If I tell you that Lili [$2.99] is a game about picking flowers, please don't stop reading. It's also about being a freedom fighter, if that helps, and bringing down an authoritarian regime. Hope that sounds good, because it is—fantastic, even. The plucky star of the game traipses through the gorgeous world of Geos, stalking Spirits, clawing her way up their backs and tearing out their flowers until they have nothing left. They can get pretty cross about that, but it's the friendliest sort of guerrilla warfare.

The things that are wrong with Lili—and there are a few—have a hard time stacking up against the game's beauty. The environments are lush, painted with bright colors and full of detail. There is as much repetition in the streets and homes as you might expect, but there are hints of personality to be found tucked away in quiet corners. Every home you poke your nose into has treasure to be found, and the quirky things you collect add a heck of a lot of character to an already charming title.

The controls are surprisingly excellent. I don't spend a lot of time playing 3D adventure games on iOS, and clunky controls are pretty much always why. Lili handles the touch exploration dilemma brilliantly, though. You tap to start walking, double-tap to run. That sets Lili (the girl) running straight forward, and you drag the camera behind her to point her where you want to go. It's sometimes a bit too easy to steer yourself into a corner, but it works very well most of the time.

One of the reasons it works so well is that Lili is not a game of quick reflexes, at least not while you're exploring. You don't need to do a lot of dodging or changing direction. It's only when the game tries to get into your way that the ride gets bumpy. There are two Spirits you can't fight, who hang out only to run you down when you get close to them. More than once I found myself cornered and stuck, bashed over and over. Fun. And even when they're working well these blockades add little to the experience—it can be confusing enough to navigate the world without getting bounced back and forth.

The game's other big issue is that things tend to go missing. Often it's the sound effects—and while the soundtrack is gorgeous, it doesn't play as well when it's all you can hear. Less often it's the interface, which is a quit-and-reload sort of issue. And more and more as the game approaches its ending, it's the whole shebang. It's obvious Lili needs the resources it uses, but knowing that doesn't make crashing any better. Oh, and fair warning? It might let you download the game, but your 4th gen Touch isn't currently supported.

But when you pit most of that against the good stuff, it's hard to complain. I'm particularly fond of the writing. I love the casual, off-the-cuff tone of the game. Lili reacts naturally to the situation unfolding around her, pulling off a decent impression of how people might actually act. Surprisingly rare. The quips are clever, and the darker parts are as dry as you could hope for. And this game does delve into darkness. While it keeps the flower picking nonviolent (I mean, really, you're taking their soul flowers—there's subtext there), the tale is one of a subjugated people who are being quite literally crushed by their opressors. Lili doesn't shy away from its dark side.

Stripping away all of that, though, Lili is a simple game. You chase down spirits and hop on their backs. You tear out their flowers, toss away bombs and avoid thorns in a swipey mess of aggression. Every so often you level up and get better at sneaking, chasing or hanging on to the Spirits, and the cash you collect goes to improving those skills. You also buy power-ups that help you sneak or run, or clear a Spirit of its defenses. It's only barely an RPG from a mechanics point of view, but you take on quite a role.

The Spirits' defenses are a problem. As long as you keep up with your upgrades and do plenty of exploring, you should be able to afford to keep your gear up to date and have plenty of power-ups to spare. This works out right up until the final quarter of the game, but the last bunch of Spirits are nasty. Pluck one flower and they'll spawn a field of bombs you need to frantically pull before they explode. Then they'll do it again, repeating that pattern all the way through the dozen-odd flowers you need to pluck. It gets ludicrous, and sometimes the only solution is to toss power-ups at the problem until it resolves itself. The issue hits when you can't afford to buy any more, because Lili is happy to sell you extra coins. See where negative sentiment might start to slip in?

It's a small misstep, but it would have been nice if a game of this quality could have avoided adding to the tally of games that could have been better if not for their IAP. You can grind your way through smashing pots and picking flowers until you can afford more bombs, but it's so much easier not to. You're best off by far if you put down the money for the coin doubler as soon as you can, and that's a silly situation to stick a player in.

Grumbling aside, though, it's hard not to love Lili. Like the character, the game can be obnoxious at times. But it's so pretty, so well-written, so cleverly designed on the whole that complaining feels a lot like nitpicking. There are problems, and hopefully they'll be resolved. But how many games do we have that are this ambitious and come together this well? A handful, maybe? Bitmonster has joined elite company here, and should be applauded for doing so with such an original, charming game. Lili is lovely. Spend a few hours exploring the island of Geos, hunting down its spirits, and collecting each and every one of its secrets. It's a journey worth taking.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarStarStarStar
  • http://twitter.com/mguniverse Danny Perski

    The TA Plays video was pretty down on this game, glad to see it got such a great review.

