Bonsai Barber (WiiWare)

Game Review

Bonsai Barber Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Stuart Reddick

Has Zoonami assembled the perfect hairstyle for all ages?

If you were randomly asked which developer had the most well-known franchises under its belt, you’d likely respond by saying Nintendo. With series such as Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and Pokémon, it isn’t difficult to see why. It should also be noted that they’re the publisher who’s released some of the greatest new IPs, most notably through the WiiWare service. Thanks to the service, the Art Style series was born, as was Maboshi’s Arcade. Their latest IP, the Zoonami-coded Bonsai Barber, may not look like the most hardcore experience they’ve released in the past decade, but beyond a shadow of a doubt, it’s one of their greatest games they’ve published on the Wii Shop Channel.

Since the barber of the village retired, the local residents have been awaiting the moment in which they could receive the latest foliage fashions. With you being the new barber, it’s up to you to pick up your scissors, chop away branches and satisfy your customers. It may sound a little quirky, but it’s a very original idea that puts a unique twist on being a barber.

As each day passes, five customers arrive to test your style and abilities. If a customer requests a specific style, it’s up to you to attempt to deliver what they want. On the other hand, they may not be all that particular and allow you to pick from over thirty different hair styles. Though it may sound like a difficult task, it’s actually no trouble at all. With a wide array of tools at your disposal, cutting each customer’s hair will be as simple as one, two and three.

Bonsai Barber features a quirky cast of characters as well, ranging from a duo of cherries to a cactus cowboy. It’s nice to see a fine amount of attention put on making the cast as unique as possible, even if it means making them all fruits and vegetables. Despite some of them being a pain in the backside at times, most of them are loveable creatures that you may even become attached to.

The main gameplay of the game revolves around cutting hair (or should that be branches) for various fruits and vegetables. Essentially what you’re given is a big bush of hair and using your tools, you’ll have to cut excess branches off so that the hair will look like a specified shape. For example, if one customer walks in and wants his hair shaped like a mountain, the shape will appear on-screen and then it’s up to you to cut off branches in order to match it. Though it may sound easy, it actually ends up being quite a challenge.

For starters, you have to be careful not to cut away the main branches. By doing so you’ll cause a huge cluster of branches to fall off - not exactly what the customer was looking for. If that should happen though, your tools are there to help ease the pain. By using a spray bottle, you’ll be able to use water to make the branches grow back and thus allow you to take another stab at cutting the customer’s hair to the desired style.

Carrying on with that train of thought, there are also other problems that could be thrown your way. For example, your customer isn’t satisfied with their new look. Tough, that’s life. It may put a bit of a strain on your barber shop, but that’s all you can do. Cutting hair isn’t all that easy, but thanks to the game’s great controls (point, click, and press to cut hair), the game plays great. The amount of precision required may turn some people off, but in the long run, the game feels very natural, very fresh, and very intuitive.

Once you’re finished cutting your client’s hair, it’s time to bring out the mallet, hit a large gong, and get your customer's approval. Each client rates their hairstyle out of five stars, and naturally, the more stars, the better you did. If you do a good enough job, you may receive a gift or even a postcard from an exotic location, as your customers travel throughout the land showing off their fancy new hairdo.

On the opposite side of things though, you may occasionally miss an appointment. With that in mind, your customers won’t be at all happy, and you’ll certainly hear about it, as well. The client who had an appointment will be furious enough to even send a message to your Wii Message Board. We don’t want that happening every day, now do we?

One of the biggest strengths of Bonsai Barber is the game’s style. The graphical approach the developers took paid off in the long run, as did the approach they took with the game’s audio. The casual look of the game should be enough to draw in younger audiences and thanks to the game’s steady difficulty curve; they’ll be an expert barber in no time.


Once the customers have been served and new hairstyles have been dished out, one thing should be evident - Bonsai Barber is one of the most unique titles available on WiiWare. The game overflows with personality and substance and does a stellar job of creating a real-life barber shop atmosphere. Cutting customers' hair is a breeze thanks to the game’s simple-to-use controls, as is navigating the menus. The steady learning curve is also great for younger audiences who aren’t capable of starting with difficult tasks at the beginning of the game. Though the 'five cuts a day' thing may not be everyone's cup of tea, it adds a little realism to the game and makes it feel as though you're an actual barber. When everything is said and done though, this is one WiiWare experience you definitely don’t want to miss.

