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Flowerworks - WiiWare Review

Game Info

WiiWare | Nocturnal | 1 Player | Out Now | 1,000 Nintendo Points 
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (pointer)
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5th March 2010; By KnucklesSonic8

On December 7th, 2009, Nocturnal (an Australian developer) released Flowerworks, a unique puzzle-adventure game filled with life and enjoyment. Did you happen to give this one a miss? If you did, you had better re-consider. Anyone who considers themselves a fan of fun, innovative games should definitely pick this one up!

    The game stars Follie, an organic life form who sets off to visit her aunt located somewhere on a planet deep in space. Her journey takes an unexpected turn when her ship is destroyed and she crash lands onto the planet with no way of escaping. Although Follie first sheds a few tears over this untimely development, she soon realizes the opportunity set before her. Upon exploring the island, she discovers just how dull her surroundings are, devoid of life and colour. With your help, Follie will be able to bring this planet back to life and hopefully even find her missing aunt in the process.

    There are three modes players can choose from. Quick Play mode allows you to choose from one of three difficulty settings and try to clear as many stages as possible without getting a Game Over. As well, the accessible Tutorial function will teach you the in's and out's of the game for those new to the experience. The main Adventure mode is the central focus of the game where you explore and travel to 50 different stages, beautifying the mysterious planet. It will last the average player hours upon hours as it really is one of WiiWare's longest single-player quests. You can even store multiple profiles so the entire family can join in on the fun by having their own save file. 

The 50 stages in the Adventure mode are presented across a vast hub world of the entire plant. To move around, you simply aim towards a spot using your mouse-like cursor, and press (or hold) the A button. Along the way, you'll find signs that will give you tips on how to get around, and even provide a bit of story on the planet's history. All the progress you make in the game is managed on a useful menu with the press of the + Button. You'll get to see an overview map of the entire world, your individual performances in each stage, and even profile stats such as the length of time you've been playing.

    As Follie takes on this quest to improve the quality of life on the planet, residents will observe her fine deeds and reward her with new abilities. You'll need to pay these so-called "friends" using golden coins. These coins can be found in numerous places so it's your job to go seek them out. As you traverse the environment, you'll discover a couple of other things too that will help you progress in the game. Coloured seeds allow you to plant the seeds, giving you access to new stages. Sometimes stages will be blocked off with a garden gnome, but Follie can pummel these into the ground by "pacifying" them with shakes of the Wii Remote. Before you can even enter new stages or pacify gnomes, you'll need to rack up a good amount of Star Power so certain areas become unlocked. 

In each of the game's 50 levels, you can accumulate up to a maximum of 5 stars. Each stage has a designated score requirement that must be met in order for you to obtain a given number of stars. Set even to the easiest difficulty setting, score requirements are certainly not easy to come by. On the highest difficulty, you'll really be hard-pressed to meet some of the requirements, replaying levels over and over again to see how you can improve. There's definitely something to strive for and the game gives players a great sense of progression and accomplishment.

    Depending on the number of stars you earn, the environment around you will brighten up, having more vibrance and life. Even the music changes from being slightly gloomy and sad to soft, uplifting melodies. With tame music that has a cheery spring-like feel to it, everything about the game's presentation works well. Being able to beautify your surroundings is something that's been explored in games like de Blob and it works well here too. Being able to enhance the make-up of an area both visually and musically is something that all players will enjoy. Just having the little touch of Follie go from having a frown to a smile is great, tieing in nicely with the progress you've made in the general vicinity.

Once the seeds are planted and the stages commence, you control Follie using your Wii Remote's pointer. Throughout the course of the level, coloured bits of pollen will rise from the bottom of the screen. Follie can grab these simply by passing over them. The idea is to make the seedling sprout into a beautiful 
flower using these bits of pollen. When you're ready to aim your shot, you hold the A Button and release to let the piece of pollen go flying directly into the seed/flower. However, you'll need to think carefully as the seed will only benefit from the pollen if they are both of the same colour. Once the seedlings have grown into flowers, the timer will start, signifying that they've completed the basic stage of growth. Once one of the timers run out, the stage is over, and a fireworks display takes place. Giant flowers and additional fireworks will be released from the depths of the flowers you've grown, which not only serves as a nice visual sight, but they also add even more points to your final score.

