Entrepreneur

Don't Be Fooled By This M'sian Game's Calming Aesthetic—It Is Punishingly Difficult

With an aesthetic reminiscent of Monument Valley and Prune’s best lovechild together, Uri: The Sprout of Lotus Creek has a great design sense to it.

Admittedly, the animations did leave a little to be desired but it’s difficult to find this as much of a drawback when the textures, designs and colour choices are such a pretty sight to behold.

The music manages to be soft and gentle, while managing to retain your attention. All of this, on top of a simple, voiceless story added up to a give a memorable stylistic impact.

Created by DreamTree Games, the team of three Malaysians, Zhi Wei Tan, Cham Wei Chuan and Gan Zhao Hei did everything from programming, to game design, and art design by themselves.

The game took a grand total of 18 months to develop.

“It took quite a long time because we worked on the project part-time for half a year. Afterwards, we worked full-time the rest of the way,” said Zhi Wei, programmer.

“The team was always referring to Monument Valley, Limbo and Journey during development. We get a lot of inspiration from those types of games, and we also concentrated on storytelling games that have puzzles to solve. So we’ll always make a game that has a storyline, with some good art.”

Uri: The Sprout Of Lotus Creek has a simple gimmick to get users interested: you solve puzzles by actually using the pause, sound, replay and exit buttons in the game. The game calls them “mystical symbols”.

Other than their prescribed uses, these buttons hold a specific function in the game that helps you navigate a trusting prince named Uri.

Breaking the fourth wall and believing in the player as some sort of omnipotent power that will keep him safe in his adventures, it’s now your job to utilise the UI elements to make sure that Uri reaches his destination.

I also thought that Uri was a girl thanks to that dress and little red riding hood top, but hey.

And this game, my dudes, is punishingly difficult. 

Me at the tutorial level: WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?

I got a glimpse of my Bad Time right in the tutorial level itself, when what I thought was a little girl was blocked from proceeding by three pillars displaying symbols for exiting the app, turning off the music, and pausing. (X, ♪, ||)

It took an embarrassingly long time for me to figure out that these UI symbols can even be moved from their set locations on the top right corner, let alone that they were supposed to be slotted into the pillars release the blockages.

This was just the beginning.

Uri is perhaps one of the latest iterations of a growing mobile game trend that seems to think that “proper” tutorials (by modern standards) are for amateurs.

In this game, it’s git gud, or git ded. Again, and again, and again. 

You’re expected to Sherlock Holmes your way through unforgiving environment after dangerous area that will punish you for even the tiniest mistake.

During my adventure through this game, I discovered many environmental elements like surprisingly sturdy chandeliers, rickety signboards, cloth overhangs Uri is supposed to bounce off, prison inmates that you manipulate into getting a walloping by a guard to mask your escape—and personally most frustrating, guards who will or will not capture you on the spot upon sight, simply depending on what the puzzle wants you to do in that particular level.

You’re also beholden to a limited amount of movements per attempt, as illustrated by a small path made of petals that will get shorter for every move that you make. Meanwhile, Uri just keeps walking towards his death.

And pfft, good luck figuring out all of this on a walkthrough-less playthrough without dying a bazillion times, because neither the goal, how to get there, or how environmental elements will react to you will be obvious.

So all you can really do is die 5 million times as you experiment with how everything will react to Uri as he moves relentlessly forward, never stopping.

Uri might forget the pain, but you won’t.

Despite this, by the end of the 7th chapter, I found myself craving more. 

The best way to explain the game is this: if your mom saw you playing this when you were a kid, she’d tell you to put down because, “It doesn’t look like you’re having fun, honey”.

And despite all of the ragequits, you are.

Good puzzlers are enjoying a revival on the mobile phone. And just like when I made my way through Monument Valley, a particularly difficult level would get me stuck for hours, only to leave me feeling really good about myself when I finally piece together the surprisingly simple solution to the bit that I kept dying in.

“The only thing you worry about is that the game is too easy to play. Overall, we had quite a lot of players who managed to play the whole game, and they’re happy with the difficulty of the game,” said the team.

“In the end, we have to choose one direction to go. If we went simple, then we’ll have people complaining that the game is too easy. And whichever direction we go, for sure there will be half of the people that aren’t happy with that.”

“So we chose this direction. Plus, because the mechanic is new, we wanted to get feedback from the players.”

And in the meantime, you’re carried forward by a visually pleasing style, a gorgeous colour palette, and a storyline that is beautifully told without a word being spoken. So beautiful, that part of me believes that this is all to counteract the high-stress that comes from the gameplay.

This might now seem glowing after a whole section of complaining about how difficult it is, but I can’t help it: I love a game with a good aesthetic. And if you’re like me, you’ll agree that good music can make or break a game, and in this case, the soft, gentle instrumentals really heightened the experience.

That being said, I completely understand that this type of game isn’t for everyone. 

But if you’ve been yearning for a nice aesthetic upgrade to Crash Bandicoot-style puzzlers of yore straight on your mobile device, this is a worthy purchase.

If you’re like me and you get caught in a level for hours because you insist on figuring out the puzzles yourself without a walkthrough, then you’ll definitely get your money’s worth. Just be careful not to play this around fragile, breakable things within reach of your rage.

Not bad for RM7.90 especially since you get 7 chapters out of the deal. I just wish that it was a longer game for what it is.

DreamTree Games teased us with the possibility of adding some DLC to Uri with more levels to play, and they’re also currently working on the next game in their development roster roster.

Zhi Wei isn’t quite sure which will come out first, but either way, they will surely be out next year.

Uri: The Sprout of Lotus Creek is available both on Google Play and Apple Store

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