It’s easy to write off Lili as some sort of weird children’s
game at first glance. After all, it's an adventure game about picking flowers.
But you'd be mistaken, as there’s plenty of fun to be had by casual and hardcore
gamers alike. The story follows a young girl named Lili, who happens to be a
botany student sent by her teacher to a mysterious island called Geos to learn
about some of the various species of magic flora located there. Following her
arrival she soon encounters a world inhabited by unfriendly forest spirits and
the kind wood-like people called "Constructs" who unwillingly serve the spirits
as slaves. After befriending some of the constructs, Lili takes it upon herself
to help them, which involves picking some magical flowers off the backs of the
spirits which weakens and drives them away.
The debut game from developer BitMonster, Lili is best described as a
flower-picking adventure, and is, without question, one of the most graphically
attractive and processor-pushing games yet released for Apple's newer iOS
devices. It's not without its share of technical issues, but those willing to
look past her whimsical landscapes and strange premise may find themselves
enamored with Lili's charms, provided they survive long enough to let them
Thankfully the controls are simple to learn and help make doing this fun, as
you just tap the screen to start walking, and double-tap to run. While running,
you can slide your finger left or right to steer and look around. When you want
to stop, you just tap the screen again. You’ll have a lot of time to get used to
the controls as you explore the island and the construct towns you’ll visit.
Then there’s the “combat” of picking the flowers off the spirits’ backs, which
is more of a mini-game of sorts that is done by running up to one while Lili
jumps on their back. When you do so, a grip meter appears along with how many
flowers you need to pick off to reach the spirit’s soul flower, which will
complete the challenge and allow you to progress further into the story.
Lili will pick away while you frantically swipe away objects such as bombs
and thorns the spirits use to get you off of them. Get hit too many times by the
bombs or pick too many thorns and Lili’s grip meter will go down until she falls
off. But when you successfully swipe away the bad stuff, you’ll earn back some
of the her meter and enter bonus modes where you can pick even more flowers.
These can be used as currency in the construct towns to buy upgrades or
power-ups such as being able to drop all of a spirit’s defenses, being able to
sneak up on them easier and more.
The game is also quite a marvel to look at, utilizing Epic Games’ latest
Unreal Engine 3 to bring us one of the most beautiful games to grace Apple's
devices. No real surprise there, given that BitMonster's development team is
populated by ex-staff of Epic Games, known for their work on industry
standard-setting games like Gears of War, Infinity Blade, and yes, the Unreal
Engine itself. What is surprising is just how bright and colorful the world of
Lili is, a stark contrast to Epic's previous worlds of brown hues and depressing
landscapes, with plenty of trees and flowers at every turn. It would’ve been
nice if there were voice actors speaking for the characters, but the sounds and
music are also impressive, featuring a Zelda-like sweeping score you won’t soon
And though most of the game is great, there's still a few weeds in the garden
that sap some of the fun. As beautiful as these visuals are, they're
occasionally marred by technical glitches and random crashes that threaten to
spoil the fun. I understand that this is the first title to use the new Unreal
Engine 3, but that still doesn’t excuse it being so buggy at launch, especially
after Apple touting the game as a technological showcase for their latest mobile
hardware. As I mentioned before, it can quickly become tiresome reading the chat
bubbles that appear for the characters, despite containing some pretty clever
and witty conversations as you meet new people. Also, the infamous in-app
purchase system rears its head here, practically begging you to pay for upgrades
that you could earn by playing through many of the game's later and more
challenging (and to be fair, somewhat tedious) levels.
While the premise may push some away from giving it a chance, Lili
is certainly one of the more interesting iOS games to come along in some time -
when's the last time you embarked a flower-picking adventure fantasy? The
visuals are among the best ever seen on a mobile device, utilizing the latest
Unreal Engine 3, though it would have been nice if BitMonster had spent a bit
more time pruning the garden of glitches and random technical hiccups.
Thankfully, playing the game is a joy with simple-to-learn controls, and while
extended sessions can become a little tedious, there’s still plenty of frantic
swiping action during the flower picking “battles” and plenty of exploration
that will keep both casual and hardcore gamers busy.