While there are plenty of reasons to fondly remember the first year of the Nintendo Switch (The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey being my personal favorites), one thing that really comes to mind are the multitude of independent releases that caught my eye thanks to there not being a massive glut of software on the platform. That’s not to say in the end they were inferior experiences, just that they had the breathing room to make an impression on early adopters.
One in particular (and the obvious segue into the review proper) was Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King by Castle Pixel. It was a fetching homage to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past which took that game’s pacing, overhead visuals and tool-assisted gameplay, and bundled it with a storytelling device that helped it stand on its own. Even though the encouraging word of mouth on it was constantly in my ear when it first dropped, I didn’t actually pick it up until last year. Unsurprisingly, it was still brilliant after all that time.
So color me excited when the sequel dropped.
The apple that is Blossom Tales II: The Minotaur Prince didn’t fall very far from the tree it was born from, but it still tastes just as good.
It’s a mostly fluffy fantasy yarn in which heroine Lily (whom, like Link, is a different iteration with familiar characteristics) has to collect treasures in various fortresses and castles in order to help beat the aforementioned Minotaur King (and save her brother and the world while she’s at it). What makes the plot fun is that it’s actually a story being told by a grandfather to his grandchildren, and he inserts them into it. The serious drama is often interjected with comments from the grandchildren, who are then chided for interrupting – a mechanic that’s just as endearing as it was in the first game. Sometimes it even changes up elements of the game, although I don’t want to spoil that here.
At first, I felt like these moments were a missed opportunity to give players the chance to affect the story, but I eventually took it with a grain of salt, because just like in actual storytelling, Grandpa knows the framework for what’s going to happen, he just needs to add the odd aside to keep the kids engaged.
Supplementing the cute story is a game that is unabashed in its inspiration, but competent and enjoyable enough to move beyond simply naming it a Zelda clone. The cadence is very familiar – gather a set number of McGuffins conveniently stashed in dungeons, get quirky additions to your kit that expand your ability to explore, and finally take on the big baddie, in this case the titular Minotaur King.
Blossom Tales II doesn’t stray far from the formula of either Zelda or its prequel. To which I say: who cares? There’s a charm to its familiarity, it plays like aces, and the fourth-wall-breaking storytelling adds a lot. Excuse me while I wave my cane in the air a bit, but back in my day sequels where often just “more of the same”. And you know what? It was great! If you want to use an overwrought food analogy, it’s the literal definition of seconds – you liked what you ate, and you’ll take just a little bit more. What I’m getting at is that nobody messed with the recipe a whole lot, but it still put me in my happy place.
The best thing I can say about Blossom Tales II is that it comes at a time when there’s a gap between releases of Zelda-likes, and Castle Pixel are so proficient at making them that it fills the hole nicely. It does what it sets out to do, is a hell of a lot of fun, and while it doesn’t light the world on fire, it also doesn’t light a dumpster fire, either. Perhaps if there’s ever a third game in the series, Castle Pixel will take Blossom Tales to a new level; but even if they don’t, and I simply get more of this charming homage, I’ll be just as exicted.
Blossom Tales II was developed by Castle Pixel and published by Playtonic Friends, and it’s available on PC and Switch. We played the Switch version.
Disclosure statement: review code for Blossom Tales II was provided by Playtonic. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.