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      That's both what's good and bad about TA Plays videos. We're really "first impressions" focused, which can often be a good thing when dealing with mobile games since the fast-paced nature of things (and how quick it is to say screw it and move on to something else) often results in all the cool parts of a game being ultra front-loaded. That doesn't translate so well into a game like Lili and other titles that really require you to sit back and get into them.

      It's sort of an interesting problem, both with the TA plays videos and the App Store in general.

      • http://www.facebook.com/rich.hampton.14 Rich Hampton

        In the preview, you were quite negative about the controls and the camera positioning. Would longer game play really change your opinion or is this really a difference of opinion between reviewers?

      • Himmat Singh

        I don't why they said negative things about the two, but the controls and camera were the first positive things I realized about the game, besides its graphics of course. Not clunky and works so much better than that in Horn, for one.

      • http://twitter.com/Platronic John Francis

        No, I think it's awesome actually. The iPhone is weird because it caters to two types of gamers; casual and hardcore. It's great to see a short impression that explains what its like to load a game and just start playing (TA Plays). The long review shows more reflection and analysis. This review is awesome because it really reflects someone overall experience. Thanks to Nissa for an excellent review!

  • Firetruck94

    Nice review, I just wish I could play it :(

  • Bluez

    Thanks for the great review Nissa! We have fixed many issues you mentioned and have improved/made the endgame easier.

  • http://modmyi.com/forums/iphone-4-new-skins-themes-launches/740147-neurotech-hd.html#post5637502 Jay

    Uhg, not gonna spend my time hunting coins.  The graphics are really nice, though.

  • GSJ1977

    So it's an extremely buggy mess and it forces IAP in order to progress.
    Oh yeah, and it's rated 4.5 stars.
    Wait, what?

    • MrAlbum

      The game is worth the 4.5 stars. You want to know games that have the same problems? Horn does. Wild Blood does. Infinity Blade used to. Don't get me started with Dark Meadow. And all those games also got middling-to-high review scores. Should they be given a poor review because of one, maybe two flaws, in comparison to the treasure trove of great things those games have?

      Wild Blood is the exception, though. That game deserved its average rating.

      You see, the issues you brought up mean zilch if the core game is really good, and according to the review, Lili does a lot of things right, including that core gameplay. So your trolling statement not only pissed me off because of its cynical attitude and its blatant ignorance of the good things the article mentioned, but it also helps no one because it adds nothing to the conversation. We have read the article. We saw the things you mentioned. We also saw the things you either forgot to mention, or maybe even outright ignored just to start a stupid flame war. What are these things, then?

      Story. The review said Lili has a great story, and great characters with interesting personalities.

      Graphics. The review said the game was gorgeous.

      Gameplay. The review said that the game was fun to play, yet has enough challenge, especially near the end, to give gamers a true test of skill. Sure, there's an easier out, like you mentioned, but come on! Just because there is a way to buy power DOES NOT MEAN YOU HAVE TO. Just because the reviewer felt like that DOESN'T MEAN OTHERS WILL. There is no artificial pay-wall at work in this game. No content is locked away from gamers with enough skill.

      The control method has its quirks, but out of all the control methods on iOS for 3-D exploration games, the one in this game appears to be the simplest and easiest to use.

      .....

      Look, it's okay to point out problems. Just think about idiots like me who notice when people are acting like jackasses and decide to present the other side of the argument. Because we will beat your words into the digital payment for your unfair, unbiased, ineffective and (supposedly) unintelligent response. Which will most likely just piss you off and try to fight back. And thus the digital shit will fly....

      Why not put the good and bad side by side, so others can compare? That would be effective, and could have allowed you to troll without a jerk like me jumping down your throat. Woulda been better, IMHO.

      Woulda, coulda, shoulda.

      • GSJ1977

        WTF? Did you forget your meds today?

      • mudd

        Um, "beat your words into the digital pavement"? How anyone can get this upset over a comment about a game is beyond reasonable comprehension.

      • mudd

        ...unless you're 12, then my apologies.

      • sheepdog108

        You guys really entertain me. My god you are all funny.

      • MrAlbum

        Actually, my age is a couple years over 20. I come from a super-intense and passionate family when it comes to beliefs/principles/etc..., so I tend to get morally offended easily for the silliest of reasons. I do try to be polite about it, but there are times when I just blow up. My only recourse then is to be as honest as possible about my emotions at that time.

