"Violets are blue, roses are red.
Forget to water, and they’ll be dead!"
While far from great poetry, the above is true nonetheless when it comes to flowers. It’s also the basic gist of Bloom, a new twist on old connect-the-pipes puzzlers like Pipe Dream.
A perfect example of taking an existing idea and infusing fresh vitality, play couldn’t be simpler. Each level consists of a garden grid filled with pipes and a water-filled barrel. Your goal? Reposition the conduits into a network of pipes that directs water from the barrel to the thirsty, waiting buds. Then, when fully grown, each flower is added to a scale on the left while depositing cash in your till (more on this later). Fill the scale and the level’s complete.
Of course, it’s not that cut and dry. You have a time, rather a water limit, with which to contend. If your barrel runs dry before you’ve grown and collected enough blossoms, you’ll need to tend the level again. As such, Bloom is not a game of leisure, but of quick wits. You don’t just connect pipes then sit back and watch. Manipulating the conduit to keep water flowing where it’s needed is a constant task, as flowers un-watered too long wither and die.
Pipes are rotated with the mouse; the left button turning them clockwise while the right spins them counter clockwise. But, that’s not all. Bonuses, placed at the bottom of the screen, appear at random and are key to your success. For instance, on many levels, especially those later in the game, it’s impossible to complete a working conduit with existing plumbing. That’s where the Change Pipe bonus comes into play. This bonus can take the shape of any of the game’s four pipes – elbow, straight, tee and four-way. Provided randomly, these are substituted for those already in place, allowing you to change the direction of flow or increase the number of paths the water can take. A special variation is the Multi-Pipe Barrel bonus that adds another fitting to the water barrel.
Other bonuses appear for your use, as well. The Flower Speed bonus increases the rate at which your flowers grow, the Slow Time bonus lets you rotate pipes faster while slowing water loss, and the especially-handy Add Water bonus refills your water barrel when needed. And, though it doesn’t aid your success in a given level, the Get More Money bonus increases the cash earned for each bouquet collected. Water and Money bonuses come in multiples, too.
Regarding the financial element in Bloom, as stated earlier, each blossoming plant adds cash to your account. This stipend is used to decorate your home, yard and lawn (think of it as a reward system). After successfully completing a level, you’re given the opportunity to spruce up your digs. Earn enough coin and you can build a veranda or two on your home, put in a path, lay sod, plant trees and flowers, add a water feature and stone garden, apply a fresh coat of paint, and add a new roof and tower. By the time you’re done, your humble residence is transformed into an elegant dwelling with a beautifully landscaped yard. Granted, it’s not integral to play, but it does provide an element of achievement.
There’s an educational component, too. At the start of each level, you’re provided with descriptions and interesting facts about each new blossom. For example, Dahlias, the flower of Mexico, were employed by the Aztecs for food, decoration and ceremonial purposes. They even used the stems as small pipes. Of course, if you think this educational stuff is just a pain in the Aster, you can disable the feature.
In all, Bloom offers 40 levels of addictive, pipe-twisting play along with some great visuals and atmospheric background sounds like babbling brooks and chirping birds. A ranking system keeps track of your achievements, as well, total money, flowers and time. But, its rosy arrangement sports some thorns, too. Music is overly repetitively and the game’s over all too soon (under two hours). Also, bonuses are a bit sparse in variety. Plus, when they appear (they’re added at the left, shifting earlier bonuses to the right) it sometimes causes you to select the wrong bonus and waste a crucial help.
Still, Bloom is an engaging, family-friendly puzzler that’s a joy to play. It’s just too bad the experience ends so quickly. Additional levels, a few more bonuses and an extra song or two are all it really lacks to flourish.