Oooh boy, this is an odd one...
When I came along to see this game on sale, I thought what would await me was a cheesy, but pretty RPG with puzzles to solve and battles to win, much like the advertised likeness to Zelda and Psychonauts. What greeted me instead was an almost childish flower-picking simulator with the most gorgeous artstyle I ever saw.
And I didn't mind.
I bought this game, like some other people, because of the screenshots, and the promise of reliving some of the charm of the games of my childhood. I'm not normally a person who cares much for graphical fidelity in games so long as the gameplay is fun, however in this case? Quite the opposite. Something about the graphics style just makes me innately happy whenever I look at it. It puts my mind to rest for a while, which as a person with depression and anxiety attacks is a bloody godsend. The entire game is very colorful, vivid and nicely stylized, with very fluent animation, adorable little details and an overall just... happy feeling to it. It's easily one of the best-looking games I've played in my life, and it does so not through polygon count, but clever, passionate stylization. Don't get me wrong, though, the models are still pretty high quality.
With the graphics out of the way, though, let's address gameplay. This is where I initially felt cheated by the storepage claiming such close resemblance to the Zelda and Psychonauts games. I imagined adventuring, clever puzzles and dangerous trials. What I got was "Flower Picking - Collector's Edition", with the 'Collector' being quite literal. This is a game about collecting things and smashing pots. Collect flowers. Collect money. Collect conversation. Collect Collectibles. Every so often you'll fight a spirit, where the term 'fighting' is used much in the same way the term 'Discussion' is used for having a 12-year-old squeak into their microphone online in your FPS of choice. The spirits run away from you, because apparently a 16 year-old hipster florist apprentice is more dangerous than a mystical, 7 feet tall nature spirit with magic powers. Once you've caught up to the spirits, the fighting is technically a long, randomized QTE. They grow flowers from their backs. Sometimes they're good flowers, sometimes they're bad flowers, sometimes they're bombs. A button hovers over them and the game wants you to press the button that hovers over the thing which won't harm you like a parent presenting three hot stove plates and a plushie to their three-year-old and telling them to think fast.
Occasionally the gameplay is broken up through quests you get from talking carpentry accidents that more often than not involve walking to a specific place or talking to a specific person. Sometimes you need to defeat a certain spirit, which you would probably do anyway sooner or later.
What makes the quests, and the game in general interesting are the conversations. Despite the childish flair of the game, the writing is actually enjoyable for the most part, offering some casual humor around every corner. The characters are all quirky enough, and while not exactly believable, are enjoyable to interact with and had me talking to them over and over again to see more conversational options. Whether that was because I actually enjoyed the quirkyness of it all or simply because there's not much else to do I'm not quite sure, but it's lead me to finishing the game and doing so with a smile, so whatever it was, it worked!
On account of the writing, however, and the general presentation, in this case of the main character, I'll have to give a bit of a cringe-warning:
The game likes its references. Which is all fine and dandy, many games do it, and to great effect, usually in the form of little trinkets hidden here or there, or a quest resembling the story of a classic. Lili has a slightly different approach to that in some points, "slightly different" meaning "IN YOUR FACE". The game enjoys repeating how much of a gamer the main protagonist is, and how much she knows about casual video game trivia to the point where it had me sit in my chair, squeeze my legs together and groan.
"Look at us!", the game keeps saying, "We're gamers just like you, haha! See? We played some video games!"
"Alright, that's cool!", I replied with a smile and went on with my business.
"Oh hey, did we mention how much we love gaming? Hey, we're just like you! Gamer bro fist, haha!"
Alright, game, I get it. You guys made a video game, I kind of figured you'd probably have played one or two before.
"Hey look at how much we know about games! Man, games, am I right? We love games so much. We should hang out now because you play games, too!"
One last thing to consider before a purchase is the length of the game. I've completed the game with all sidequests in about 4 hours. It's not a terribly long game by any stretch of the imagination. You can beat it in a single afternoon if you're so inclined, and there's little reason to go back to it afterwards unless you just need a breather from grey reality and want to delve into a colorful, gorgeous fantasy island again.
All in all, however, it's a minor itch and completely ignorable. The game, while about as casual as a stroll through the park on a sunny spring day, was still enjoyable and while I would not recommend it for the full price, it's certainly worth a look on sale. Whether you're feeling down or just long for something lax to play while listening to a podcast or letting the day fade out, it's sure to put a smile on your face if you don't mind an experience that's more focussed on presentation than gameplay. It's an immensely impressive starting project for BitMonster and I'm looking forward to their next games already.
PS: BitMonster, if you guys could make another game with the same art style but more engaging gameplay, I would love you forever.