From the web

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User Comments (82)



gameking23 said:

Wow this game got a better review than I thought it would. I'll have to think about this one. Of course I only have 900 points so I guess I'll wait on this one.



FroguinZX said:

A game that I might miss for a long period of time. Oh, heck no, I don't want a message flood, that just put me on the opposite side of that fence.



Ricardo91 said:

Wow. Wasn't expecting that score...

This game's still too pricey at 1000 points for me though. There's too many other Wiiware titles at the mo that I'd rather have.



Sonatina_Gena said:

Oh, wow. I was not expecting that. I guess odd games can be good sellers after all. I do like the artstyle, though. It's actually cute.

It's just seems a bit expensive, though.



WolfRamHeart said:

Well, I was half hoping for a bad score so I wouldn't be tempted in downloading a game I was never planning on getting in the first place. Now I must reconsider but will probably pass on it due to the price. I'm saving my points for Cave Story and the DSi!



IAmNotWill said:

Great review. Seeing this and IGN 8.0 review, I might actually pick this up. If only they would lower that price. This game would have looked better on DsiWare though.



professorlayton said:

For those concerned about the price, don't let it bother you. If you stick to the game, you'll find a great experience that only costs $10.



longtimegamer said:

Great. I'll pick this up, I guess. I want to try my hand at being a barber/hedge artist.

Thanks for getting this out today. Nice surprise. Thanks for the review. Had just got done looking at IGNs review before I saw this up. They gave it the same score.



JohnshiBRPG said:

This game is very polished, and well done, but the only problem for some time attack game players is that you can go up to 5 customers daily, but it is done on purpose to give a realism feeling in this game.



professorlayton said:

@ longtimegamer
You wouldn't believe how hard I worked just to get this done today. If I started reviewing it a few minutes later, I probably wouldn't have got it finished today.



bboy2970 said:

Great review! i completely agree! to anyone on the fence about this game just trust that its fun and download it. It would really be a shame if this game were to not crack the top 20. I'm even more in support of this game after playing it again today with a significant bump in difficulty and an even higher addictive nature to just get that last star. Very fun, very unique game. Don't miss it!



WolfRamHeart said:

Okay, I may just take the plunge and download this game now. However, I was wondering if you must have Wii Connect 24 on while you play this game. I don't like leaving it on because it makes my Wii all hot and bothered.lol! Seriously though, I don't want to risk my Wii overheating but I would like to play this game.



bengyenah said:

@Professor Layton: Nice review, did you advance the wii's internal clock to play through a few weeks to give an accurate review?

I am by no means a casual gamer, and I think this game is one of the most interesting and enjoyable downloads since World of Goo. I also appreciate the fact that you can only cut a set amount of hair each day -- this will ensure that the game is enjoyable for weeks if not months to come. Much better than the too short Madworld that I beat so quickly I almost felt shortchanged.

Seriously a cool game!

Peace to the casual and the core.



Objection said:

Very nice review, since I had no idea what to expect from this title. Seems like a fair description and number, though a number is only just that. Anyway, I just got my check from the US government (yay!) so I'll be buying wii points soon. Maybe not for this (lots of catching up to do!), but I just might get this at some point.



bboy2970 said:

I wouldn't worry. Although my wii does get quite hot with wiiconnect24 always on it has never nor has it come close to overheating. The only case which i would imagine you have something to worry about is if your wii is displayed horizontally instead of vertically. Other than that i think your fine and you should absolutely take the plunge! Everyone download this! Nothing makes me more mad than when an original, fun game is deprived of good sales because it looks too "out there". SERIOUSLY, BUY IT NOW!!!!!!



longtimegamer said:

@ Professorlayton - Wow. In that case thanks again.

