I have never been a big fan of peace and relaxation. Those who know me well, know I live life on the edge of disaster. Frank Collins once said I “embrace danger” or something like that. The last zen experience I had was caused by methane gas poisoning and not once in my life have I voluntarily participated in an act that promoted peace or relaxation. So you’d imagine my disgust when I was introduced to Backward pieS’ ‘Let There Be Life’, which executes on those two core concepts like me executing a video intro: WELL.
‘Let There Be Life’ does not disappoint with the relaxation. ‘LTBL’ is divided into a series of 34 levels, each with a uniquely designed and hand-drawn tree, that needs to be made whole. To complete each stage, the player must add branches to the tree until a meter on the left fills with light. The longer the braches, the quicker the meter fills. The only caveat is that you cannot give flowers too much shade or else they will die. Mushrooms can grow tall and bright if given enough shade, which then provides extra light to your flowers. Also included are nice little birds and butterflies, as well as bees, which can decorate a tree nicely.
I found that there are two ways to play ‘LTBL’. You can either bask in the glory of light and life as you build magnificent looking trees with jaunty music in the background quickly calming you after your hard day of drinking or make sure that each and every flower dies. I found that due to there being more productive ways to destroy mounds of flowers, which are more visceral and satisfying, that I stuck to playing ‘LTBL’ the way it was meant to be played.[youtube http://youtu.be/RJMz9RY7aNs]
Building trees turns out to be a pretty fantastic game design choice. Many people whine about a lack of innovation in video games, but when an experiment in design that doesn’t resemble the common notion of a mid 90’s video game is released, people get up in arms. The most substantial thing I find myself thinking about after having finished ‘LTBL’, is that it is such an extreme departure from not only video games, but puzzle games. There’s no clock, no struggle with physics, no threats. In ‘LBLT’ you’re just building trees and enjoying the fact that the game doesn’t need to be anything else. It’s exactly what it’s meant to and supposed to be.
I wouldn’t argue that ‘LTBL’ is revolutionary or a landmark. In fact, it is bits and pieces of many things. At times it felt like it held my hand too much. Through the first 20 levels I couldn’t fail and it did become slightly mundane to just place branches on trees without much fear of failure. If there is going to be the possibility of failure, I do feel that it needs to be somewhat of a factor in your enjoyment. The feeling of success is vital and I was never quite getting the notion that I was doing anything impressive. That could just be my deep seeded self-confidence issues, but I wouldn’t bet on it. I just was hoping for a tiny bit more of a challenge. They missed it by just a smidgen.
Long Story Short…
Begrudgingly, I must admit, that being calm and relaxed for once wasn’t so bad. Even if Charlotte hated every minute of my head-state. And when you get into the groove of what Backward pieS and ‘LTBL’ is all about you will find yourself having an excellent time. I feel like they accomplished what they intended to, and although that isn’t always a good thing, it appealed to my sense of being. We all need a break from the speed and difficulty of video games. Every once in awhile it’s nice to just bath in the majesty of trees.
‘Let There Be Life’ retails at $7.99, but is currently on sale at Indie Game Stand, Desura, and their Humble Store Widget. Last absolutely not least is that these guys are on Steam Greenlight so send them a big upvote. Oh and check out the dope gallery of their art below. It’s fantastic.