Capsule Review: Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King

A top-down 2D action adventure game in the vein of (and in clear homage to) The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, featuring charming pixel art and a beautiful chiptune soundtrack. Play as young knight Lily and use a growing arsenal of weapons and tools to explore the kingdom, conquer dungeons, and defeat the evil wizard.

There’s a frame story presenting the game as a story told by an old man to his grandchildren, which occasionally affects the game such as by letting the children decide what enemies the player will encounter next and provides a good way to recap the current goals to the player when returning to the game - it’s the grandfather reminding the kids where they left off in the storytelling. Apart from these moments, things don’t get particularly meta and the core story is simple and standard: an evil wizard threatens the kingdom, so go thwart his plans.

The core gameplay is about finding and conquering a series of dungeons which are themselves mostly-linear sequences of puzzles and challenges culminating in boss fights (“gauntlet” dungeons, to use Mark Brown’s terminology). Along the way, you’ll gain new items with uses both for combat and exploration. Exploration off the beaten path is rewarded with many secrets, side quests, and optional puzzles bestowing health and stamina upgrades, consumable items, and even items that grant new abilities. The game is already relatively easy for its genre, and these additional upgrades and items can render it even easier.

While I understand the desire to let the player feel like an explorer discovering things on their own and I think it’s fine that nothing points the player toward the optional or hidden content, it’s a bit frustrating that even after the player finds it there’s no in-game quest log to track it. You often find things you can’t resolve yet - the worst example may be the character in the starting town who wants an item that can only be found in the game’s final area. You just have to remember this or write it down. Similarly, when I finished the game I was missing a few health upgrades and had no recourse but to scour the entire world map again if I wanted to find them.

For some reason, the controls also leave many buttons unused - none of the shoulder buttons are used outside of menu navigation (and aren’t even necessary there) and one of the four face buttons does nothing at all. This means some actions get overloaded - to throw a held item instead of putting it down, you have to be moving forward, which is sometimes awkward and often resulted in me gingerly putting down a bomb instead of chucking it as intended. Additionally, you can only assign two usable items to face buttons at a time (the third is permanently assigned to your sword) so you have to go into the menu to switch them up quite frequently.

Blossom Tales is a solid homage to classic Zelda gameplay, though it probably could have benefited from slightly more modern controls and quest tracking. Its low difficulty and retro aesthetic make it a chill experience for those with the right nostalgia.

I Stopped Playing When: I explored the full map and finished the game. I was still missing four heart pieces but I believe I collected everything else.

Docprof's Rating:

Three Stars: Good. I liked the game enough to finish it (or just play it a bunch, for games that don't end). I recommend it to most genre fans.

You can get it or learn more here.