Blossom Tales II: The Minotaur Prince Review (Switch)
Release Date: August 16, 2022
File Size: 273MB
Publisher: Playtonic Friends
Developer: Castle Pixel, LLC.
Click here to view on the Nintendo eShop.
Version Reviewed: 22.07.13
Gather ‘round the fire as Lily and Chrys sit down with Grandpa to hear his latest tale! Grandpa’s story once again returns to the kingdom of Blossom – about 100 years after the events of the first game, Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King. Castle Pixel has released their latest entry in the Blossom Tales series, Blossom Tales II: The Minotaur Prince, which sees Lily set out on another action-packed adventure. The first game was well received and if you were part of our AMA we did with some members of the team, the Switch version exceeded their initial expectations and was even outselling the Steam version at the time.
If you aren’t familiar with Blossom Tales games, they are games heavily inspired by the Legend of Zelda series, especially Link’s Awakening and A Link to the Past. You can call them Zelda clones; the team didn’t deny it and actually took it as a compliment, but they have added their own twists to the formula to make Lily’s adventures feel fun, fresh, and engaging. I really enjoyed the first game and felt it was one of the best original 2D Zelda-likes on the Switch…of which there are many. Let’s listen to what Grandpa has to say and see if Lily’s latest adventure is as good as her first.
One of the staples of the first game was the framed narrative and that approach to storytelling is present once again in Blossom Tales II: The Minotaur Prince. Our story opens with Lily and Chrys bickering, like most siblings do, about meaningless things. Grandpa tells them that being siblings is a special thing and that they must learn to share and be nice to each other and that segues into his latest story. This story begins with Lily and Chrys awakening on the day of the Minotaur Moon Festival. Chrys jets out of the house in a hurry to get a head start on collecting minatory coins, while grandma gives Lily a sword and shield before heading on her way to the festival. The festival is looking for one more participant and to qualify you must collect five minotaur coins.
To obtain the coins, you must compete and complete festival mini games and of course you control Lily through these various carnival games, from swinging your sword hard enough to hit the bell to using your shield to dodge all the arrows. It’s the game’s way of introducing the player to the basic controls and is a creative way of accomplishing that. With all five coins in hand, Lily becomes the last and final entrant into the tournament. The tournament involves battles, with Lily making it to the third and final round, Chrys takes over narrating and introduces his character as the opponent for the final match.
As the battle commences, Lily eventually accuses Chrys of cheating and makes a wish. Lily wishes the Minotaur King would come and take Chrys far away, and after speaking her wish aloud, the Minotaur King appears. A series of events commence, and the Minotaur King takes Chrys under his wing as his prince and sets up the story for the remainder of the game. Lily feels guilty about what happened and sets out on an epic adventure to get stronger and ultimately save her brother.
One of the most memorable things about the first game was how the story was delivered. It had this “Princess Bride” vibe going as the grandpa narrates and the kids interject. That is still present in this game, and I feel part of the identity of what makes Blossom Tales stand out. Lily and Chrys still have their silly exchanges and some of them will prompt you to choose who to side with. Should the animal be a horse or a pig, should the musical instrument you gain later on be a guitar or an accordion, and so on. While the choices don’t change the outcome of the game, they allow the playthrough to be unique and your own. After the events of the festival, you set out to save your brother and discover that in order to do so, you must get a key to the labyrinth.
In Blossom Tales II: The Minotaur Prince, you will traverse three major dungeons with the goal to find three pieces of labyrinth key. Each dungeon will teach you a mechanic using one of the items you find within. The puzzles become gradually more complex as you progress. These puzzles are varied and can be the form of a game of memory, where you need to match two pictures and each failed match will spawn another baddie. I don’t want to spoil all the various types of puzzles, but all the block pushing and item-based puzzles you would expect in other Zelda-likes are also present here. While each dungeon may have a straightforward path, there are plenty of secret rooms to find which hold coins and heart pieces. All of the skills you acquire will culminate in the labyrinth as it will test both your combat and puzzle-solving abilities.
