APP OF THE DAY: Eufloria HD review (iPad / iPad 2)
Having spent a while with the PlayStation Vita and a stack of fully-fleshed top gaming titles, such as WipEout 2048 and Uncharted: Golden Abyss, we thought it'd be hard to come back to something sweet, simple in concept, and didn't involve shooting people in the face or wrenching massive machinery around corners.
But we were wrong...
Released at the tail end of last year for Windows (via Steam) and PlayStation 3 (via PSN), Eufloria has been somewhat of a sleeper hit. Simple in graphical terms, it was initially overlooked as an ambient side-show, like the PS3's Flower, but word of mouth ensured that people started to get on to the band wagon in their droves. And now that it's available on iPhone, iPod touch and iPad, it's reach will hopefully expand considerably.
Focusing on the iPad version - as it seems almost made for the bigger touchscreen - we have to say that within a few minutes we were hooked completely. So much so that we've had to tear ourselves away from Eufloria HD just to write this review. And on Valentine's Day to boot... Mrs Pocket-lint is none too pleased. Or, at least, she wouldn't be if she hadn't also fallen for the game.
If we were forced to describe the app, it's essentially a spiritual Command & Conquer. It's a real-time strategy game at heart, with resource management (of sorts), domination and wide-reaching battles. However there's not a single tank, foot soldier or Tesla coil in sight.
Instead, the aim of the game is to populate asteroids with trees. Yep, trees. And your and the enemy's troops are seeds. It's high concept stuff, but makes perfect sense when you play a few levels.
Thankfully, there are several tutorial levels to help you get to grips with the gameplay, as it can seem peculiar and uncomfortably weird at first. But with new modes and features arriving only with the completion of each level, you never feel overwhelmed. Everything is explained simply and beautifully.
Essentially, there are differently powered seedlings and they can be sent to scout or attack rival colonies, or colonise empty asteroids. They do this by strength in numbers and by adopting some of the properties of their own parent asteroid (a stat-filled resource itself), and once they've vanquished any of the enemy seeds they can take route in that rival asteroid, ready to multiply and be sent further afield. To be honest, it's easier to play than explain, but the heart of it is actually basic RTS fare.
It's the radically different presentation that really hits the spot though. Eurofloria's ambient soundtrack helps send you into a sense of serenity, regardless of the floral violence you unleash upon your foes. And the graphics, while sparse, are perfectly uncluttered. You can also zoom in and out to vast extremes, allowing you either to see the whole battlefield with tiny specks orbiting each asteroid, or right in to the individual battles themselves. There's some impressing coding going on.
It's hard to express how much we love Eurofloria, but you only need look at the number of five star reviews it has already had on iTunes by normal iPad owners to see we're far from unique.
This is not the next Angry Birds, it's far better than that.