The much anticipated first release by BitMonster, Inc. for iOS has lived up to its hype. Supported by Unreal Engine 3, the 3D world of Lili is brought to life in rich colors and a varied landscape for players to explore. With only seven months spent in development, BitMonster has set a high bar for their future titles as Lili gives players a world to escape into that is sure to entertain until the story reaches its end and perhaps beyond. This newly formed company has given us a glimpse into the future of good iOS games.
Having set sail on a quest to complete a project for her degree, Lili finds the island where she has ventured only with the intent to collect flowers in the midst of a conflict. The facade of a calm and peaceful city propped up by The Mayor, a seemingly kind spirit who greets her early on, quickly falls away to reveal the plight of a race called the Constructs. These kind and homely wooden creatures appear enslaved under the power of The Mayor to serve as second class citizens and slaves to the Spirits who reside in the upper class town of Mill Hill.
With the guidance of Trainer, a Construct who instructs her on how to take down the Spirits one by one, Lili quickly makes it her mission to assist the Constructs, helping with various tasks and puzzles as well as taking down the spirits one by one by utilizing BitMonster’s much anticipated “non-combat system.” In a gaming landscape with everything ranging from deadly shoot-em ups to innocently cutting ropes, Lili’s mini game-esque flower collection battles are both refreshingly unexpected and fun. You’ll probably have to play the game to know what we mean.
3D games on iOS usually rely on some sort of on-screen control stick for movement that involves players sliding their thumb around a small circle on a portion of the screen to dictate travel. In fact, it’s so common that it’s almost a given, an expectation. Not in Lili. In the first five minutes of the game, players are introduced to a “tap-it” style movement system, and we don’t mean the age old “tap where you want to walk” idea. Straight off the boat, players practice running around the beach with their newly discovered controls: Tap once to walk, twice to run, slide anywhere on screen to look around.
Though it may initially seem haphazard, the controls are absolutely fitting for a title in which much of your time is spent exploring the environment, plucking flowers from the ground and chasing down enemies. Running up and down through the valleys of Geos becomes as natural as a stroll in a park, though dodging the bombs that some of the more mischievous spirits toss in their wake can be a challenge. And before the more “manly men” reading this review shut down and decide they’d rather knock heads than pick flowers: Don’t underestimate the challenge this can be.
Not to say that you are left completely to your own devices to overthrow the Spirits. As you advance through the game’s missions, Trainer will help you level up on of three stats: Grip, Speed and Stealth (I favor Stealth unless your thick fingers give you some trouble yanking those blooms off Spirits’ backs, in that case: Grip). In addition, the flowers you collect, hidden in plain site throughout the island, can be sold and put towards equipment to further boost your stats. Never underestimate the power of a good pair of running shoes.
Unreal Engine 3 shines in this title about which the only complaint I have is the occasional loading screens. What can I say… hating loading screens is in my gamer blood. The world is expansive for an iOS game and surprisingly beautiful. Though the Constructs are made just of different pieces of wood nailed together, they exude personality, something I think the magnificent graphic quality has had a hand in. Many mobile titles shoot for realism and miss, producing a product that is often disturbing and uncomfortable to view; Lili aims for it’s own vision and that vision is spectacular.
This game wouldn’t be rated so highly if it wasn’t the complete package; the sound is the wrapping on the gift. With a soundtrack that changes with the flow of gameplay, whether exploring the city, stealing from the chests in people’s houses or trying to ride a Spirit like a very angry bull, BitMonster has assured that their players have only the best. In addition, the animated characters Lili meets along her journey, as animated as they are already, often make comedic utterances to match their expressions, whether in fear, disgust or joy.
OverallAt $4.99, Lili might be a bit more than what iOS gamers expect to pay for on the go titles. However, BitMonster has been adamant that the price will only go down from here. To be honest, if you’re used to buying many $0.99 games from the App Store, go ahead and skip on a few of those for one good title that will last you a bit longer and give you a bit more entertainment value: Lili. After playing it on the iPhone I can honestly say that I wish I had an iPad to better appreciate the look and feel of such a great game. And while the game is obviously aimed at the kids, it isn’t without a few adult references that can be appreciated. For example: Pignut likes to suck his own sap and defeating the Spirits is referred to as “deflowering” (very tongue in cheek).