Seed of Life Review: Budding But Not Quite Blossomed
Madlight gives the green light for the Seed of Life, a quaint little puzzle-platformer with a need for seed as you explore the alien garden in pursuit of saving the planet. It keeps the plot basic, the characters sparse, and the graphics vibrant, but does this garden clean up well, or are these plants well past withered? Let’s find out!
You star as Cora, one of the last remaining survivors of Lumia, a planet on the brink of dying. The only hope for the shriveling world is to activate the Seed of Life and bring life back to the sun to save the planet. It’s a simple plot, with only Cora and a resident AI named Nar that guides her. The characters can come across as flat, not much in the way of character motivation or design, but ultimately, I never felt it detract much from my experience. While I would’ve loved to see a little fleshing out happen, I don’t feel really disappointed that they only did what they needed to in order to move the plot forward and left it at that.
The campaign runs about four to five hours, with a bit more if you go for all the health and Lumia upgrades. It’s not long by any means, and I could see that deterring some players, but for me, it felt just the right length. There’s just enough running room to feel like you’ve experienced all you need to by the end. The game’s focused on being a puzzle-based, plot-driven game of exploring this world, and while there are few opportunities to go off the beaten path, just getting to run around this odd world feels like enough to make that missing detail a lot less glaring.
Hitting the Dirt
The game emphasizes being focused on exploring a vibrant world and being eager to traverse your way to new findings and adventures. What it doesn’t advertise is the glaringly difficult early game hell that it brings. You start the game with 100 health and 100 Lumium (think of it like Mana or MP). Checkpoints and shrines will refill you completely, while Lumium can be juiced up ten points at a time by feeling up some Lumium trees. This said, 100 health drains in seconds in the first major area thanks to toxic air, and while I understand that, yes, this is a foreign world that cares not for your humanly needs like purified oxygen, there needs to be more opportunities to recover and get your bearings. The only thing you get for navigation is a compass, and if you aren’t familiar with the landscape, expect to die a few times just trying to sort out where to go next. There were times when I had probably less than two seconds of spare time between early checkpoints before I’d eat the dirt yet again, and my death counter was well past ten within the first half an hour. This could’ve easily been mitigated by making the Lumium trees give health alongside Lumia Energy, or, since this is in the first area and you don’t quite have all the tools you need for survival, just get rid of the toxic air in most of the early-game areas. The second area only has health damage when literally right next to lava, which you’re already well prepared to handle.
You’ll be gathering a suite of abilities using something called Capsules, stored on a device mounted on your back. From magnetism to luminescent orbs, the abilities are spread and, while not the most original, they give you the necessary tools to get around the alien world with better efficiency. Since the only enemy you’ll be fighting is the terrain, you won’t need to worry about advanced combat abilities, just the occasional sprint jump here and there. To get these capsules, you’ll need to find the shrines that hold them, turn on the shrine, then fill it with Petals, little power sources you can get from powering down shields.
Beauty in Botany
For a little Unity game, I’ll give it to the devs; the game looks very clean and detailed, the graphics reminding me a bit of earlier Fable games in color and shading. There’s always just the right amount of environmental detail spicing up the landscape. Strange flora and fauna litter the regions with vibrancy, colors helping break up the tan stonework or dark rivers. The alien structures have appropriately odd shapes and glowing architecture, just as I’d want them to, and always stick out well in the environment with their spindly, bright designs. The world honestly looks like it was very well tended to, a garden of eye candy ripe for the picking, and that’s something the devs should be proud of.
As for the animations, they could be worse, but they get the job done. Gathering lumium from the local flora consists of copping a feel with an alien tree and just winds up looking awkward. Things like walking and running look fine for the most part, with a bit of stutter if you move around too much at a time. Cora’s model looks shockingly clean with her animation suite, no clipping of fabrics or disjointed limbs, which is lovely to see done right.
Room to Grow
The sounds and audio really go for the “less is more” angle, and for an alien world bent on exploration, that’s the way to go. Underlying synth glides in and out of the soundscape while the whipping winds or bubbling lava fill the treble. It’s a fine balance, and never needs to over-embellish, letting it just help to fill in the environment you’re playing in. That said, the earthquake rumbles need some adjustment. Later, rumbling noises had the bass cranked up way too loud, making the audio clip and disturb my ability to hear for a moment. The only other thing that makes a distinctly questionable noise is the little blue natives to the planet that will start beatboxing(?) when they attempt to capture you. It’s bar none the strangest sound I’ve experienced from an enemy in my life, so if they were going for alien noises, it sure sounded alien to me.
Now we get to one of the more glaring issues: Cora’s voice actor. I’m not sure what the circumstances are behind her voice actor, if this was just a case of hiring local talent or running low on budget (or both), but she’s very untrained in what she’s doing. The voice is flat and emotionless, feeling like she’s reading from a script. With Nar, I could accept that. She’s an alien AI, so that kind of thing is expected, but for Cora, she felt like a much older lady trying to be soft-spoken enough for a child and falling flat in the process. As the game goes on, there’s a bit more variation and emotion in her voice, though that felt more like a product of her slowly getting better with actually acting on the fly.
All in all, Seed of Life has all the tools it needs to sprout a lovely little flower, but it’ll need to take special care to groom and care for itself to get there. There’s a good number of thorns in this garden, so you should approach with caution, knowing this. But you can see where Seed of Life tried its best to shine, so if you’re itching to take a hike through alien lands, Seed of Life is a charming enough indie gem to keep you well-watered for a few hours.
Final Verdict 3.5/5
Available on: Steam(Reviewed); Publisher: Leonardo Interactive; Developer: Madlight; Number of players: single-player (campaign); Released: August 11, 2021; MSRP: $19.99
Full disclosure: The developer provided a review copy.