Considering the large amount of physics-based puzzlers that get continually released on the App Store, it takes a special kind of title to differentiate itself from the pack. Little Bit Games' The Seed [$0.99] does so in a variety of ways. Its emphasis on minimalist (but beautiful) presentation combined with approachable gameplay is a great mix and is executed well. In addition, its subtle narrative and reflective visuals lead to a game that's only sullied by its shortness.
As you might imagine, The Seed tasks players with guiding a magical seed through a variety of barren locales on a quest to regrow the land. This is accomplished by guiding the seed through a variety of stages with the goal of each to land the seed on a flat of fertile ground which allows it to grow a plant and move on. Sounds relatively simple, but the simple act of guiding and moving the seed (which is done via water droplets) is an adventure in itself.
While the player can't directly manipulate the seed, they can use water droplets to propel and change its direction. As soon as a droplet touches the seed, it moves it in the direction it is set. Droplets can be customized via direction, strength, and location. Its this customization that opens up the possibilities for guiding the seed in a variety of different ways which makes it more interesting than other, more one-dimensional puzzlers. This also leads to a lot of trial-and-error but thankfully The Seed makes it easy to tweak droplet setups.
The Seed's beauty lies in its ability to take a simple gameplay mechanic and expand it in such away that keeps the basic premise intact while expanding the possibility of use. In this case, the simple act of propelling the seed via water droplets (along with the later wind elements) eventually expands into an elaborate chaining of droplets. Considering droplets are the only manipulatable item in all levels, I was pretty impressed at the range of strategies that could be employed. Also, finally getting a complicated chain working feels incredibly satisfying.
Meanwhile, I thoroughly enjoyed The Seed's visual style, which was subdued and subtle yet had intrigue to keep me playing simply to see new backgrounds. Other than a few cutscenes and the backdrops, there's nothing else in terms of actual storytelling. Yet, I still felt like I was part of a larger world. It definitely gave off a strong Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor feel, which means it must be doing something right. It's just a shame that the game doesn't offer iPhone 5 support.
My other big complaint with The Seed lies in content. There are only 28 total levels available. Even with the limited replayabillity inherent in trying to complete levels within the target times, I found the game to be way too short, especially since a lot of the early levels can be completed in relatively short amounts of time. Little Bit Games has stated repeatedly that more levels are on the way but still I really wish the game as released had more levels.
In many regards, The Seed plays out very much like its namesake. Small-time gameplay elements eventually flower into complicated contraptions that require analysis, foresight and precision to succeed. It's this growth in gameplay and scenery that's showcased through the entirety of the (all too brief) game that makes it fun to play. If this suits your fancy, I highly recommend giving The Seed a try.
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