wary that low RAM crashes can and will happen. At one critical juncture, the player is given the choice to keep on going, or say “These wood dudes can solve their own problems, I’ve got a graduate degree to collect.” Also, the Mayor of the Spirits threatens to turn Lili into wood. Someone does that, I get the hell out of Dodge. Thankfully, the game can be continued immediately after a credits sequence.

The game feels like navigating through an RPG’s town section without ever getting to the actual battlefield, and it just feels perpetually odd to be chasing Spirits through the streets. There’s a lot of annoying backtracking through the town, and while there are side quests, there’s little incentive to actually do them as there’s seemingly no tangible reward. So everything there is just distraction, rather than as enrichment. The combat gets a bit old once much of the familiar tricks have been revealed, and then they just do things like sprout bombs more often. The tone of the game is odd: visually and story-wise, it feels like entering a magical land. But then the dialogue is rife with sarcasm, and it just always seems like an odd fit.

Lili is a game that looks great, and optimally could have been a more open Infinity Blade-esque game, but in the end, the repetition and unnecessary elements drag it down.

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