I just downloaded this and spent quite some time on Spudsworths "hair" even after I knew I was going to get the 5 stars, I wanted to get it to MY satisfation.



WolfRamHeart said:

SOLD! Thanks for the information, I greatly appreciate it! I feel the same way about games that are considered too "out there". Leave it to Wiiware to make me want to be a barber of produce! On the subject of weird yet awesome games; I hope everyone goes out and buys Rhythm Heaven this Sunday!



Corbs said:

While I've gotten some enjoyment out of this one, it didn't hold my interest for long. That being said, it's a very well-done game and the production value is high. Nice to see this attention to detail, even if the game isn't my cup of tea.



Bahamut_ZERO said:

An 8! Wow. Well, still not a 9, so I dont have to buy it. Ill wait till I have no more games to play, but it looks fairly interesting.



bboy2970 said:

Hooray! Another sale for BB! And I for one am absolutely picking up RH this sunday along with my brand new DSi! ONLY 5 MORE DAYS!!!!!!!
That's too bad you didn't get a very high level of enjoyment out of BB Oh well, you can't please everyone i suppose.



Corbs said:

The game was obviously way over my head.

We've now got a video game aquarium and a video game plant trimming game. What's next, a stamp collecting video game?



WarioFan63 said:

Man, it was so great to see things completely turn around for this game! I hope the joy spreads!



KnucklesSonic8 said:

@bboy2970: Yep, I completed the survey under the Intend to Buy program on Club Nintendo and I can't wait to get Rhythm Heaven also. I FINALLY got the demo (you guys in US got it on Wednesday IIRC but we just got it yesterday) and I loved the first game in the demo.

But anyway, onto the review....

First off, excellent intro. How it leads into the whole "it’s one of their greatest games they’ve published on the Wii Shop Channel" quote is great and that's just what we need to hear in order to rub out any inhabitions we may have about the game.

I loved this line, sounds so much like ACCF. XD "Despite some of them being a pain in the back at times, most of them are loveable creatures that you may even become attached to."

Great line, this made me laugh: "The client who had an appointment will be furious enough to even send a message to your Wii Message Board. We don’t want that happening every day, now do we?" Heh heh. I think it's GREAT how they did this and it made it seem like a real Barber Shop in essence.

Really good review. This is really tempting right now, actually, but I will buy it for sure when I get more Wii Points. Thanks for such a great review. I would've loved to hear more on the Achievements, though.



Objection said:

I won't get this game right now because I am busy and I don't need another game yelling at me for not playing it AnimalCrossing-style. I am glad this turned out better than expected though. I wish this happened with more games. Too many of the bad-looking ones really do turn up mediocre or worse.



joeshabadoo said:

I really appreciate this game and what it does for doing it very well, but there's too much quality on the wiiware horizon for me to drop 1000 points on this. 500 And I would be sold. Seems like a nice enjoyable daily 20-25 min type thing



karnage13 said:

Been checking out this site since wiiware began, but this is my first post.

Bonsai Barber does sound like fun. Just wondering if anyone knows if Wii Connect 24 has to be enabled to truly enjoy this game (don't want to mess up homebrew). Nice review; keep up the good work.



BulbasaurusRex said:

This may have good graphics, sound, and controls, but it's still a really dumb concept. It's not even a real game! (no real objective, no way to win or lose)



StarDust4Ever said:

Corbie, please lose the [purple dinosaur] avatar
EDIT: Hopefully this is just an April fools prank, and not a permanent change!?



Corbs said:

Sorry, the Barney avatar is here to stay! At least for today!



Kirk said:

The only real problem I see with this is that because you can easily repair any messed up cuts you do then you don't really have any consequences of doing a bad cut, since you can just fix it at any time, so where is the challenge, the risk reward, the ability to get things wrong etc?

How can you fail?



Stratos said:

Corbie, I didn't even realize that the Barney avatar was you until it was pointed out by others. I thought it was a new member or something.

I'm thinking about getting this for my little sister. She went to a huge effort to plan an egg hunting party for Easter and every kid canceled or turned down her invite. This might cheer her up and she needs a new WW game to pull her off of My Pokemon Ranch.

