Format: PC (browser/flash)
Sprout is a small game, created in 72 hours for the Ludum Dare 34 under the theme of two-button controls and/or growing, and was actually noted as one of the top 15 in the contest [http://ludumdare.com/compo/2016/01/04/top-15/]. It's a simple Metroidvania, starting with you, a tiny ball of a sprout of some… thing. Like all good Metroidvanias, you eventually gain upgrades adding mechanical and visual changes to your little sprout character. Eventually you're exploring the whole laboratory you're in, fiddling with all the different puzzles and mechanics until you eventually get an upgrade to allow you to get off of the island you're on.
Mechanically this game is very straight forward. You start off as a little ball of a sprout, rolling along a rather linear path until you get the first upgrade, the leg upgrade, and the rest of the game is a simple platformer. Later comes the eye mechanic, and with every eye comes a tear. Or rapid fire tears. With the eye upgrade you are able to shoot tear drops in pretty much every direction. The controls are simple enough, with the W,A,S, and D keys controlling movement and the arrow keys controlling the tear shots. Other upgrades are pretty much keycards to doors and a jetpack that, while not really needing to used in the game, is your ticket off the island.
Mechanics in the game world itself would include things like bouncy springs, trees, and blocks disappearing when you have a key card or press a button. Trees are probably the most unique mechanic on that list, and work like this: In a room there might be a little tree, with bark and a few leave here and there. These trees will grow a little towards the source of water whenever it is hit by water. This means you are able to grow trees over gaps or risk having trees accidentally block your path. There are little bird enemies you can also kill with your tears, but for the most part the trees are what your tears are for.
The laboratory, seemingly abandoned, serves are pretty much the entire game world, and isn't really too big of one. It's a rather simple place, but there's enough variety room to room to keep it fresh and entertaining. As you explore you come across pits of acid, solar powered buttons, and of course, trees. You explore the lab by avoiding or toying with these presumable experiments, acquiring your upgrades along the way.
This is a game similar to Insidia in the fact that it's world building happens solely by exploring the world. You explore and see all of these experiments and it makes you wonder what their uses would've been and what possibly went wrong. Heck, you might've been an experiment, or the reason the laboratory went under, or better yet a failed experiment that ruined the establishment. When you give it some time it really makes you think. You're just a little spore who gains powers and adapts and gets more advanced, all with the task of getting off the island the lab is on. Is that all though? What if you were left on an island, in the middle of a lack of acid mind you, to be… contained?
A minor problem I had with the game is obtaining the jetpack, aka the final upgrade of the game. How you obtain it is by watering eight of these flower buds into fully bloomed flowers. Once you water them all, in no particular order, the jetpack just pops into your inventory. You always see the flower buds around, and there's a counter for how many you've watered, but there's nothing to imply that this is how you get the jetpack. Watering all of the flower buds also requires a lot of backtracking, and the lab, as small as it is, is a pain to try and navigate back through.
The art is a simple pixelated style, a norm for Ludum Dare entries, but has a particular style that I found quite enjoyable. It has the standard grays of any laboratory, along with the neon green of acid, the liquid blue of water and tears, and the brown of fresh tree bark. Visuals are appealing, with pretty decent animations to boot. Music is a pretty basic electronic loop that plays through the entire game. It's not too repetitive and fits well with the atmosphere of the game, which, to put in one word, is creepy.
Overall Sprout is a decent play, as small as it is. It's a short but sweet experience. Nothing about it is bad, but not much is groundbreaking, which isn't bad. It's clear to see why this game is a good contender for the Ludum Dare.
Play Sprout HERE