Eufloria HD review for PS Vita

Platform: PS Vita
Also On: PS3, PC, iOS, Android
Publisher: Omni Systems Ltd.
Developer: Omni Systems Ltd.
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

Just looking at Eufloria HD, you might be tempted to slot it into the whole games-as-art movement. After all, the overall point of the game is to pollinate planets, you’re doing so against a softly-coloured backdrop, and it’s all set to gentle, ambient music. If that description doesn’t just scream “Artsy!” at the top of its lungs, I don’t know what does.

Then you actually play the game, and discover that everything’s not quite what it seems. Sure, it looks and sounds all gentle and relaxed, but the gameplay itself is anything but. See, while you’re off pollinating planets, you’re also dodging enemy seeds that can either destroy your seedlings in midair or head to your home planet and take it over completely. In other words, that gentle, ambient façade is really just a front for a fairly intense Real-Time Strategy game — and a pretty good one at that.

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What’s really impressive is that Eufloria HD achieves this tension without straying very far from its artsy base. All it takes is a couple of dissonant notes here and a few red pulses there, and suddenly those dark specks flying across the screen take on a significantly more menacing tone. It probably won’t make your heart pound or get your palms all sweaty or anything, but it will make you feel uneasy, and that’s nothing to sneeze at — certainly, there are games that try a lot harder to evoke an emotional response, and most of them don’t succeed half as well.

Of course, I’d wager that most of those games probably control slightly better than Eufloria HD. This is actually kind of odd, since the game’s core mechanic is incredibly easy to pick up: you select other planets, and you send your seedlings over, and it’s all done via touch. If you want to do more than that, though, things go a little haywire. Case in point: the game tells you how to change the number of seedlings you send, but when you actually try to do that, it’s hit-and-miss whether it actually works. Likewise, the game offers different types of seedlings, but it doesn’t really tell you how to regenerate them, and it’s on you to figure out what each of the different types do. This isn’t a game-breaking flaw or anything — the basic gameplay is so simple and straightforward, it’s hard to really screw things up — but it does detract from the overall experience.

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Which is a shame, because Eufloria HD works best when you’re able to just lose yourself in its overall vibe. The graphics are gorgeous, and the sound is almost like a warm bath (the aforementioned dissonance excepted, of course), so it’s a pity that there’s anything preventing you from complete immersion. Still, even partial immersion in Eufloria’s world is a richer experience than full immersion in other worlds, so for that reason, if you’re in the mood for something artsy with a little bit of a challenge thrown in, by all means give it a try.

Grade: B