Nice review. You do a great job explaining the mechanics to someone who is clueless to this game. I was pleasantly surprised.

All of this talk about Zoonami makes me curious about their fabled Game Zero. They pulled the pictures of the blacked out design doc files from their site. Wasn't that what everyone was hoping to be the Gamecube's Goldeneye/Halo killer though there was no proof of that? Maybe they'll reveal what it is before the end of the decade.



Jockolantern said:

The 8 / 10 is an April Fool's joke! The real score will be revealed tomorrow to be a 1 / 10! Or... not? ^_~

If the game really is as impressive as this and IGN's reviews make it sound, I may have to go for it when I'm feeling in a very casual mood and need a little something to pick up and play each and every day before I jump into more intense gaming.



Nintendophile said:

The first thing I thought when I saw this game was;
"Chlorophyll? More like BORE-rophyll!"
But after reading your review, I just might have to give this a shot.



KeeperBvK said:

My first thought on this game was that it looked quite promising. I seriously don't know why so many people obviously got turned down by the wacky promise of it.



cyrus_zuo said:

I bought this last night after reading the developer interview on Gamasutra: http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=22985
A quote:
"Former Rare developer Hollis and his colleagues designed Bonsai Barber to eliminate frustration and engender collaboration and conversation."
That made me interested, and with a different pair of glasses I checked it out. That said, I think it is early to give my opinion on it. You cut just 5 heads a day. So after one day I think I know little of the game. I was surprised to see reviews go up so quickly, the farthest anyone could have gotten was 3 days into the game. I really liked my first play, and I want to see more of the game .



Vendetta said:

If there were a mode that didn't mandate daily play or else send "hate mail" to the message board, then I'd buy it immediately.



bengyenah said:

@Kirk -- Don't forget you are being timed! You get rated on how fast and how well you do. If you always go slow and really stink at the game, you will never win some of the achievements.



Kaluba said:

Hmm. This title looks pretty interesting. I think I'll have to do some more research on it first.



bengyenah said:

Has anybody gotten any of the random "events" yet?

Editor: I still want to know if you advanced the game clock to write this review! Especially after you said "you have no idea how hard I worked..."

Also, you don't HAVE to play every day. You have the choice of making future appointments for clients (achem) that you WANT to see (Why you have a crush on the Cherry Twins is really not my business). Only then will you get wii-mails complaining if you fail to keep the appointment that YOU scheduled for them. It makes more sense this way, right? I think people just read the press releases and got confused.

Again I want to say that Madworld would have been better if you had to wait for certain days to play certain levels. This could have easily been incorporated and understood by the players because the game is a TV Show! This type of game design is truly the future of how games will interact with the player. Games can be so much more immersive if the developers catch up to the Wii's level of understanding of haptics and the human experience. Okay, I am off my high horse (for the day)



KDR_11k said:

Delays in Madworld would not have been understood by the player because it's a 50$ core game, not a 10$ WiiWare game. Core games are supposed to be about longplay sessions.



Rashoodeus said:

Are there multiple save files? I'd like to purchase it, but with 5 haircuts a day and several players wanting to try it out I don't think it will work.



Kirk said:



The more I hear about the game the more I think it sounds pretty cool.

I wonder if the developers are allowed to change the price because it seems a lot of people will be passing on this just because it's 1000 points and that seems like a bit of a shame.



Crazed said:

@KeeperBvK- I intially thought this was going to be a bad game for three reasons.
1) This looked like a more expensive version of My Aquarium with vegatables.
2) I argued that this would not have a solid audience to sell to.
3) With Equilibrio and Swords & Soldiers having the "coming soon" montra slapped on all of their trailers, it was (at first) disappointing and frustrating that a game with so little following was given the green light over the games mention above.

However, with the reviews and all the positive remarks that this game has gotten, I have to say that I'm impressed. I'm surprised how many people are enjoying this game, and I'm shocked that after BB recieved such a harsh first look (my own quote "This is grade-A shovelware."), so many people are now enjoying this game and rallying it for it to score well on the top 20 charts. The review is not just great, but it answers my suspicions on the game, and from what I can tell it deserves its 8/10. So...with this in mind, I would like to say congratulations to Zoonami and Nintendo for a great addtition to Wiiware, and hopefully another game comes along and surprises us like this game has.