        I don't take any meds... then again, I haven't been to a doctor for years. But that's my business, not yours ;)

      • SpacemanSpliffz

        Gee I wonder if your family is christian? Bet it iiiiiiiis!!!

  • Tropxe

    I actually got the "pick a flower, bombs everywhere, pick a flower, bombs everywhere" loop happening fairly early in the game (or so I assume, I haven't been playing that long). In the area you have to get the construct to escort you to. It went from very easy to, for me, impossible. After about 12 dramatic failures, I've unfortunately stopped playing the game at that point.

    • http://twitter.com/matt_tonks matt_tonks

      You might try setting the difficulty down if you're having trouble.  It's in the settings menu

  • Himmat Singh

    I give the game a 4.5 as well. Agree with you on most counts. Rich graphics, innovative 'combat', and good story. The good thing about the game is it's not very long - I took a little over 5 hours to complete it despite spending a fair bit of time exploring.

    Regarding the difficulty, I contacted the developers too. The last quarters was much, much harder. I reached the last quarter in less than 3 hours, but then picking flowers off 4 spirits took ages. Bizarrely, the final boss fight was soo easy compared to the other battles in he final quarter.

  • Gamer_Kev

    I was really looking forward to this game until I heard about the IAPs. (I don't mind IAPs for real addon content or new games in a collection like The Elite System collections offer, but the one thing I will not pay for is in game consumables such as money or crystals. ) Now I'm on the fence about it, I don't want to pay money for some game that plays like a freemium title. It's a real shame the developers decided to cheapen the game this way.

    • http://twitter.com/martinsweitzer martin sweitzer

      You should totally be able to play and complete the game without using IAP.  If you explore the world gathering flowers, smashing vases, playing 4 hand monty, and opening doors to get treasure chests you should have plenty of coins and consumables to face the oppressive spirits in head to head battle!  IAP is there for folks who don't want to do those things or want to just be super overpowered and just wreck shop when fighting spirits.

      • GSJ1977

        That's called "grinding" and all freemium games have it. It's not fun.

      • fuzzlor

        So do jrpgs. And mmos. And competitive shooters.

      • GSJ1977

        True. Which is why I don't play any of those genres.

      • Himmat Singh

        That is not grinding. Lili is a part explorer game. You just explore the surrounding like normal - grinding is doing it more than you'd like to. 

      • GSJ1977

        Strange, then, that the reviewer specifically called it "grinding".

      • Karzay

        The act of grinding isn't meant to be fun. It's purpose is to make the end result more fun and rewarding.

      • worldcitizen1919

        I played the game through and I can't find the way to the boat at the end. Next, it's a beautiful game but spoiled by excess charges which means unnecessary grinding if you don't want to grind. I paid for a few things it wasn't much but if you've already paid you shouldn't have to pay any more real cash. The game is not a cash cow as such but you'll have to spend another $5 to enjoy it without excessive grind which is unfair. Just charge one price and LEAVE US ALONE!?,

      • Gamer_Kev

        Thanks for the info. That's good to know. As long as I don't feel that the game is pressuring me to make IAPs, I think I'd still enjoy the game. (and in response to below) As for wether or not it's grinding doesn't really bother me. I'm an old school retro gamer who started playing CRPGs back in the early eighties, what people today term as grinding, used to be a fun part of RPGs. It meant a lot more when ever you got that new weapon, armor or leveled up if you has to earn it. I think the only reason grinding has gotten a bad rep is because of the way MMOs have been over doing it. I would miss it if grinding was totally taken out of RPGs as I mentioned above a lot of fun would be lost if you didn't have to earn that nice new weapon or skill.

        Knowing that I don't have to deal at all with the IAPs, I'd grab this game now if I could, but since my 1g iPad and 3g iPod Touch aren't supported, I'll have to wait until my new iPod touch gets here next month. But it will be fun using this game to try out the new device.

