Game Info:

Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King
Developed By: Castle Pixel, LLC
Published By: FDG Entertainment
Released: March 28, 2017
Available On: Windows
Genre: Action Adventure
ESRB Rating: N/A
Number of Players: 1
Price: $14.99
(Humble Store Link)

Thanks to FDG Entertainment for the review key!

Imitation is the highest form of flattery, as the saying goes. In the video game industry, however, it’s more accurate to say that copying is the highest form of greed, as publishers and developers single-mindedly chase after the latest big moneymaker. It’s important to note that imitation and copying are not the same; an original work inspired by another is vastly different, and superior, to a soulless clone. Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King is, thankfully, an example of the former.

Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King is a 2D action adventure that borrows heavily (and proudly – there’s a near-namedrop in the opening sequence) from the 2D Legend of Zelda titles. As Lily, the newest Knight of the Rose, you traverse the kingdom in search of the three ingredients that will wake the king from the cursed slumber forced upon him by his brother and court wizard Crocus. Along the way, you’ll gain useful items, purge the land of Crocus’ evil, and occasionally endure impromptu scene changes from the audience – after all, this is simply a bedtime story a grandfather is telling his grandchildren.

The gameplay is standard for games in this genre: outside of the movement keys, you have one key bound to the sword and two others that can hold whatever items you please. Health is measured in the tried-and-true heart meter, with every attack taking half a heart. Blossom Tales makes use of a slowly-recharging stamina bar rather than a limited inventory; other than the various healing potions, offensive items take a chunk out of Lily’s energy. Both health and stamina can be upgraded by finding four heart pieces or energy crystals scattered throughout the decently large kingdom. There’s something to find on every screen of the overworld, which, when combined with the varied landscape, makes exploration interesting and usually rewarding.

Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King

Strong Points: Enjoyable Zelda clone with good exploration and gameplay
Weak Points: Uninteresting sidequests; low variety in item function
Moral Warnings: Violence and elemental magic use; undead enemies; grave desecration

Similarly, the dungeons are large and engaging, if stylistically generic (featuring forest, fire, ice, and evil castle varieties). While most enemies fall into two or three archetypes, the bosses are more thought out, with a few feeling more at home in a top-down shooter instead, serving as an effective cap on each dungeon. The puzzles both inside and outside the dungeons do subscribe to the “get item, use item” formula, but only sparsely; mostly, you’ll find puzzles based around pushable blocks, floor tiles that change color or fall away, and Simon Says minigames. In all cases, the puzzles needed for story progress never get too difficult, with the more strenuous ones saved for optional upgrades. What Blossom Tales excels at is keeping things from getting stale; you’ll never run into vast stretches of similar puzzles, barring bad luck on the overworld, which makes pushing onward, and even backtracking every so often, something to look forward to.

For all its successes, however, there are a few missteps. Some are minor, like Lily’s walking speed being a tad slow and the sword having a slight delay built into its swing. There’s also the traveling salesman, who only shows up in certain areas of the map from 9:00AM to 5:00PM based on your computer’s clock, with no in-game indication of this other than a generic “sorry, we’re closed” sign - you'll have to either wait or manipulate your system's time to interact with him. The lack of item variety hits a little harder; nearly all of them fulfill the same “ranged damage” role, making most of them superfluous – the boomerang, with its ability to hit one enemy twice at a low stamina cost, is vastly superior to nearly every other item outside of a few niche uses or personal preference. Blossom Tales’ biggest failure is in its sidequests: while there are three timed obstacle courses, a journal page scavenger hunt, a mail courier quest, and a few small minigames, there are a ton of dull "gather twenty enemy drops and return" tasks to complete. Since the others either encompass the whole game or last a few minutes, most of your active sidequesting will be mindless grinding. With how well put together the main quest is, the lack of interesting sidequests stands out all the more.

Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 86%
Gameplay - 16/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 9/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 78%
Violence - 6/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 5.5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7.5/10

The presentation is competent, with its greatest success being its framing device. The graphics are good for what they are, though the 8-bit characters somewhat clash against the 16-bit backgrounds. The music is harder to fault, being consistently good and even occasionally catchy in the short-term. The game’s setup as a bedtime story, however, actually plays into the gameplay: rarely, the two children will complain about a puzzle being too easy or argue over what enemies they want to see, which makes the grandfather – and the game – have to change on the fly. Like with the main puzzles, these are played sparingly, making each instance a joy to encounter.

As an action title, violence is a given, though enemies disappear in a puff of dust – save for one enemy in the forest that looks to burst into blood, but given the rest of the game, it might just be unfortunate dust coloring instead. Lily does get a handful of magic spells; these are all elemental, outside of one that can summon bees. Skeletons, zombies, and ghosts appear in varying frequency, with a whole segment of the game devoted to dealing with Crocus’ necromancy. There’s a church in the main town that may or may not worship flowers, but it’s barely given any attention. Finally, there’s a surprising amount of grave desecration – not just pulling tombstones, but blowing up non-respawning coffins for goodies. The game never draws attention to it, either – though it does set up a rather effective dark joke toward the end of the game. As with most of its story elements, the game never dwells on anything too much; with the colorful atmosphere and upbeat tone, it’s only grim in the background, which might ease the moral hit on younger children.

Altogether, Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King gets a lot of things right. Its good pacing and restraint towards its puzzles and unique elements, along with its serviceable combat, make it evenly enjoyable from start to finish. While rather easy and not very long – the main story, plus some exploration, lasts ten hours or so – the $14.99 asking price is certainly fair. Whether you’re a Zelda veteran or a curious newcomer, it’s worth getting comfy and listening to this bedtime story.