Never underestimate the joy of a simple concept. There is serenity that can be found in losing yourself in the most basic of mechanics. The wonderfully named So Much Drama Studios has captured that kind of peace in their first title, Fireflies. The concept isn’t original (the same mechanics are featured in the flash game Chain Reaction), but the presentation on display here elevates this $0.99 purchase from emulation to evolution.
Fireflies offers up 60 levels spread equally over six different settings. These are simply changes in the backdrop, providing just enough variety to keep the visuals interesting. The gameplay is simple. In the story mode, players are tasked with catching a specified number of fireflies with light. Tapping on the screen starts things off, with each insect that collides with it setting off their own spark that can, in turn, nab more. You only get one tap, but restarting a failed level is quick and painless.
At the outset, only white fireflies will populate the screen. These erupt into a light exactly like the one generated by players. Later on, other colors join the fun, each with a different effect. Larger light blooms, longer lasting glows and erupting bugs that can spread the reaction to different sections of the screen all introduce just a hint of strategy into the game. Your decision is always the same, and always straightforward. Timing and placing your single light is all you need to worry about.
That is the game’s biggest draw and its most severe downfall at the same time. If you are interested in kicking back and simply watching gorgeous effects with the hauntingly peaceful music behind it, you’re likely going to get what you want out of Fireflies. It was nice to have a chance to play a game that soothed me rather than ramped up my blood pressure. If you hate randomness, though. The potential for frustration is present.
After placing your glow, you are at the mercy of the fireflies. There is nothing you can do to influence their flight paths. There are no power ups, and player manipulation is all but absent.
The 60 levels can be played through rather quickly. I made it through them in an hour, but certainly didn’t get a “Perfect” rating on each. This is earned by clearing the entire stage of fireflies. Scores are also awarded for performance. Extending chains, rather than starting multiple new ones, seems to be how to increase your point total. That isn’t made clear in the instructions, unfortunately.
In addition to the story, which offers only light fare and is absolutely inconsequential to the experience, there is an arcade mode. Here, players are provided with multiple chances to catch fireflies, with the field replenished after each reaction completes. Reaching a checkpoint refills the supply, allowing skilled lightning bug hunters an opportunity to continue endlessly.
If you’re looking for an experience with absolutely no consequences though, you can give Zen Mode a try. There’s no score, no light limit and an endless supply of fireflies. It’s not so much a game as a meditation exercise.
The visuals are straightforward and reminiscent of the illustrations of many of the books on my children’s’ shelves. The brief cutscenes featuring the young children are also friendly, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find myself reading something similar when tucking the kids in for bed. The sound ties everything together, and while I won’t be humming the tunes, they provide the same kind of serene, mellowing experience that would perfectly complement a trip to a spa. This is further accentuated by the gentle tones emitted as each firefly gets caught in the light.
Fireflies isn’t groundbreaking in its mechanics, but it does bring something special to the table. In a landscape full of mind-bending puzzles, heart-pounding action and intense strategic decisions, it’s nice to have an experience that aims to relax rather than rev up. Unwinding with this approachable title is worth the $0.99.
Here’s the Rundown:
+ Lighthearted presentation
+ Wonderful music
+ Simple concept
+ Encourages relaxation
+ Three modes offer different ways to experience the concept
– Minimal player control
– Short play time – 60 levels can be run through in an hour
8 and 8.5 represent a game that is a good experience overall. While there may be some issues that prevent it from being fantastic, these scores are for games that you feel would easily be worth a purchase.
Fireflies was developed and published by So Much Drama Studios. It is available on the iOS app store for $0.99. A copy was provided by the publisher to RipTen for the purposes of review.