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Review: Baum – beautiful but short action puzzler

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Ever wondered what it’s like to be a droplet of water arcing through the trees on a gust of wind?

Price: $1.99 / £1.49
Version: 1.01
Size: 118 MB
Platform: iPhone & iPad
Developer: A Fox Wot I Drew

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In Baum, you must harness the power of the wind to “bring the great tree to life” by delivering drops of water to thirsty flowers. Direct the water by drawing lines on screen, all the while avoiding thorny obstacles.


Drip, drop, drip, drop

Painting sparkly paths for a plucky little blob of liquid to follow is a fun, tactile way of maneuvering in a platform game. The droplet adheres to the laws of physics, meaning it sticks to branches using surface tension, drifting away only when tempted by the call of gravity.

This makes for some satisfying moments as your water droplet glides through the trees, hanging delicately overhead before descending smoothly along a curved branch or two. Little gnarled nooks in the branches act as roadblocks, offering a welcome breather from the slip-sliding action.


Water as many buds as possible for more points

As you navigate to the big end-goal flower of each level, spreading watery joy as you go, little yellow buds will blossom around you while evil-looking purple plants spit deadly seeds. Momentum and timing challenges require some dextrous movements, though nothing here is too difficult. Bonus stars are rewarded for challenges: one for ‘collecting’ every bud, another for finishing the level in one attempt, and a third for doing so within a time limit. These get pretty tough as the game progresses, adding much-needed replay value to a relatively short experience.

Everything looks beautiful, from the winding, leafy branches to the overabundance of thorns which threaten to burst your bubble if you’re not careful. This is the kind of game we like to see on iOS: a unique graphical style paired with an interesting platforming concept and a control scheme that only really makes sense on mobile. So far, so good.


Baum has a great art style and natural feel

Where Baum falls down, though, is in its lack of variety. Despite each level representing a different time of day, the graphics barely reflect this and even distinct ‘worlds’ do nothing to mix things up. A fresh palette for each world, a la BADLAND, could work wonders here. As would a few more obstacles; most of the game is spent avoiding spiky thorns and not much else. Likewise the music, while pleasantly serene, gets repetitive pretty quickly.

Add to that the lack of variation in gameplay and you’ve got an app that opens with bags of promise and slowly disappoints thereon. It’s a shame that Baum doesn’t play with the game mechanics a bit more: more physics-based challenges or environmental hurdles would have been nice. Powerups, portals, switches, springs, perhaps? For something labeling itself as a puzzle game, there’s very little to puzzle over.


Watch out for spiky things

Despite all this, Baum still manages to be a fun and interesting jaunt through a hand-painted natural world. In parts it’s very good – but it’s tarnished slightly by the feeling that there could be so much more to enjoy here. An update to add a few more interesting levels would go a long way, but even as it is we can give it a cautious recommendation. If $1.49 seems fair for a game that can be finished within a couple of hours, you’ll be treated to a pretty unique platforming experience.