In addition to the story-based dungeons, there are plenty of smaller dungeons to discover sprinkled across the map, some readily available and others requiring an item to open its sealed doors. These are optional, but if you want to fully explore the world and make Lily as strong as possible, they are worth exploring. Some will reward you with heart and stamina pieces, others with coins to spend at the shops or, if you feel it in your heart, donate to the poor NPC in the desert town. Some will even reward you with a combat scroll, which if you bring to the dojo can be deciphered and will unlock a new ability for Lily. These new abilities extend her charge ability, so charging her sword attack and as you release it pressing another face button to do an even more powerful attack. These rewards are totally optional but make combat and the final boss even easier.
Link’s Awakening on GBC didn’t have the biggest overworld, but it was packed with things to explore. The same holds true here; when you are not engaged in combat, there is plenty to explore. You might be fishing, collecting flowers or fruits, bones, or delivering mail. Each of these could be for an NPC’s quest or to sell/trade. Certain areas of the map you won’t be able to access without an item and generally then force you to take a longer way around, but as you explore every area of the map you will create shor cuts for later, from bombing rocks to lowering ladders.
The game automatically saves and there is no option to save manually. If you die, Lily, Chrys, and Grandpa will interject saying that is now what really happened and to continue the story. Lily will respawn at the beginning of the last room you entered with full life, and you can continue on your way. Another nice aspect of the storytelling approach of Blossom Tales is when you load back up your game, before you get back to the action, Grandpa will remind you of the events that just occurred and what Lily was just doing.
There are plenty of minigames to play, from the opening ones at the festival, to brewing potions at the cauldrons, fishing, betting, and completing races in a certain time. You can choose to do as much of this or as little as you want. At the time of this writing, I have most of the upgrades but still have a few slots left for items and am missing three potion recipes.
Presentation and Performance
As mentioned earlier, Blossom Tales II: The Minotaur Prince builds off everything the first game did well. When Phil reviewed the first game, he found the “general presentation of the game to be nearly flawless in his mind.” That thought holds true with me in this one. Everything is polished and done to pixel perfection. While the developers definitely wanted to keep this game in the same style as the first game, they certainly added more detail in the visuals to make this game feel even more pixel perfect than its predecessor.
One thing I really appreciated is how the developers chose not to reuse the world map from the first game, as you will find new biomes to explore and discover here. The soundtrack is great – just like the pixels were perfect in the world Castle Pixel set out to create – as I found myself nodding along to some of the beats in the various locales.
There was one occurrence where I noticed the game suffered some performance issues and it was in an optional dungeon where lots of skeleton enemies were spawning in one area of the room, and zombies were spawning from the ground in another. With so many enemies on screen and Lily having a tough time combating all of them, I noticed some dips in the framerate. This was the only occurrence in my entire play through, however.
Blossom Tales II: The Minotaur Prince builds off everything the first game did well, expanding in depth while retaining its charming Zelda-like core identity. The framed, Princess Bride inspired story telling, the witty yet humorous writing, and massive world for you to explore is just fantastic. This entry really reminds me of Link’s Awakening as the map in Blossom Tales II: The Minotaur Prince doesn’t feel much bigger than the first game, but it is much denser in quality. I beat the game at around 12 hours with a majority of the side quests and upgrades completed. The game can probably be completed in less hours if you choose not to explore every nook and cranny, but you would be losing out on some nice upgrades. If you liked the first game, then you will surely enjoy this entry as all of the puzzle-packed dungeons, rewarding exploration (from secret caves to bombable walls) are also here.
My only real complaint is with how many side quests, especially collectible/fetch-based ones, there are – a better way to manage and keep track of them between the map, log, and inventory system would be much appreciated. For example, being able to toggle on the map a check mark which locations you have planted a seed, placed a fruit, or which ones you have discovered. Hopefully the third entry will address this concern.
Nintendo has chosen – at the time of writing this review – not to release a Zelda game this year, which is unfortunate. But if you are clamoring for a new Zelda-like experience, then look no further as Blossom Tales is here to fill that void. Just like the first game, Blossom Tales II: The Minotaur Prince does a great job of mixing the nostalgia of older 2D Zelda games while infusing their own identity through funny characters and great storytelling. Blossom Tales 1 was and still is one of my favorite indies on Switch, and now I can add Blossom Tales II: The Minotaur Prince to that list.