I feel like I know what to expect from developer Kamibox. Whimsical death. Physics-based letter games. And the strange but brilliant concept of throwing bacon on stuff. Opening up Song of Bloom though, I get the feeling that I’m about to encounter something completely different.
The game centres around a story told in a series of chalk drawings. As you manipulate these drawings, adding your own lines which show up ominously blood-red and dripping, you’re lead to puzzles. Solve these puzzles and you grow branches on a tree, which in turn gives you clues as to how to next manipulate that original chalk drawing.
What’s most interesting is that the puzzles don’t ask you to just interact with the screen. They ask you to interact with the whole device instead. I don’t want to give any spoilers so let’s just say that I spent a lot of time tapping, shaking and spinning my device around, and much more, short of throwing it. It’s a creative concept that we’ve seen in only a few other games, and then again, I don’t think I’ve seen it done in exactly this way before. In fact, I can say this because it took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out some of the simpler puzzles. I had to retrain myself to think outside of the screen space – a concept that my screen-focused gamer brain had a hard time grasping sometimes.
So yeah, I won’t lie. There were times when I was so frustrated that I almost gave up. But even in those moments, I had the sense that Song of Bloom was worth my time. I mean, someone’s gone through the trouble of making such interesting and varied designs in this game that somehow all work together to make sense. And while the puzzles may seem abstract at first, all of them relate back to the story, sometimes in a very personal way. Sure, you could take Song of Bloom as a puzzler at its most basic. But the game pushes for more than this. There’s space for introspection and deep reflection, if you allow it. It’s a commentary on loneliness – a state that I daresay we’ve all experienced.
But the game doesn’t linger on sadness. Instead, as the title implies, there’s a sense of hope that unfolds with each discovery. And there’s a lot to discover too. Developer Philipp Stollenmeyer described it as something of “a very long jazz improvisation.” And I get that. There’s such a mash-up here of styles and game mechanics. I felt lead through different emotional landscapes, from the melancholy to the whimsical, from bleak to lovely. The art ranges from the hand drawn to Modernist, and, at its most uncomfortable (which really isn’t that bothersome at all), even hints at skin art.
Many hours after opening the game, I emerged with the same feeling I get from being in an art gallery. That I connected with a lot of it, misunderstood some other bits, but that it was all worth it. Unfortunately, I don’t think that many gamers, in our environment that often calls for fast-paced action and insta-rewards, would survive the journey that Song of Bloom offers. But for those that persevere, it’s a refreshingly creative experience.