Spoiler alert! When I play Eufloria HD I think of those Avalon Hill games my friends played in high school. Not the sports ones, the military ones. They proceeded at a slow, almost tedious pace, and I tried my best to get into them. I just couldn’t. Then D&D came along and I realized the war games weren’t as tedious as they could be. Three stars.
I understand the appeal of Eufloria HD, I’m just not sure it deserves the pick as iPad game of the week. The design is stylistically elegant and game play detailed and intricate. The looping background music comes straight from Hearts of Space.
You might ask, what is Hearts of Space?
Most readers know that this is the paragraph where I will segue off into an anecdote only marginally related to my actual review of the game. I mention this because I recently received a comment from a reader who seemed distressed that I didn’t actually review the product I was reviewing. How kind of him. He recognized that I stand with a pantheon of reviewers like Joe Bob Briggs who use the reviews as an excuse to write about anything else. He wasn’t exactly happy about it, but there it is.
But let’s be honest. Once you read the spoiler alert do you really need the review? Of course not. So if you continue reading you would clearly rather enjoy the review than read about the product. We can call my reviews VAR (Value Added Reviews). Unfortunately some readers won’t find the added value to be, well, valuable.
Which brings us back to Hearts of Space, which was a show that aired on NPR every Saturday at midnight, at least in Austin. Hearts of Space featured New Age music selected by the Institute for Noetics to connect to our brains in a deeper way than Western and Pop. Carol and I, who had only recently started dating and still felt the need to impress each other with our cultural and spiritual depth, would turn out the lights, sit on her couch and try our best to listen to an entire program without falling asleep or making out.
This is the music that permeates Eufloria. Bright, electronic and looping. Minimalist. Kind of like Philip Glass, but not quite as good. And let’s be honest, even Philip Glass gets redundant after a while. I loved Glassworks and Einstein on the Beach, but sooner or later I know I’m going to play a new Phillip Glass piece and moan, “Oh, no. More damn triplets.”
When the app announced that the music is best played through headphones, this doesn’t mean the sound is rich and lush. It means you need headphones to hear it. The music isn’t bad or annoying, it’s just average.
To be honest, minimalism describes the visual design of the game as well. The colors are mostly warm pastels for the good flowers and cool (gray) pastels for the evil seeds. The designer doesn’t seem to like contrast either. Almost all of the colors are highlights and the difference between characters and background is slight.
As art this approach has it’s place, but the subdued style is indicative of game play as well.
Players reach out from one asteroid to the next and colonize them with new trees and seedlings. They can target specific asteroids and even select how many seedlings to send. The orange planets are the good planets, the red ones have mines left by the evil gray matter.
Players take on the personna of sentient seedlings floating from asteroid to asteroid to bring life. Their mission is to implant seedlings on the planet, germinate and grow trees that propagate more seedlings or protect the asteroid from hostile gray particles. Occasionally, players pick up useful artifacts.
Once an asteroid is colonized and life producing, players grow enough seedlings to branch out to other asteroids. Different seedlings provide offensive and defensive advantages, as do the different trees. Players scout nearby asteroids to see if they are unoccupied. If they aren’t the seedlings must overcome the gray particles who have defensive weapons of their own.
As players encounter a planet colonized by gray particles, conflict begins. Their seedling swarms have to overwhelm gray seedling swarms and replace their trees. Unfortunately, gray trees can repopulate their swarms quickly and they may even invade your own colonies in retaliation.
I played through the first two stages and tried to find some enthusiasm for Eufloria, but I couldn’t. The game does require strategic thinking and problem solving. Some levels require quick strikes and direct attacks. Others require players to marshall resources. In many ways Eufloria resembles a tower defense game, but the towers are all the same.
Clearly some players will enjoy Eufloria immensely, especially players who relish games that require patience and trial and error. The visual elements are also strikingly different from most games. But by the time I was halfway through the second stage I found myself waiting for something more exciting to happen.
Ironically, Apple selected Ragdoll 3 as new and noteworthy this week as well. I found it to be everything Eufloria wasn’t—bright and garish, loud and explosive. It’s far less innovative and far more familiar, but I also found it to be far more fun.