What I thought was yet another Legend of Zelda clone turned out to be something more.
Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King, a game by indie dev Castle Pixel, is a love letter to classics such as The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. It is a story about a young woman named Lily (same name as one of the children), narrated by an old man, as he tells this tale to his grandchildren. Lily is a knight recruit tasked with clearing out the rats in the castle basement. What starts out as a simple quest becomes much more sinister as events unfold, during which the benevolent king is placed under a deep sleep. Lily must then set out to gather the special ingredients needed to brew a concoction that is said to wake anyone in a deathly slumber.
There are the similarities to A Link to the Past and a Link Between Worlds, for sure, and plenty of references to other classic games (many for good laughs), but this game definitely holds its own. A Mouser-like boss that throws bombs, and a myriad of references to Zelda. Lily even starts the game ASLEEP. There’s also “spirit trees,” a nod to the Great Deku Tree of The Ocarina of Time. The heart pieces and sub-weapons are present, as well as the similar gameplay and setting. The first three dungeons appear to be focused on finding the aforementioned ingredients.
Unlike Link, Lily is NOT a silent protagonist, as she does have many lines of dialogue. Though she hardly even makes a pained grunt when injured, nor does she shout when swinging her sword, something some gamers might be thankful for. Her sword play is rather similar to Link’s, seeing as how she is able to “charge” her sword for a more powerful spinning attack. She can even charge, then double tap to do a slam attack. What sets her apart, though, is that she is able to move while attacking, which makes dodging a bit easier. Like Link, she must gather pieces of heart and stamina upgrades, as well as sub-weapon upgrades, and even eventually earns a projectile beam that shoots from your sword when your hearts are full (hello, classic Zelda).
The hilarious thing is, this game doesn’t just pretend that it’s a Zelda clone, it revels in that fact.
What made those classic Zelda games great is present here in all their “old school” glory. Traps, monsters, and puzzles abound. Dungeons are lengthy and challenging (I’ve only completed the first actual dungeon so far, and it took an hour!) with pitfalls, spikes, enemies, and falling rocks to keep you on your toes. Thankfully I grew up playing games like this so I can proudly say I only died once, at the dungeon’s end boss.
The downside is, I’m about twelve hours into the game now and I’m already tired of the puzzles. There’s nothing really that new here. We’ve seen block pushing puzzles, torch lighting puzzles, lighting up tiles, etc. The puzzles are used again and again and again. Nothing hurts a game more than repetition. Especially with the “sound stones.” Unless you have perfect memory, you’re going to be VERY frustrated with those. Each dungeon has a new puzzle type or two, but nothing we haven’t seen before.
But I digress. Speaking of bosses, the game has mid-bosses as well as end ones, much like the Zelda series, and while at first glance you’d think you’d seen them before, the patterns may surprise you. Similarly, once you defeat said bosses, you get a new item/tool (from mid-bosses), or a full heart (from end bosses). There’s a few jokes and references with some of the bosses, such as the previously-mentioned Mouser from Super Mario Bros. 2.
What sets this game apart from most Zelda games is the use of a stamina or energy bar. Your sub-weapons/items can be set to either the X or B buttons (or Square and Circle for DualShock controllers), and they do not have an “ammo” count. Your shield, bombs, arrows, and such will use stamina instead, which adds an element of strategy and cunning to the gameplay because it can run out fast, especially during intense battles, forcing you to dodge and weave until it’s full enough to use again and you see an opening. Just like the aforementioned Link Between Worlds. Not to mention that shooting arrows requires you to hold the button to aim first, then release. Bombs require the same if you wish to throw them instead of just placing one. This was why I lost to the first dungeon’s boss on the first attempt. The battle was fast-paced and the window of opportunity is a short one, so it requires patience, fast reflexes, and dodging skills. I learned the hard way that spamming the buttons does not work well. A gamepad is highly recommended. I have a Logitech c310 controller and I can say it works quite well. I have not attempted to play with a keyboard, though I’m certain it can be challenging doing so. The controls are not very customizable, unfortunately. Y is unusable, and A cannot be changed. The keyboard config is a little more flexible, though.
The interesting thing about this game is the use of a narrator. Grandpa will sometimes say such and such suddenly show up to fight you, while the two children argue over their own ideas of who or what it may be. The game gives you a choice, which adds a bit of replay value as the enemies may require different strategies for dealing with them. For example, you may end up fighting a Ninja Bandit and his friends, or a Pirate Queen and her cronies.
As the screenshots show, there’s plenty of humor in the game, one of its several saving graces. The dialogue is often shared between various NPCs, though, so while you can talk to an NPC a few times to get different dialogue, you may get the same thing talking to another NPC. Some have a specific message, at least for the important NPCs. Still, it’s worth talking to everyone if you want some good laughs.
All in all, Blossom Tales is a fun experience, especially if you like dungeon-crawlers or rogue-likes. There’s no permadeath here, and the game gives you plenty of health potions and “second chance” amulets (which work like the bottled fairies do in ALttP-style Zelda games). The challenge lies in the boss battles and puzzles, though you may get burned out on it after a while. It’s also similar to Oceanhorn and Ittle Dew, both of which draw inspiration from The Legend of Zelda as well. I do recommend this game, as it’s a decently lengthy one, and there’s a LOT to explore and collect. There’s a few “fetch” quests where you collect things like mushrooms, and a side quest involving scrolls left behind by a young disciple, which add a lot of back story to the game, as well as some more humor. They are also worth collecting because there is a nice reward for doing so.
Here’s a short intro to the game I made. Gives you an idea of what the game’s about. Enjoy!
- An easy to play experience with lots to explore and discover
- Quirky dialogue and story
- An interesting take on Zelda-style games
- Decent length and content
- Puzzles have been done before, and are a bit overused
- May be too easy for your liking
- Limited mappable controls
Convinced yet? Check out the trailer above and let me know what you think.