      • worldcitizen1919

        This game is brilliant but IAP unfortunately RUINS it!! They should have and could have, for such a beautiful game, charged upwards $10 and let you have all the fun you want, but greed dictates otherwise. I'm at a part where I'm asked to save someone who's been kidnapped and was told to search all green roofed houses. Ok, but I can't get in these green houses without a KEY. Where do I get a key to CONTINUE PLAYING a game I already PAID FOR?? IAP that's where!! I've just paid for the game and now to complete a quest I've got to buy a key. So this game is PAY AS YOU PLAY and the $5.49 was just an entrance fee?The game's worth $15-$20 but its the continuity that's the problem. What if my Internet is offline or my bank? Just how many more HIDDEN COSTS are there after this? How many more times have I got to type in a password to pay REAL MONEY to continue the game?? It's like a poker machine and its UNFAIR. I just want to play without having to continually stop to buy items with real money and sign in to my iTunes account!! I've already paid them. It's like charging people at a restaurant for a knife and fork!!! I'm sick of this IAP garbage. Maybe there's a simple way of getting a free key but why should I have to google for it?? It's in the store to buy but with real money so where's the game I paid for if this is continually the case of me getting stuck until I open my wallet? It's blackmail.

        DON'T BUY OR SUPPORT.

      • Himmat Singh

        Dude, the key costs 10 flowers. You CAN'T buy keys via IAPs. Just find a stall selling keys in the game. Explore...that's what you're supposed to do.

    • Himmat Singh

      I completed w/o IAPs at all in a fairly respectable time. I didn't really feel pressured to get IAPs. If anything, I am riled up about the fact that some costumes are only obtainable via IAPs, but that's merely cosmetics. You just need to save up on the items you get and use them in the last world only.

  • Schpank

    Uh huh...

  • reasonjp

    And another pretty game with dull structure gets a free pass. Collect three of these, beat five of them. Revolutionary.

    • http://twitter.com/Platronic John Francis

      You certainly have the right to be cynical but I certainly hope you aren't implying that this is any different than any other review site.

      • http://twitter.com/jamesheller13 james heller

        i don't know the rules regarding talking about other sites but a search around the most talked about sites should find a few reviews unswayed by the hype-machine. just to see a different points of view like those similar to mine and the dude above's. just depends on what time of gamer you are IMHO 

  • Madison Gerritsen

    For me, Lili is style over substance. It should not have IAP (IAP turned the App Store into the Greed Store and will ultimatelyngecomebits downfall). And geogous graphics alone do not justify repetitive gameplay, of which there is a lot. Sure, it has superbly degned graphics, and a nice soundtrack. Full stop. That's it. Like TA said in the peview video: I HATE Lili's controls. I don't understand how such a critical earl review turned into this glorious one. Take away the bling and the game is flawed on many levels.

    • Himmat Singh

       Honestly, did you even play the game? If so, how can you possibly hate the controls? Please explain...

  • Madison Gerritsen

    Yes I did. For several hours. The controls never grew on me and I found myself stuck running or walking into things I did not want to be. How else would I write that if I hadn't played it. That insulting.

  • http://www.the-app-shack.com Matt F

    Great game, great review, great reviewer

  • nonstickron

    So let me get this straight...this is a game about tormenting peaceful plant creatures in order to steal their pretty flowers? Am I the only one who sees this games "harvesting" mechanic as kinda twisted?

    • MrAlbum

      Those "peaceful plant creatures" are quite sadistic, cruel and mean. If you play the game, you will see for yourself. Just thought I'd mention that.

      • nonstickron

        Well great! I'm glad to know that, i've only had surface impressions from watching various game play videos. It's on my wishlist, I'll snap it up when it hits .99

  • http://twitter.com/jamesheller13 james heller

    call me crazy but i thought games where supposed to be fun. sure it looks really pretty, but its boring as hell. i long for the day when graphics like these become standard and people can actually start focusing on gameplay. the only reason im still playing this game is because i payed for it. i dont see how someone who enjoys games like angry birds, wild blood, horn and infinity blade can enjoy this. seems like all the people liking the game haven't bought it yet.

    • Himmat Singh

      I've played all the games you listed with the exception of Infinity Blade. Lili trumps them all. Wild Blood and Horn have great potential, but they are marred by inherent flaws (such as controls and camera, which Lili nails perfectly). I do agree that the game is repetitive in nature, but at under six hours, it maintains a steady pace and kept me wanting for more till the end. I finished it in less than a day. 

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1136100035 Joanne Kirwan

        If you have finished the game, can you tell me how to get back to the boat? I have wondered around for ages and can't figure it out. Thanks

      • Himmat Singh

        You need to find a ladder that takes you down to the beach. The ladder is somewhere in Serfside. Just go down there and you'll know what to do!

        Subject: [toucharcade] Re: 'Lili' Review - A Gorgeous, Ambitious Flower-Picking RPG

Lili™ Reviewed by Nissa Campbell on . Rating: 4.5