Breath of the Wild has taken The Legend of Zelda to an open world, but other games are happy to tread a more familiar formula. Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King will bring players back to top-down exploration in rolling fields and crumbling dungeons, discovering unique tools with which to fight and find secrets.
It may sound a little too familiar, but playing as a young girl living out her grandfather's stories, with a group of excitable grandchildren making deadly, if silly, additions to it, turns Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King into its own unique, well-crafted experience.
Lily, the youngest Knight of the Rose, is well equipped to deal with sleeping monarchs and monstrous danger. She has a sword she can swing as fast as the player hits the button, doing sweeping slashes that cover a lot of space. It's handy when enemies start to bog her down, and she also automatically strikes in a circle all around her after two regular swipes. It's a nice, small touch, but one that makes combat very approachable for someone who wants to wade in and starting cutting up enemies.
Lily also has several other familiar attacks, like the charging sword spin, as well as tools like the boomerang, bombs, and arrows. They have been changed from The Legend of Zelda formula though, and instead, draw from a rechargeable stamina meter rather than individual ammo counts. This encouraged me to use things like bombs and arrows in combat rather than hoard ammo, which added a lot of variety and strategy to each encounter.
It does have some of its own unique weapons to separate it from The Legend of Zelda, letting you do a rushing strike, execute damaging ground pounds, summon helpful bees, and more. They all have varied combat and exploration uses, and as Bioshock has shown us, hurling bees at enemies rarely gets old. As Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King is more than happy to throw huge groups of enemies at the player, these varied combat means allow for a lot of freedom in how you handle these hordes.
You might not feel too intimidated by the game's cute enemies, though. All of the characters in Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King are made in this adorable, chubby pixel art style that makes them all seem very huggable, even as they gnaw on your head. All of the creatures also have this playful bounce to them as they move, making them feel cheery and lively.
This goes along with the vibrant, colourful world itself. Brilliant fields of green are filled with tiny houses brimming with various shades and gloomy swamps spew out gouts of gas as smirking ghosts float through the mist. Each place shows vast details, but in the same playful style as the characters. It feels warm and welcoming despite its dangers, providing a charming fairy tale land to live out a child's adventures.
The music adds to that charm. It's cheerful, catchy ditties will worm their way into your ear, sticking with you as each creates an emotional resonance with the environment. The happy sounds of the city, the sense of adventure in the field tracks, or the oppressive gloom of the dungeon music all strengthen the sensations the developers want you to feel in each place.
It's the narration that makes it all special, though. Lily's grandfather will pipe in to offer his explanation of events every once in a while, with the children sometimes making alterations. Hearing their interpretation of events is typically silly, adding more to the game's light nature, and sometimes they'll even change the enemies as the player is fighting them, adding further challenge in goofy ways. Their narration strengthens the light-hearted feel of the story, and often made me smile as I played.
When not distracting with its fun narration, Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King hides secrets on almost every single screen, offering new powers and stat boosts throughout the world. You're always encouraged to look for hidden paths in the trees, cracked walls, and suspicious bits of dirt to find new toys. It does get a bit predictable after a while, with almost every big rock hiding a hole that leads to treasure, but the developers do have some sneaky hiding spots.
When you finally stop messing around and actually tackle the dungeons, you'll find them to be very expansive places filed with interworking puzzles. These places will force players to think across multiple screens to manipulate mechanics to get through, as well as deal with large numbers of enemies at once, creating a solid challenge. They're fun, complicated places, and often make creative use of dungeon-specific mechanics and themes to stay interesting.
That being said, they can be a bit linear. There really is only one path through each one, no matter how winding it is and how many switches you have to activate. Also, many of the mechanisms are quite simple, drawing on block-pushing puzzles, hitting music notes in the right order, or lighting up all of the blocks on a given pieces of floor. The constant reuse of these puzzles got old fast.
Also, even when enemies start challenging the player in large groups in those dungeons, it's not hard to survive them if you've done any kind of exploring. Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King has several different consumables you can buy/find that heal or offer other handy powers. They're everywhere, so you can often just power through the hardest fights. It makes things too easy, even against the game's challenging bosses (which are all quite entertaining and actually kind of hard). Still, you can choose not to use them, so it's up to you to make your own challenge.
Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King is a cute, charming take on the The Legend of Zelda formula, but it adds some interesting aspects to stay different. While it does skew a little too close to its inspirations in places and it can be a bit too easy, it still gives players a delightful, lively world filled with secrets and silly characters, giving players that sense of exploration and adventure that makes for a wonderful journey.
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