For some odd reason, tranquil games seem to have a place on the PlayStation Network. Not that we’re complaining, mind you. Through these zen-like experiences, we’ve been taken to places we’ve never really expected, like the grassy fields of Flower (still one of our favorite games) or the weird microbiology powered seas of flOW. Omni Systems Limited’s Eufloria, based on a PC game that was released two years ago, attempts to join this group, with a presentation that looks like something out of a yoga master’s book and gameplay that truly stands out on its own. Sadly, it just never gets relaxing enough to really fit the mold. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Rather than leaning on a trouble-free style of gameplay, Eufloria instead buries itself in the frustrations of management. You’re in charge of a little group of seedlings asked to help take over asteroids within a sector. You do this by using said seedlings to overcome defensive odds through strength by numbers. Along the way, you’ll have to figure out a way over new obstacles and enemies, even getting to the point where you use trees for defense. Yes, you heard that right. Not since the days of Crystal Castles have trees been used as a defense mechanic. Hell, look how quickly that big one came down in Avatar.
It sounds like an innovative system, and there are probably some dedicated PC fans out there that would say that they were mesmerized by what Eufloria did for them. However, on the PlayStation 3, it just feels…dull. Maybe that’s because of the game’s pacing, which is not only demanding, but perhaps too much for casual fans to take.
Where Flower’s sessions provided carefree minutes of strategic flower growing and following paths, Eufloria simply asks that you wait for your seedlings to effectively take over their territories. Now, in war, it’s obvious that Rome isn’t conquered in a day, but still, there could’ve been a way for the battles in Eufloria to be more interesting. Here, you’re literally waiting for life to take over, and even with the benefit of a speed-up button, your goal isn’t accomplished until about 15-20 minutes in. As a result, you’re mostly just sitting around seeing how your strategies unfold. Some people may get a kick out of this, but we’re guessing they’re the more patient types. Others will find this game long and event-less, and will probably get turned off by the end of the first battle as a result.
For those that do get into it (and don’t fall asleep in the process), there are additional modes to try out, including a series of Skirmish levels to tackle (where you can forego the story and get right into battles) and an interesting Dark Matter mode, but the overall gameplay remains the same. It would’ve been nice to see more variety in seedlings and defensive types, though. Change is constant in strategy games – it’s what keeps them interesting.
It’s a shame that Eufloria’s gameplay never works out, because its presentation is quite charming. The graphics, while simple in nature, look beautiful in high-definition, and the changing backgrounds are colorful, almost like an interactive wallpaper. The little seedlings manage to spark a little bit of life in them too, hopping around the screen. Something should also be said for Brian Grainger’s soundtrack, which is greatly relaxing – and worth downloading if you can find the MP3’s.
However, looks can only go so far in a game if the controls never really come together. Eufloria is an example of game design that leans more on ingenuity rather than fun, and as a result, only a few folks out there are likely to get into it, and you can bet they probably won’t be the tranquil type.