The Great Tree Preview

By Joel Brodie |

If you stop by the offices of Reflexive Software this month, chances are you’ll see someone unloading cleaning supplies. That’s because they’re putting the final coat of polish on The Great Tree, a new casual offering that combines the visual style of Reflexive’s own Monarch: The Butterfly King with the star-collecting action of Neon Wars from Blitwise.

At the root of The Great Tree is an elaborate back story that draws the player into a world of fantasy and magic. As a fairy explains to her daughter during the game’s introduction, they must venture forth and gather the pollen that sustains the titular tree, which gives life to the fairies. The tree has been growing weak, and the Swee, the creatures originally delegated to collect the pollen, have become spellbound by an evil presence. The mother believes this dark force intends to stop a miraculous event that will ensure the existence of the fairies forever, so she reluctantly sends her daughter into the fray to gather the magical essence.

On each level, you’ll be tasked with collecting a specific amount of pollen, represented by glowing dots that drift across your screen. You control your pixie with your mouse, and as you guide her over pollen, she stores it on her ponytail. She can only hold so much of the magical essence, though, so you must make several trips to the Transient Star at the top of the screen to drop off her load. After the stage is complete, a brief animation plays in which the Transient Star releases its pollen to the Great Tree.

As you direct your fairy across the screen, you must avoid contact with an assortment of enemies, flying and otherwise. If you bump into a Globulocks as it wings its way across your display, for example, you’ll lose health as well as some pollen. One of the more challenging enemies is the tree frog, which likes lashing out at your pixie with its sticky tongue. A Venus Flytrap, or something that looks like one, also makes an appearance early on.

In addition to gathering pollen and avoiding enemies, it’s important to rescue any Swee that drift by. You do this by grabbing a Liberatis Spiral from the dangling toes of a Globulocks, then colliding with the Swee. If you’re less than precise when it comes to controlling your mouse, the collision detection is rather forgiving, so it’s not hard to take hold of a Liberatis Spiral, nor do you have to worry about losing health due to your fairy’s ponytail hitting enemies.

You’ll also want to collect and use powerups as you harvest pollen, as most make your job easier for a few moments. When you’ve collected the maximum amount of pollen your pixie can carry, for example, you can activate Ancient Fire, which produces a ring of fire that destroys any enemies within range. Other powerups appear at random and must be touched in order to be activated, such as Lightning Storm, which zaps nearby enemies.

The Great Tree also features some light role-playing elements. As you progress, you’ll earn Star Points, which you can spend on increasing four attributes, including Agility (how fast your fairy can fly), Health (how much damage your pixie can take), Strength (the maximum amount of pollen your fairy can carry), and Magic (the chance of a powerup appearing). If you find you’ve spent too much on one attribute, you can cash in those Star Points and apply them to another attribute. You can also increase your stats with special sets of wings you can collect throughout the game. Near the beginning, I grabbed the Wings of Strength, which added two points to my pixie’s Strength.

Visually, high resolution backdrops give shape to a fantasy world in which beautiful creatures live side by side with things you’re glad don’t exist in the real world, and shimmering bits of magic drip from fairies as they collecting glowing particles. In the best games, the art design gives weight to the story, and it appears as though this will be the case in The Great Tree.

If you’re in the mood for a simple casual game that doesn’t require you to match colors or find hidden objects, we suggest keeping an eye out for the release of The Great Tree, coming soon from Reflexive Entertainment.

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