Lili is one of the latest games in a long line to use the Unreal Engine to terrific effect on iOS. It’s a beautiful game, with tons of personality that uses a lot of familiar elements in creative ways. The story focuses on young college student, Lili, heading off to the island of Geos to study magical flowers for class. Collecting flowers is, oddly enough, the central game mechanic here, but don’t let that scare you off.
Lili takes a great deal of inspiration from more traditional open-world role-playing games, but simplifies the formula to fit more easily on a smaller screen. Lili has only three basic stats that can be improved upon and she collects an array of items and even outfits, but there’s a definite casual bent to the game. Geos is divided into several zones that are unlocked by completing quests for the strange natives. The island is divided into two distinct races– the overbearing, rude Spirits that run the place and the wooden constructs who are forced to do the spirits’ bidding.
Although the gameplay in Lili doesn’t vary much, this casual and engaging adventure held our interest from start to finish. It’s a beautiful game with simple mechanics that is well worth checking out. At around five or six hours it’s not terribly long, but still offers great personality and plenty to explore.
Lili soon finds herself a hero to the constructs because she can do battle with the spirits. Battle, however, is unlike anything seen before in a RPG. To banish a spirit, Lili must chase it down, leap onto its back, and pull its flowers out. This minigame requires precise finger sliding to pop out the flowers while avoiding thorns. As the spirits become more agitated, they even sprout bombs you must quickly pluck off. If Lili misses too much, or a bomb goes off, she gets flung off the spirit and must try again.
The floral combat gets harder as the game progresses, although the difficulty of the final level seems just a bit too ratcheted up. Lili can’t be killed though, and doesn’t even have a health bar– instead she has a “grip” rating, which dictates how long she can stay on a spirit.
Beyond chasing down spirits, there are flowers to pick all over the island and treasure chests to discover. Chests and defeated enemies provide coins, but flowers are used as currency as well. The game is generous enough with treasure that the micro-transaction elements can be safely ignored without problem. Lili can buy or acquire her own bombs to stun opponents, invisibility potions to sneak up on the spirits, and speed sandwiches to help her run faster.
Eventually, the vile mayor of Geos starts leaving guards around as well, who can’t be defeated. It would have been nice if there were options for dealing with them beyond avoidance, and for some reason they remain in place even after the game has been beaten. Another oddity is finding clothing items in chests, yet none of them are actually usable by Lili. There are costumes available for purchase– some with in-game money, while others are only available via a microtransaction. This lack of customization is disappointing, given how creative the rest of the game is.
One of the bright points of the game is its sense of humor. Although most of the dialogue is text only, the game is full of sly jokes (especially about videogames). Lili is a likable character, and the weird denizens of Geos are all worth seeking out. More quests would have been welcome overall, but the game is largely about finding all the items and characters spread around the island. It keeps track of all the constructs Lili has met, the spirits she’s defeated, and treasures collected, so players always have an idea of how much is left to discover.
Geos is a beautiful place to visit. Full of streets, forests, and houses to explore, it’s a place where just wandering around is a pleasure thanks to the colorful, well drawn visuals. The game’s control scheme is kept as simple as possible. Tap once to make Lili walk or twice to run, then simply steer her by sliding to rotate the camera. We did encounter occasional sensitivity issues in making Lili move, but for the most part the game controls well.