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Publisher: Reflexive Entertainment    Genre: Adventure & RPG
Min OS X: 10.4

Sprouts Adventure
November 3, 2009 | Charlie Fletcher

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When I saw the animated trailer for Sprouts Adventure, I was thoroughly taken with the game. However, I'll have to say I was thoroughly disappointed when I sat down to play it. After an hour or so, I was repeating after the characters in the game, "I'm bored. I'm so bored."

Sprouts Adventure is a beautiful game. The artwork is well executed. The grass looks like grass, and the trees look like trees. Even the fantastical little sprouts look quite believable and have endearing little voices. The music is very nice to listen to, although it gets a little repetitive. But that's always the case for me in a simulation game like this.

The cut scene that introduces you to Sprouts Adventure does a really good job of drawing you into the story and perhaps that was the problem for me. Maybe, after watching the trailer and that first cut scene, I got my hopes up too high. Nevertheless, I found the game to be tedious in the extreme.

Sprouts Adventure is a simulation game where you get to play a sort of godlike being who controls the lives of very small little animated plantlike creatures. Apparently, they've been shipwrecked on an island. They are very young and need careful and continuous guidance. In order to help them survive, you have to keep them working, resting, playing, eating. Everything that they do, you must direct. You have to tell them to build a sleeping building, school a garden, and many other structures in order to enhance their survival. Unfortunately, they can also get sick of what they're doing and just give up. Then you have to entertain them until they feel like working again.

Meanwhile, on the plus side, I guess, is the fact that the sprouts really like you a lot, want to pray to you, and even make offerings of some of the stones and stuff that you tell them to pick up. As you progress in the game, you also acquire spells you can use to make things easier for your sprouts. The spells will help plants grow, give your sprouts energy, and even create new sprouts from eggs.

Sprouts Adventure is a simple game, and it would be well-suited for young children. My dedicated tester, Roxanne (who is also my 13-year-old daughter) played through Sprouts Adventure in a few hours. However, once she had finished the game, Roxanne saw no point in playing it again. She enjoyed the story, and she did not mind the tedium up to a point. But by the end, there were no challenges left. By contrast, Roxanne spent weeks upon weeks playing Virtual Villagers, which is a very similar game.

Also on the negative side was the responsiveness of the user interface in Sprouts Adventure. It was remarkably sluggish. Since the map spans a larger area than a computer monitor, it's necessary to somehow change your camera view at times. Unfortunately, this is not as straightforward as it might have been.

In the Age of Empires series of games, you run into the same situation, large maps and a need to navigate from one area to another. Also like Age of Empires, sometimes it's necessary to locate one of your computer characters and send him to another part of the map. In Age of Empires, all you have to do is zoom in on the character's location on the map, select the character, and command-click the location on the mini map where you would like him to go.

Unfortunately, in Sprouts Adventure, it's not nearly so easy. First you have to zoom out, locate your character, scroll to that part of the map where the character is standing, select the character, and tell him to move to a spot visible on the map. As he moves in the desired direction, you scroll the map and keep clicking on the edge of the map and scrolling until your character reaches the desired spot. As if this procedure was not tedious enough, the scrolling is very sluggish, even on my very fast, brand-new iMac.

Another annoyance along the same lines was the fact that if you start the game with other applications running, the windows for those applications will end up being resized. When you are done playing, you return to a rather disheveled situation among the applications you have running before you started. The only way to avoid this problem, is to set the game so that it runs in a window instead of in full screen mode. However, this has the negative effect of making the scrolling in the game even more difficult, because, if your mouse strays beyond the margin of the game window, it can cause even more sluggish scrolling, or take you out of the game entirely if you accidentally click outside the window.

All in all, I found Sprouts Adventure to be a rather mediocre entrant in the casual game market. It starts out as a great idea, but the implementation needs more work. If you have some young children who need a simulation game to play, Sprouts Adventure may be just the thing for them. However, if you're looking for something for an older child, or yourself, this game is not worth your time.

• Pretty music
• Nice voice acting
• Pretty artwork
• Well suited for young children

• Too little control over screen resolution options
• Cumbersome map navigation
• Sluggish map scrolling
• Very little replay value

Sprouts Adventure
Publisher: Reflexive Entertainment
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