App Reviewed on: iPhone XR
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Games like Song of Bloom make me realize that we’re still just scratching the surface of what mobile games can be. This “story in pieces” is an incredibly beautiful and creative puzzle adventure that can’t work on anything but a phone. In making such a unique game, Song of Bloom does make some significant missteps, but it’s probably still worth experiencing despite those issues.
Where to start with Song of Bloom? Well, it’s a narrative puzzle game, but it moves in very mysterious ways. Whenever you "start" playing it, you are treated to an interactive cutscene that you tap through to advance scenes. These scenes present a lot of monochromatic, abstract imagery as a woman makes a cryptic speech.
After advancing through about a dozen scenes, the whole thing ends and you’re kicked back out to the start screen. But this is just where Song of Bloom begins. As you quickly discover, each of these scenes is a puzzle that you need to figure out how to solve, and the key to doing this is through careful repetition and picking up on clues on how to unlock new scenes beneath the surface level ones.
Once you start uncovering secret scenes, Song of Bloom starts to explode with possibilities. Each scene has at least one puzzle to solve, and each of these have bespoke mechanics. What’s even cooler about these puzzles is that a good number of them are only possible because of the form factor and feature set of a mobile phone. I would share what some of these puzzles are, but discovering what they are and how they work is a huge part of what makes Song of Bloom so enjoyable.
After completing puzzles, you gather blooms which keep getting added to Song of Bloom’s start screen. Once you fill the start screen with blooms the game ends, but these blooms also serve another purpose. Each new one you gather helps guide you to the next hidden puzzle, and sometimes even hints at its solution.
As great as Song of Bloom can be, though, it does have its shortcomings, some of which are fairly significant. There are times when the game’s “hint system” (if you can call it that) is too direct and seemingly hands over answers to you. At others, it’s unnecessarily vague. Because of this, some hints can make the game too easy, while others might make you second-guess puzzle solutions and get you stuck trying alternate strategies that get you nowhere.
Beyond this issue though, Song of Bloom also doesn’t really feel like it finishes in a particularly satisfying way. The structure and styling of Song of Bloom feel like they were made with extreme confidence, but the narrative conclusion that lies at the end is a bit underwhelming by comparison. There is a scene that plays, but it’s hardly more revealing than the rest of the game’s mysterious storytelling, and makes me question why there was any attempt at storytelling made in the game to begin with.
The bottom line
Song of Bloom strides confidently toward the edge of greatness, but then feels satisfied to stop just before reaching it. So many aspects of the game are truly incredible, but the game also hints at things in a confusing way and leads you to think there’s something more to it than there really is. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy Song of Bloom for what it does have. You absolutely can. I did. But Song of Bloom isn’t what it says it is, so just know that going into it.