I often insist that games can be artistic, but rarely get to talk about why and how. I got the chance to discuss Lili, an iPad game I really like, for arts mag thalo.
The island is full of strange characters for players to interact with and get to know. Early on, Lili discovers that friendly Construct Bellringer is not terribly bright, and the island’s evil mayor is a mustache-twirling villain. One Construct is a budding poet, and his verses are hilariously awful. The Spirits have a surprising amount of personality even in their one line of dialogue after victory or defeat, and Lili’s magical-hipster commentary is always a delight. It’s well worth reading all the optional item text, too, BitMonster has added some real gems in the descriptions, with nods to other adventure and indie games.
Lili involves “combat” with dangerous spirits on the island. In a pre-release discussion, BitMonster’s Lee Perry promised that Lili’s combat would be bloodless and would take advantage of the way players are already interacting with their tablets. The game delivers on both of those: Lili fights spirits by jumping aboard their backs and trying to collect flowers. Players need to tap and drag flowers, just like they’ve done all over the island, but this time, the target moves as the spirit tries to shake Lili off.
It’s a delightful battle, although the novelty does wear off as Lili is sent to repeatedly defeat Spirits. The difficulty increases in a familiar casual games pattern, as Lili gets faster and holds on better, she needs to catch more, faster Spirits and collect more flowers. (Players can switch to child mode for an lighter difficulty curve, or purchase in-game power-ups if hunting down Spirits isn’t your favorite pastime.) Overall, it’s hard not to think of LucasArts’ classic PC adventure game, Monkey Island, when playing. Monkey Island also included a unique bloodless combat — insult swordfighting — and quirky island characters.