Oh, and to bboy2970, nice job getting people interested in the game. I probably wouldn't be posting this apology without someone so interested in the game on here.



Carlos27 said:

Is a nice game that exploits the human nature of curiosity.. you are curious of what is going to happen in your tomorrow appointments..
that and the relaxing nature of simple tasks (painting, cutting grass, wash a car)



bboy2970 said:

well, i try! I'm happy that your thoughts about this game have been converted, but i have to say that when i saw this game's announcement a couple of days before it's release i thought pretty much what you thought, SHOVELWARE!! It's not often, but it happens!



Metroid133 said:

I must say I agree with the review! The 5 a day thing is awesome in my opinion since then I can play it, do all 5 customers (5 stars), and then go play something else. Then I repeat the next day. I just got the game today, but so far I love it! Great review!



Crunc said:

Does this game require you to play every day in order to avoid getting complaining customers? I ask because my kids, while school is in session, don't get to play video games every day. I'm trying to find a good game to suggest they download and maybe this is one, but I don't want a game that pushes you to play every day when they can't.



rptb1 said:

Bonsai Barber does not require you to play every day. It does not nag you when you don't play. You get a message from a character when you miss an appointment that you set up with them.



Vendetta said:

Truly one of those games at which the mere thought of you roll your eyes. I certainly did. But I'm happy to share that I've downloaded it, played it, and don't regret a single point I spent on it. Very clever game. I'm thankful that this excellent review and accurate score got me interested enough to try it. A classic case where judging the book for its cover is a big mistake.



Clayfrd said:

Interesting game... I'll probably still pass, for my money is currently being spent on MS points (don't flame, I just want Banjo-Tooie). I might give it a try, though. This review is quite persuasive.



Wiiperson11 said:

This game is really awesome. I've already downloaded it and it rules!!!!!
Question: How do I play the multiplayer?



Carlos27 said:

ok, i already have more than 2:00hrs with the game & a week of playing it everyday.

This game is really pleasant surprise.
1.- It is a relaxing game, the type of relaxing u get from doing simple tasks (painting a wall, cutting grass, etc)
2.- every character have their unique personality, and their comments and talking let you see that, as well as their faces when you are cutting their foliage. Every day you get to know them a little bit more.
3.- The graphic style is really well integrated, the menus and everything is very polished, and the sounds are funny...

There is a Challenge part of the game:
1.- You are scored by how well you cut a style; 0 to 5 stars.
Some styles are almost IMPOSSIBLE to get 5 stars, it is not only cutting, some of them need a painting pattern. (i don't think the time u spend cutting their foliage haves something to do with the score they give u)

2.- You have unlockables
Medals: The games tells you what you have to do in order to obtain them. There are some really easy (cut your first 5 start style) to the almost impossible 5 star day (every cut of the day has to be perfect) (it is almost impossible if you didn't take the opportunity to obtain it the first day when cuts are not difficult)

there are photo prizes: The game did not tell u what you need to do in order to get them. You will unlocking this by photographing strange occurrences in the game (which happens well.. everyday)

Postals: These will be send to u when a customer returns from holiday, there are 12.

Gifts: These will be giving to you when u please a customer with a great cut. (there is a Little surprise here too.)

Foliage Styles: More than 30 (i have not unlocked all the styles yet)

3.- The "Test" Bonsai.
The 1 day u will have a practice plant, to , well, practice every style u have unlocked. The thing is that you are being timed, and when you finished, your time & score (stars) will be showed. This is like a TimeTrial, where you can see how fast and well do a specific cut and you can compare them with others. Its too bad you can not submit this to an online scoreboards

And finally the hook of the game... you can only have up to 5 customers per day... but that is not the only thing that uses the Wii Clock, every day you will have some strange thing happening... some surprise.. a little surprise, nothing too fancy, but that is what makes you coming.

