Lili for iPad and iPhone review

3D action games must include at least one of these things: shooting/stabbing/punching. Those are The Rules. Lili does not follow these rules: it is a game which aims for a more universal audience than the testosterone-focused bro-crowd most of its peers seek.  It is primarily for kids, but it has a certain pith and some impressively high-end, console-quality graphics which will draw in grown ups too.

It’s the tale of a the titular Lili, who’s basically the Harry Potter of botany – except female, untroubled by dark pasts  and exploring a tropical island populated by wooden robots and snarky spirits.  Being a botanist - albeit a magical one -her primary goal is flower collection, which she achieves by searching for and chasing down said spirits, leaping upon their oddly rocky backs and plucking whatever plants appear from them. It's violence-free, though there is something oddly brutal about it. The spirits seem more annoyed than harmed, at least.

Rendered using the Unreal engine - the same tech behind the Infinity Blade games, but this is far more high-speed and moveable even if it's not quite as impressive - Lili is certainly one of the best-looking iOS games around. Lili herself is a minor rendering marvel - a sort of nerdy teenage Lara Croft (without the sometimes grotty sexualisation) boasting all manner of small details, while the preponderance of lush vegetation makes for a welcoming setting.

You're also offered large levels to roam around as you please, spending collected flowers and coins on upgrades for Lili's power, stability and stealth as well as new outfits and whatnot. The restrictions of touchscreens obviously apply, but this really isn't far short of a console game. 

More problematic is its sheer tweeness, which it tries hard to offset with offbeat humour and leftfield character designs, but there's no escaping that its focus on flower-picking, perma-smiley cutsey wood-people and Lili's eternal peppiness will prove grating for many. The in-app purchases (flowers and costumes, primarily) also seem a bit seedy in what's already a premium-priced game - not to mention that they rather undermine its collection-centric point.

So, while Lili is onto something with its universal appeal and impressively open world, its primary role is probably going to be as a technical showcase for your iDevice. And it really will have anyone who thought (positively or negatively) that Angry Birds was the be all and end all of mobile gaming cooing in amazed delight. Whether you - or anyone else -will truly be in it for the long haul of flower-collecting, spirit-chasing and outfit-shopping is perhaps another matter entirely.

Download Lili for the iPad and iPhone from the App Store here

OUR VERDICT

Lili is comfortably one of the most technically impressive iOS games around, and strives hard to be original. It sort of manages it, though every triumph is met by an irritation. And despite the beautiful, big setting, the fundamental flower-plucking activity starts to wear thin fairly quickly. Definitely more suited to kids than grown-ups, but there's stuff here to charm cold adult hearts too.

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