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Adorable, charming, sweet... but short and abrupt

  • Gretgor
  • 08/07/2018 03:15 AM
  • 171 views
You know when, sometimes, after spending your sixth daily hour playing your favorite MOBA or Battle Royale shooter, you start feeling really tired and realize you're not really having fun anymore? You know that feeling you get, that you need to get away from all that stuff and do something different, even if for a second? Well, I get that a lot, and whenever I do, I turn to the indie/amateur side of things to find an experience that refreshes my soul and gets me ready for some more ownage (not that I'm any good, but still).

My favorite "refresher" games, if I may call them that, are atmospheric RPG Maker adventures. You know the kind, everything from Yume Nikki, to Ib, Dreaming Mary, Aria's Story and all that good stuff. Sometimes they're creepy, sometimes they're cute, and often they're a breath of fresh air. You know, amidst hours and hours of voice chat, gun fire and constant anxiety over ranked matches, games like these are my little happy place that I like to retreat to whenever I'm burned out.

So, of course, when an absolutely adorable and sweet piece like Paletta comes along, I obviously could not pass it up. Then again, it did take me a while to discover it existed, as it was already out for seven months when I picked it up, but that didn't keep me from enjoying it a lot. This game charmed me from the beginning to the abrupt and sudden end, and it made me feel all warm and happy inside during almost the entire experience. It is not without its flaws, however, which I hope to address in this review.

Presentation, story, atmosphere

The first thing you'll notice, as soon as you boot up the game, is that everything looks, sounds and feels adorable, right from the get-go. Even the cute little dialog sound beeps are cute. I absolutely adore how you get a little heart animation whenever you bloom all the flowers of a given location, and how cute every sprite and environment looks. Everything in this game is stylized beautifully, with gorgeous pixellated characters, cute environments, pleasant music, and nice sound effects. I particularly love how Paletta's little steps change according to the terrain she's walking on. It all really builds up that atmosphere of wandering adventure, of fairy tales, of absolute preciousness.

The story starts when a mysterious clumsy thief attempts to steal the magical crown of a great king. After the thief ends up dropping and shattering the crown, its shards are scattered around the land, and they start absorbing the beauty and livelihood of every area of the kingdom, making them bleak and colorless. To make matters worse, the good king passes away in the conundrum. We take control the adorable heroine Paletta as she sets out to retrieve the crown shards and restore color to the kingdom. It's all very cute and fantastic, with this wholesome quality to it. Sure, it's not a very involving plot, there are no amazing surprise twists or anything, but it's still very sweet, like a fairy tale you may read to your children before bedtime. I enjoy the dialog writing, it is usually pleasant to read, and has the occasional clever quips here and there.

As Paletta progresses through her journey and gathers crystal shards from all sorts of interesting people, the world slowly regains its color. Not a mechanic unheard of in indie games, but it brings the point across well enough, the idea being that your journey is restoring the world to its former colorful glory.

Then, when things start looking like they're about to get dark and intense, the game abruptly ends, and the ending itself is comprised of a single splash screen and some text. With all the care and polish put into the rest of the game, that decision comes off as rather rushed and impatient, like the developers wanted to be done with the game already and couldn't be bothered to make a better climax, but that's unfortunately to be expected of games made for game jams and contests, which is the case with this game.

What little there is to play and experience in this game is adorable, heart warming and sweet, but the way it abruptly and suddenly ends left me a bit sad.

Gameplay, replayability, stuff like that

Paletta, appropriately enough, is a graphic adventure, with some inventory puzzles, some scavenger hunts, and some exploration. I really like it, and it works well with the overall theme of the game. Some puzzles require a bit of exploration, some require a bit of ingenuity, and some are just contextual. While the game is not hard at all, it is also not the kind of game that "plays itself". You will need to do a little bit of thinking to get past certain puzzles, but they'll never take up your entire afternoon. I appreciate that, actually, it's no different from, say, Ib in that regard.

Everytime you retrieve a crown shard, Paletta gains a new special power, which may vary from healing dead plants to pushing heavy obstacles and becoming invisible. Their usage is mostly contextual (like when you need to use a powerup in order to open up the path to the next shard), but occasionally, they have slightly more clever uses, like pushing a crate to boost Paletta up a roof or making flowers bloom.

Aside from the main questline, there is the optional quest to make all flowers in the world bloom. There are 99 in total, and they're usually easy to get to except for a few cleverly protected ones that require a bit more ingenuity. While I appreciate this form of scavenger hunt, and that this one is not frustrating nor unfair, there are three things that make this not work as well as it could.

First of all, there is a point in the game past which you can no longer turn back and get any flowers you may have forgotten, meaning that, if you get to that point, you might as well restart. Second, there isn't really much of a "reward" for completing this task, other than a short text acknowledging you did it in the ending. Third, you eventually start encountering dead flowers, which you need the resurrection spell to bring back to life, but still need the initial blooming power to make bloom. This may sound like a nitpick, but it turns blooming flowers into busywork: select the resurrection power, use it, deactivate it, select the blooming spell, use it, and if there are any other dead flowers around, deactivate the blooming spell, choose the resurrection spell once more, and so on.

Still, I like that this blooming quest is in the game, as it adds something more to look out for, even if there is no inherent reason to it other than 100% completion. One thing that was done right is that there is a cute heart that indicates when you're done blooming the flowers in a certain map.

I could comment on how the spell selection controls are sometimes irresponsive, and how certain spells cause a lag spike when you activate them, but these are minor enough complaints that I think I can overlook, and they never got in my way too much.

All in all, for what really matters, the game is definitely enjoyable from beginning to end. It is straightforward and linear, but still pretty thoughtful and full of charm, with an adorably cute atmosphere and a sweet soundtrack. A great game to just unwind and relax for a few minutes.

Final comments

This game had me going "aww" a lot, so expect that to happen if you have, you know, a heart. In spite of its abrupt ending, and the minor flaws in its game mechanics, it is overall a really wholesome experience. It is heart warming, cute, thoughtful and enjoyable.

Most of my complaints on this game narrow down to me wanting more of it, and as far as criticism goes, this is not the worst. Unfortunately, this is another one of those games made under very tight time constraints for the jams and contests of the game dev world. I would love to play something from these authors made with more time and resources, that would be a dream come true.

Posts

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Reading this really made me give this a try (also sound design <3).

You did a wonderful job writing this review both thoroughly and with a kind feeling throughout it : ) (I didn't know you could explain the kind of minimalistic input exploration as well as you did, but you did!) Thank you!
Gretgor
Willing to pay actual money for a new kawaii pumpkin avatar.
2164
Yay :D thanks for the kind words!
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