    More often than not, you'll have to worry about multiple seeds. It's very easy to overlook some of the seeds, and if you don't supply them with proper nourishment, they can wilt or even die. In effect, this forces players to have a systematic approach when playing, especially as stages get more demanding. The seedlings have thought bubbles that will keep you abreast with how they feel. Statements like "Feed Me!" and "Hurry Up" make the game have a 'Diner Dash' feel to it. If the timer on one of the flowers expires and there are still seedlings left to develop, then you'll fail the stage, forcing Follie to leave sad. (And we don't want that, do we?)

In theory, the concept is simple but there's a surprising amount of depth that exists in the game. Probably the most prevalent example of this is Flowerworks' excellent combo system! As mentioned already, pollen can be sent directly to the 
flower dead-on. However, when there are multiple pollen fragments floating around on the screen, you can link together additional pieces of pollen for maximum benefit. If two bits of different colours are linked together, they will become one new colour that can even benefit flowers that have the same root colour. As you make combos, words will appear on-screen, including "Hardcore" (for 4 links), "Skyborne Six", and Galactic Nine", and these are great ways to encourage the player for their good efforts. By creating combos, seedlings will release flower-shaped fireworks into the air that will add points to your score. They'll even release bubbles that can be bounced around on-screen or linked with other pollen. These will also add to your score and give you a few more seconds on the timer of a full-grown flower.

    Over time, Flowerworks gradually introduces players to slight gameplay changes that really add to the experience without feeling drastically different from the standard gameplay. For example, the 12th stage will introduce players to harmful Black Stars which will only impede your progress. These descend from the top of the screen like falling stars, and if they land on Follie, she'll get dazed for a few moments. Additionally, they'll harm your darling little seeds if they wind up getting mixed in with other bits of pollen that you send off. Tropical stages will also introduce pesky mosquitoes, who will suck up nearby floating bubbles if you don't exterminate them fast enough. Really, there are plenty of changes that Nocturnal has effectively implemented into the game to make players think more cautiously as they play.

Although gameplay mostly stays the same, the game is lots of fun and completely addicting. The ability to link combos together is especially great, and it results in a lot of action on-screen with giant flowers flying everywhere! Mind you, it does take a while before the action gets intense in the later stages, and some may rightly find the action to be a bit slow in early levels. Rest assured, though, that it picks up greatly and it makes Flowerworks have the addicting, compelling gameplay that players want. Especially when you start to unlock new abilities, such as the ability to control time, does the game improve greatly and become more enjoyable for the player. 

    The amount of depth contained within Flowerworks is also reflected in the game's replay value. For starters, those just looking for a quick fix can always feel impelled to come back to the game's Quick Play mode. Adventure mode will last you hours and hours with plenty of stages to plow through and difficult score requirements that keep you coming back. It's great to see that the lengthy quest doesn't get old even after hours of gameplay, thanks to the new elements that mix things up over time. The final levels leading up to the game's conclusion are really challenging, especially because of the techniques involved. But devoted players will be able to see the game to its completion, and likely feel motivated to achieve 5 Stars on every single level. Although the game makes you work hard for 100% completion, players will likely enjoy every minute of it, bar a few moments of frustration. 

    Flowerworks is a really strong effort all around. I have no reservation about recommending this game to almost anyone who enjoys puzzle games, unique adventure games, or just WiiWare games in general. Nocturnal should be proud of themselves for the hard work they've put forth in this release as it really does show. The asking price is very reasonable for the amount of content you're getting in this game. Please give this game the chance that it deserves. Flowerworks is one big sleeper hit in the current pool of WiiWare games and it deserves every 'bit' of your consideration.

28/30 - Excellent

Gameplay 9/10 - Unique concept with engaging gameplay, controls work so well, new elements mix things up, excellent usage of colour theory
Presentation 9/10 - Looks fantastic especially when the action gets busy, occasional framerate dips, audio and visuals depict the atmosphere well
Enjoyment 5/5 - A little slow at first but the game gets really enjoyable in later stages, becomes addicting, never overwhelming
Extra Content 5/5 - Quick Play always gives you something to return to, lengthy quest, 5-Stars on each level will take a long time

Equivalent to a score of 93% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

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Review by KnucklesSonic8

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