Browser Game Pick – ‘Seedling’
Seedling is the latest game by Connor Ullman, prolific creator of many deliciously pixelly games. Clearly inspired by The Legend of Zelda and other such classic action-adventures, you play as a mysterious creature, spawned by the wind itself and tasked by a mysterious hermit oracle to complete a quest on his behalf. The unusual thing is that he mentions outright that so long as you complete your goal, he doesn’t care how you achieve it. Good or evil, victory matters above all. Sounds like we’ll be making some judgement calls here.
Seedling makes the interesting decision to make the player sprite tiny, but the movement speed quite high. This creates the feeling that you’re charging wildly through the various dungeons and overworld areas at a ridiculously unsafe speed, and given how easy it is to die from drowning or running into enemies, ‘unsafe’ sounds about right. The game checkpoints with every screen boundary crossed, though, so death is only a setback of a few seconds. Good if you like to play Super Meat Boy style, trying to dodge through all the enemies in a room and dash for the exit. It also makes the world feel simultaneously big and small. Paradoxical, but true.
The combat and core gameplay are instantly familiar to anyone who has played a Zelda game. You explore dungeons, find new items and spells, use the abilities you collect to unlock access to new zones via a gradually expanding over world, then rinse and repeat until every boss (there are 8 of them scattered around the map) is slain and the day is saved. At least, that’s how it should go. The story is a little more subtle and nuanced than that. It’s no grand, deep epic, but there’s a little more to it than just rushing around and blatting monsters, all tying back to that hint from the Oracle that you’re free to carry out your mission via good or evil means.
The gameplay flow is well-paced and the game doesn’t outstay its welcome. It’s aware that it’s a fast, browser-based game, so doesn’t waste time with lengthy exposition or scene-setting. The dungeon rooms themselves are often very deadly, capable of killing you in just a second or two, but it also means that successful play can get you through them just as quickly. Again, there’s some faint shades of Super Meat Boy, although no replays of your repeated deaths. Quite a few rooms contain Sokoban-esque block shifting puzzles, so those light on spatial awareness/coffee might end up stuck once or twice, but it’s pretty quick and easy to reset a room.
If you’ve got a couple hours to spare, then Seedling won’t cost you a penny, and is an entertaining, involved little bit of low-fi adventuring. There might even be an extra playthrough or two in it, if you want all of the Newgrounds achievements for the game, and want to fully explore the hinted morality system that the plot seems to hinge on. Interestingly, the music seems almost excessively low-fi. Almost disjointed – strange, but it fits the slightly strange feel of the game perfectly. It’s just one more element adding up to a greater whole.