Normally, flower gardens and fireworks don't mix - unless you're trying to destroy the neighbour's petunia beds with roman candles - but Aussie developers Nocturnal have managed to turn what could have been a horticultural nightmare into a fun, happy game about making pretty (explosive) gardens.
At its heart Flowerworks is a puzzle game wherein the object is to grow flowers from seeds which then explode into fireworks (they're alien flowers so it all makes sense, almost) and of course get the highest score possible in the process. If that was all there was to the game it would be nice enough, but what makes the game even better is the Adventure Mode which connects the levels together through a narrative whilst adding new features to the basic gameplay.
You're put in control of Follie, a green plant-like alien who is on a trip to her Grandma's planet or something and crash-lands on an alien world. The seeds she was bringing are scattered everywhere and she's stranded, but she's more concerned with the state of the native foliage than figuring out how to leave. Planting the seeds to beautify the surroundings becomes her new mission in life and this is achieved by collecting seeds and playing game levels to plant them and transform the world.
The game world is a nice green affair with a few flowers here and there, but definitely in need of touching up with non-native species (you'd think an Australian developer would know better!). There are clearly-marked paths as a guide, though you can move more or less where you like. Moving through the world is the weakest aspect of the game: you can use the , but the screen scrolls rather jerkily and it's slow. The intended method is moving around a cursor with the pointer and clicking . This smoothly scrolls the screen and puts Follie wherever you were pointing - even around corners if the distance isn't too great. You can also pull up a map screen by pressing , click on a marked area, and then click the "Teleport" button to transport Follie there instantly. For quick level replays, simply click levels on the map and click the "Play" button - though you will have to be able to access areas normally before you can use these short-cuts.
The game world is quite large and there are a few inhabitants to meet in the form of friendly foliage who will sell you game-changing power-ups in exchange for found coins, and unfriendly gnomes who will block your path until you've earned enough "Star Power" to "pacify" them. Star Power is earned by playing game levels. The lowest scores will earn one star, but each level has up to five stars to earn - if you can score enough points to make the grade. The gnomes each have a star rating written on their hats (though you can also view this by standing next to them or by pointing at them on the map) and when you've earned enough to pacify them you can walk over and do so. The gnomes never speak, so it's not clear if Follie's view of them as hostile living things is just in her mind or not. If not, the act of "pacifying" them by burying them alive with a few Remote shakes seems a bit extreme!
In each of the areas you you'll find a few game levels, and in order to play these you need different coloured seeds. In the game world these are large, rainbow-coloured objects, but each represents one or more seeds of different colours: red, blue, purple, yellow and so on; more seeds are earned after a level is completed. The game levels themselves are large glowing circles which you move Follie into. If she has the required number and colour of seeds then you can start play.
The game is played initially using the pointer and and buttons. Using the pointer the player moves Follie about the screen. She starts out placing the seeds into depressions in the ground and then the game starts proper with little coloured shapes floating up from the bottom of the screen. These are "pollen" bits which you collect to "feed" the flowers (alien plants, remember?) so they can grow and explode. You feed the flowers by simply clicking after collecting the pollen, which is as easy as touching it with Follie. She can hold only one kind of pollen initially and can carry more than one piece at a time. If you touch a different colour you'll dump what you're already carrying, so careful pointer use will be required on levels with multiple colours and a lot of pollen on-screen. If the level has two or three flowers (which becomes the norm after the first one) then you need to ensure you're feeding all of them rather than focusing on one at a time. Once a flower is big enough to bloom it will start a countdown towards the level end; if the timer runs out on a flower before all have bloomed it's "Game Over." If you neglect a flower after it starts growing it will begin to wilt and shrink; if it shrinks away completely, it's also "Game Over."
When Follie is near a flower she automatically targets it and a box is placed around the flower with a faint line connecting Follie to it, and pollen will ride down it when is pressed. This focus will shift automatically as you move Follie across the screen which can be a bit annoying if the required colour is on the opposite side of the screen from the matching flower; if you send the wrong colour pollen to a flower it doesn't do anything but pop-up a "?" in a word balloon. You can lock focus by pressing and holding - this causes the connecting line to glow brighter - and then switch it to another flower with a click of . If this is all you do then you can certainly beat the levels, but you'll end up with a pretty rubbish score and you'll never be able to access many levels of the game because of those pesky gnomes.
