Eufloria HD is a brutal game. Oh sure, it looks to be all pastels and flowers, but beneath its groovy new-wave art-style and bloopy, soothing soundtrack lies a game about life-or-death survival. A very fun game about life-or-death survival, as it turns out.
Eufloria HD is an iPad-only port of Eufloria, an indie PC and PS3 game created by a team of three game developers—Alex May, Rudolf Kremers and Brian Graingerm. It's a stripped-down real-time strategy game where players control colonies of trees and seedlings, each of which is spread out among a group of tiny asteroids. (The trees in the game are called "Dyson trees," deriving their name from the Dyson Tree, a hypothetical genetically-engineered tree that can grow on a comet.)
At the start of each level, players have control of a certain number of seedlings, little fly-like beings that flit around and between the circular asteroids like bugs around porchlights.
If you have enough seedlings around an asteroid, you can plant a Dyson tree, which serves as a base of sorts and causes more seedlings to grow. A tree can only support so many seedlings, however, and so comes the gameplay imperative—expand, expand, expand. Conquer new territories, and in doing so, complete each level.
Your colonial expansion is complicated by the presence of other enemy trees and seedlings. The moment they appear, you are commanded by your more-than-a-little-fascist "Mother Tree" to exterminate all of them and take over their asteroids. Of course, enemy seedlings fight back, so the game turns into a series of tense skirmishes as you route your flocks of seedlings quickly through your network of asteroids, volleying attacks onto enemy locations while watching your back for flanking.
Eufloria HD can be played at any of three speeds, which makes it easier or harder, depending on what you're in the mood for. At a slower speed, it feels much more meditative, while the higher speeds strip away any pretense of placidity and reveal the steely-eyed conquest machine within.
Eufloria HD's greatest strength lies in the simplicity of its basic systems. There aren't very many unit types, and so there's very little to keep track of. Most skirmishes come down to numbers and unit allocation.
A good number of seedlings are required in order to conquer larger enemy outposts, but in order to keep them moving, you must be constantly grabbing and re-routing seedling troops from other locations. It's a fun, constant yo-yo between attacking and resource management, and once you get used to the controls (which doesn't take too long, as they are well-implemented), you'll be directing your seedlings all over the battlefield like a seasoned general.
There is something off-putting about the story—it's just so alien and cold. It almost feels unnecessary—did a game like this really need a story? Eufloria HD says quite a bit simply via its framing and mechanics. In fact, the game feels somewhat like a philosophical riposte to Flower. ThatGameCompany's soothing PS3 game was all about nature and life, growth and expansion… but told as an "up with plants!" redemption story.