Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King wears its influences on its sleeve. One of the very first lines of dialogue is a joke concerning "an elf boy in a kingdom called H…". From there on in, I knew exactly what I was in for. Blossom Tales is very clearly a love letter to the original Zelda games. Grid based open world, dungeons, puzzle solving, you name it. If it was in the original Zelda then it's probably here too. None of this, however, makes Blossom Tales a bad game, quite the opposite in fact. Other than a few irritating design decisions and a competent yet wholly uninspiring story, there's a hell of a lot to like here. Even if you've never played an old school Zelda.
Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King is available for purchase on Steam for £10.99
The story is really just fluff. It is told by an old man to his grandchildren, and you get to play through the game as he relays the narrative. This really isn't anything new and has been done many times before, perhaps most notably in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. The story the old man tells is one of knights, kings and wizards. You are Lily, a young girl who dreams of becoming a knight. But just before you can begin your training, Crocus, the evil wizard casts a spell on the king (putting him into a deep sleep) and conquers the kingdom. You are then tasked with finding ingredients for a potion that can save the king, ingredients that are hidden in various dungeons. The story certainly isn't bad, and at times it has its charm, but I wish it could have been a little bit sharper. The story by no means takes itself too seriously, but at times it is played a touch straight.
But for a younger audience, the story will more than suffice. I also feel like I should mention that the protagonist, Lily, is a strong, independent, female character. Sure she might not have a huge amount of complexity to her, but she's brave and can make decisions for herself. I think it's a nice touch by the developers, especially in light of all the speculation involving Breath of The Wild and the possibility of a female protagonist. In the end, I just think it's nice to see more female characters, especially in games that children are likely to be playing.
Blossom Tale's gameplay is solid but has one or two issues. Let's talk about the good stuff first. There is a lot of variety, especially for a smaller game, the world is expansive and fun to explore, and there is a lot of content. Combat can also be a lot of fun, especially during some of the (admittedly predictable) boss fights. I do have to point out however that this game should be played with a controller. I tried with a keyboard and mouse and was not impressed. The controls are clunky, the menus are awkward, and it seriously impacted my enjoyment of the game.
The game is set up like one of the old Zeldas. You explore a surprisingly large open world where you can fight, trade with merchants, and complete various side activities. Most of these activities are essentially collect-a-thons or fetch quests, but there are also secrets to discover which help to keep things interesting. Once you're ready, you can take on one of the five dungeons. This is where the game properly begins. Each dungeon is comprised of a series of challenging rooms. Most of your time will be spent on puzzles and combat, but the game does enough to vary things up with some nicely designed encounters that require a bit of thought to overcome, even though many of the puzzles aren't particularly taxing.
There were, however, a few other things that annoyed me. My main complaint is that the dungeons are simply far too long. I felt like I had to prove that I could do a certain puzzle, or defeat a certain enemy far too many times. It almost feels like the dungeons are padded, and completely unnecessarily to boot. I would have enjoyed myself a lot more if the dungeons had been short and sweet. Most of the time they ended up feeling like a slog. They have often exhausted themselves long before you reach the final encounter.
The first dungeon in particular recycled a puzzle involving tiles something like six or seven times. Fewer, more challenging puzzles would have been far more engaging. The puzzles didn't really ramp up in difficulty and so having so many of them just ended up feeling kind of cheap. I must say though that the later dungeons are less guilty of these complaints and some of them border on being genuinely superb.
I also didn't like the fact that bombs were too often the answer. You have an infinite supply of them and the only restriction on your usage of is an automatically replenishing energy bar. After I found the bombs I rarely used anything else. My sword became almost useless and my shield even more so. I could just lob explosives all over the place and win pretty much every fight. This problem is particularly acute in some of the smaller, enemy-filled rooms. What should be an intense, skill-based encounter ends up being a simple matter of dropping a few bombs about the place and watching your enemies disintegrate.
This isn't true of the boss fights however, they are much better. Each boss must be defeated in a particular way and working out just how to beat them is half the battle. As I've already said, the boss fights aren't anything new, but they were a lot of fun.
Graphics and Audio
In my opinion, the world of Blossom Tales is extremely well realised. The colour palette is rich and vibrant and matches the style of the world and story perfectly. This is not a game that takes itself too seriously and the art style reflects that nicely. There's a warmth to the game. It's not something I can definitively point to, but if you play the game you'll know exactly what I mean. The level of detail is just astounding. There is often a lot going on on-screen, and it really helps the game feel alive. There are people and animals that move about, and there are also some nice weather effects, like the rain that lashes down across the screen.
I've often argued that a key aspect of a strong art style is a unified aesthetic, and the dungeons in Blossom Tales are a perfect example of this. Each dungeon has a specific theme and as a result feels both distinct and unique. The themes are elemental in nature, ice, fire and woodland for example.
The design of the characters is another matter entirely. I simply didn't like them. It's a combination of the fact that some of them seem either too small or too large and that their faces are lacking in any real detail. Even Lily, the game's protagonist has only two dark spots for eyes. I am of course aware that this is an incredibly petty complaint and I want to stress that I don't think the game is in any way worse because of it. It's only a small artistic decision that I wasn't completely on board with. If you like the way the characters look, that's absolutely fine.
A game like this needs a light and cheerful, yet rousing soundtrack, and the game's composer, Visager, absolutely nails it. The music is pleasingly evocative of many SNES classics and fills you with a thirst for adventure. It's upbeat and captures the spirit of fantasy perfectly. The soundtrack is probably the games strongest aesthetic aspect.
What we have here is a game that knows itself and its prospective audience inside out. If you had a SNES, or have played and enjoyed one of the original Zeldas, then this game is for you. It might have a few issues, but anyone who is interested in this kind of game will look past them without hesitation. It might be decades old design wise but that is no reason not to pick this one up. You could do a lot worse that Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King if what you're after is some old-school dungeon crawling.
This is by no means a game that you are going to play for hours on end. It does have a good amount of content but that isn't really the point. If you know that you like this kind of thing, then consider this a little treat. Indulge yourself in a little bit of the best of what yesteryear had to offer.
|+ Fun Visuals and Soundtrack||– Dungeons Can Be Too Long|
|+ Solid Core Gameplay||– Shallow Story|
|+ Old School Dungeon Crawling||– Poor Controls With Gamepad|