The strategy you need to master is hitting other pollen when you send pollen to the flowers, which causes them to turn into fireworks and send more pollen streaming to the flowers. This not only racks up the big points but also helps grow flowers without the need for endless re-targeting of them (it's also nice to see because it's so pretty). You can hit multiple pollens at once, giving you bonus points for combos and releasing bonus bubbles which sink off-screen, but can be juggled by hitting them from below with Follie. Bubbles will also burst into fireworks just like pollen, and as with pollen the further away from them you are, the higher they burst and the more points they're worth. If you hold to lock your focus any pollen or bubbles crossing your path will flash, indicating they can be hit by fired pollen if you release and press it again. Once you've got your head around this mechanic, Flowerworks reveals its true colours, with addictive and strategic gameplay belying its cutesy aesthetics.
In the course of playing you can purchase more abilities from the friendly-but-greedy natives, such as being able to collect more pollen (you start out with a capacity of three), combine pollen colours and set off your own fireworks from pollen being carried. It helps keep the game fresh and creates additional motivation to explore for coins and characters to chat with. Records are kept of all your conversations as well as the help notes you find scattered about. There's even a tutorial to show you how to play (though it does a surprisingly minimal amount of hand-holding, requiring you to read help screens just to complete it!) and four profile slots for various players to have their own games going at once. If you feel things are too tough or too easy you can just change the difficulty level (along with the usual volume levels) from the options menu. If you want a quick game with a limited ability set, there's a "quick play" mode where you can just pick a difficulty level and get started, but the Adventure mode is a lot more fun and engaging.
The game has a clean cartoony look with background objects like trees and shrubs looking like 2D cutouts standing up from the vibrant green fields of the world. The gnomes look like photos from a book and are quite striking; the original character designs are cute and engaging. After finishing a level the surrounding area transforms (in a manner reminiscent of De Blob) with the degree of transformation depending upon the star level of your performance. It's a nice touch that fits in well with the narrative of the game and adds further incentive to better your score.
The sounds effects are nicely done with what sounds like real baby cries when Follie gets frustrated by gnomes blocking her path initially, fireworks explosions and the rumble of gnomes being buried ali... sorry, pacified. The background music is a subtle ambient electronic which is fitting and unobtrusive and nicely completes the package.
Flowerworks is the kind of thing we like to see on WiiWare: it's a bit goofy, cute and colourful and a lot of fun. If you take the time to get the hang of things you too can find that fireworks and flowers go great together!
Nice. I was hoping this crazy as hell game idea would turn out to be fun. I'll be picking this one up soon. Great review Sean.
that's quite a tagline, there, Sean.... I LIKE IT!
game sounds interesting, too.
good to know this one turned out fun. :3
Sean. Seriously. You have a gift man. You write a mean, mean review.
Thanks as always.
When otherwise good game developers make stupid decisions - "Moving through the world is the weakest aspect of the game: you can use the , but the screen scrolls rather jerkily and it's slow. The intended method is moving around a cursor with the pointer and clicking ." - it drives me nuts.
Why not use the nun-chuck stick to move?
On an semi-related note, maybe PopCap will give us Peggle WiiWare with point-n-shoot to aim, as that developers decision to use the stick to move is driving me crazy on PSN.
I was wondering when "orgy" would find its way into a tagline here.
A concept that would not have worked as a retail game, exactly what wiiware was made for. I'm glad this turned out as well as it did.
Nice review (I'm one of the devs), seems pretty accurate to me
A comment on the movement: the game uses square based movement, so we didn't see any point of adding nunchuck support (which is normally used for true analog movement) - it wouldn't work that well. I normally use the Wiimote / pointer to move around (and its very helpful in the maze region, as it actually auto-routes and can show you where you can move). Some people prefer the dpad movement, so I'm glad we added both.
Anyway, I hope people enjoy the game - I think its a lot of fun
Oh yeah - one more comment:
Something neither review has touched on yet (and you don't really get to until you reach the swamp or later), is the real challenge is getting all 5 stars on each level. Every level has been balanced to make the 5-stars a real challenge (even the first!), and many have unique strategies to learn.
To finish the game you need a 4-star average, but to really finish the game you'll need to get every one of those stars... again it can be a lot of fun, and will take a while (it takes me over 20hrs to do that).
Thanks all for the comments. I have to confess I wasn't that excited for this one and after my first play of it, it didn't grab me. Once I got the hang of building the combos and saw how the upgrades changed up the gameplay I really started to get into it -- it's definitely not a game to base a lasting impression on after only playing for 20min.