Other thing is that you can interact with those "surprises" and the characters make comments that make sense with those events.

One example which i don't thing is a big spoiler.

Maizy one of ur customers have a bird as a pet... if you make an appointment with her... well the bird will be flying around the shop not only when you are attending her, but with every customer you are attending.
If you make the bird Sing... (there is a way of making it sing) and you made an appointment with the Banana Spy, these customer will tell you that stop the bird from singing because it will blow up his cover (he is a spy)

those little details make the game fell alive.

OH! and there is the multiplayer which is interesting too.

Everybody expected some blood and shooting from Mr Hollis, as everybody expect only Mario and Zelda Games from Miyamoto...
but as Hollis said to an interview that i saw in the Nintendo Channel about BB.. there is 99% of unexplored territory of what a game can be about. And im glad that genius cant be bottled in what we expect from them (yes i enjoy Wii Music too ;P )



XCWarrior said:

Crazy that its that good, but it is from Nintendo. I'm still passing, not in the mood to cut hair... or whatever you want to call that foliage.



WolfRamHeart said:

I have spent a considerable amount of time playing this game now and I find it totally addicting! It gets really tough especially when you try to get a five star haircut every time. On average I spend at least an hour a day playing this game so length isn't really an issue with this game. I have yet to unlock every item and achievement for this game but everyday I play there is always something new and surprising that keeps me coming back for more!



GN0LAUM said:

Is there anyone who has downloaded this game (besides Corbie whose opinion no offense I usually don't listen to) who hasn't enjoyed it or found it charming?



Wrenski said:

Man screw the whole 'It's a dumb concept' line of thought. Almost every fantastic game imaginable is a 'dumb concept'.
"Be a doctor and do operations"
"Be a spikey haired defense attourney"
"Make stuff with balls of sticky goop"
"Be a plumber and grab mushrooms to grow"
It's all retarded when you clip it down (HA!) to it's base concept.

Meanwhile WiiWare has had a lot of great stuff, but this is the only game aside from World of Goo that makes me think "Wow, this is awesome, developers really getting creative and trying new things". But of course goo balls are a much less 'silly' concept, so hardcore gamers won't pile all over this and slobber on about supporting creativity in the same way. Gotta love it.



Awesome5 said:

I'm definately interested in this game. If I ever find a spare $10 laying around, I'll probably come to this first thing.



longtimegamer said:

WolfRamHeart - Yea. I haven't passed one part because I'm try to get five stars (It's at the first contest.) The banana guy's a pain in the butt, also the butterfly is a pain for some reason (If you know how to do it DON'T tell me though, I like to find out for my self.)



Carlos27 said:

// The banana guy's a pain in the butt... //

Try to use gravity.... if you dont know.. the strawberry does..



WolfRamHeart said:

@ longtimegamer
Its been a while since I last played this because that banana-spy pissed me off! I made it to the first contest and he would just not give me a 5-star rating! I think he is the most picky of all the customers. I dread seeing his face! Yeah, that butterfly style is a pain! I try to 5-star all my cuts but I'm thinking the further you get it becomes impossible to do so. I use that gravity manipulator in some situations but still I can't seem to please that darn banana! One of the tougher challenges I experienced was cutting hair in the dark. That sucked! Still its a fun game that I need to catch up on and I'm curious to find out what happens when you unlock everything!



Carlos27 said:

// still I can't seem to please that darn banana! //

try the sock cut on him, with gravity inversed.



Vendetta said:

I had an interesting discovery last night as I was flipping through my awards. The Tess V. Fair photography award for taking a picture and saving it... Well, the name of the award is an anagram for "first save." The Ian B. Row award for taking a picture with a rainbow in it is an anagram for "rainbow." See where I'm going with this? All the others are anagrams also, which should give players some guidance on what to shoot in order to get the award. I won't spoil them by listing them here. If you want to spoil them yourself, then just figure out the anagrams.




Gavin_Rozee said:

@Corbie (Comment 29) You collect stamps in Wii Sports Resort, remember? Nintendo stole your idea.

This game is finally released here August 7th. Yay!

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