@shams: Man I'll be happy to get three stars! I'm right at the edge of the swamp and looking forward to more. That 98-star gnome is like the impossible dream though!
I realise your quandry with the movement. You could have done a simple Mario World-style overworld, but then you'd lose the whole exploration/adventure aspect, and since it's primarily a puzzle/arcade game having a more robust overworld wouldn't be a good use of development energy. Point and click works, but it's a bit cumbersome to cover large distances of already explored territory. Thankfully you can teleport!
@sean: Towards the end of the game you'll be doing nothing other than teleporting - and using the level summary screen to work out which level to attack next.
If you are averaging 3-stars around the swamp, you are doing great. Just push ahead - you'll cross the swamp, go past the entrance to the village and head towards the desert (top-right of the map). You'll pick up your next power-up there, and things will start getting easier.
BTW - you can change the difficulty setting in the middle of a game - so if you get stuck, drop it down to easy for a while until you get a new powerup - then switch it back. I only play on hard of course
I wonder why?
No spoilers! I realised the difficulty thing (that's why I mention it) which I think is a really good idea. Normal difficulty suits me fine. I can live without the bugs eating the pollen, thanks!
Its cool to see more quirky original games on wiiware. I will have to check this out sometime.
Welcome to Nintendo Life shams! From a fellow Aussie, it's good to see our country doing some good service for WiiWare . Keep it up and thanks for the comments.
Also nice review Sean, I'll pick this up and give it a bash! thumbs up
This game has a horrible name. Since Nintendo's download service kinda sucks, and doesn't even give any screenshots to show off a game, let alone very VERY few demos, who the heck knows what you're getting with a title called, "FlowerWorks"?
Might have to check it out now though. It actually looks like a quirky, fun, fairly well produced (for a download) title.
There's also a demo version of this game to try on PC, just go to flowerworks website to check it. Although demos are something that Wiiware should make it available...but I'm glad Nocturnal made it available for PC. It does look odd at first but after you keep playing it, it's really fun! Nice game indeed!
I guess it's one of those games you have to try because judging by the YouTube videos I've seen this game looks pretty naff. I can only hope it gets a good demo because between its name and the rather dull video footage on the web, I wouldn't hold out much hope of it getting anything more than low sales.
Agreed, I cannot say I was impressed by videos of it either, but it really is quite fun!
Hmmm, sounds like a good addition to the download service but I've got too may ware games on my radar to go for this one. Not for me then sadly.
What else could the video have shown ? It showed the game right ? There was a title on PS3 called 'flower' that seemed to sell pretty well. As I understand it the name 'flowerworks' is a mash of flower and fireworks, which is a pretty good description of what happens in the core gameplay. I agree that a wiiware demo would really help with such an unusual title. I'm seriously interested in alternative titles from those who've played it! maybe 'WiiFlower'?
I have no problems with the title. When I say I wasn't impressed with the videos I mean this is a game that really must be played to be enjoyed. Simply seeing it in action isn't enough!
The word 'flower' will always turn a large % of male, macho gamers off. Maybe if it was called 'Fireflower'?
Played the PC demo, is it quite fun, just have to wait until its released for Australia - hurry up Nocturnal!!
ecoslave, shams says that their working on localizing it, and hope to release it Q1 2010.
We've got an interview with CEO Michael Shamgar which should get people even more interested. Hopefully that will be up soon!
I'm looking forward to that interview Sean. It sounds like it will be a good read.
Hope cross-linking isn't against the rules... there is another interview up, this time at VGChartz. Another good read I would say...
@shams: Thank you for posting that link. It was indeed a very interesting read. I have to say that I am really enjoying your game. It is a lot of fun to play and very addicting. I wish you folks at Nocturnal the best of luck with Flowerworks and much success.
I have only played the game for a bit, but I can tell that it's oozing quality. Great job, Nocturnal. I may enjoy this one as much as Bonzai Barber
This finally came out in PAL territories (guess Q1 was overly ambitious) and I'm pleased to say it's still worth the wait.
Fun stuff; I hope people check it out.
Been playing this game all morning after recieving it as a gift. It's fantastic anda true hidden gem of Wiiware. For 500 points European's should be snapping this up!
it's also worth noting that the EU version features extra content and simultaneous 2 PLAYER action unlike the reviewed NA version.
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