Sunday, July 30, 2017

Welcome to WonderSwan World: Tane wo Maku Tori

This Bandai-published WonderSwan game was one of the first I picked up--along with Engacho!--when I began collecting for this GameBoy competitor back in 2012.

Not that I was able to play it at that time. I didn't buy a WonderSwan system, a translucent black Color model, until three years later. (Here is the post I published about that momentous event, in case you're curious. And if you'd like to learn more about the WonderSwan Color hardware, check out this "Welcome to WonderSwan World" write-up.)

So what do I think of Tane wo Maku Tori now that I've spent some time with it? I like it--quite a lot, actually.

As for why that is, here are the main reasons:

Tane wo Maku Tori is a puzzle game, a genre which the WonderSwan handles better than almost any other.
* To play it, you hold your WonderSwan system of choice sideways, in portrait or "TATE" mode. (Any title that allows this earns bonus points from me.)
* This 1999 release features an appealingly high-contrast aesthetic.
* It also offers up an eclectic soundtrack that veers from morosely moody to buoyantly blippy.

Tane wo Maku Tori's gameplay is noteworthy, too, although not always in the most positive way, if I'm allowed to be honest.

On the surface, at least, the puzzling action presented here is refreshingly unique. Your goal: to guide water droplets from the top of the WonderSwan's screen to a seed or seeds that are waiting at the bottom.

You do this to help the game's protagonist, the crow seen in the first screenshot above, fill his hometown with flowers before his migratory friend returns from the south. (That description was provided by, by the way.)

As for how you guide the above-mentioned droplets from one end of the screen to the other, that's not so easily explained. The gist, though, is each water drop can take one of four paths down to the seeds scattered on the ground, with the paths in question represented by bamboo stalks, vines, construction girders and more. To complicate matters, these "vessels" are joined at various points.

Those connectors--tree branches, additional beams and the like--are all you control while playing Tane wo Maku Tori. Using the WonderSwan's left-most set of face buttons, you press up or down to move the "connecting bits" in that same direction, while pressing left or right changes which section of connectors are under your control.

So, you move the branches and beams and whatnot up and down to enable the water drops to land one of the seeds below.

Early on, that's all you have to worry about while playing Tane wo Maku Tori. After a few levels, however, enemies--in the form of water-loving bugs and slugs and other creepy-crawlies--throw a wrench into the works by joining the fray.

That's where things get a little messy, or at least that's where they tend to get messy for me. Trying to corral droplets while also keeping them clear of roaming baddies quickly becomes a real challenge--to the point that Tane wo Maku Tori often feels a bit too frantic for its own good.

Still, I'm glad it exists, as its many quirks allow it to stand out in the WonderSwan's dense field of puzzle games. Also, it's a puzzler that stars a sad crow; it would be kind of hard not to like such a thing, wouldn't you agree?

Have any of you played Tane wo Maku Tori? If so, share your own feelings about it in the comments section of this post. And feel free to share any advice or tips you may have with me there, too--I'm all ears!

See also: previous 'Welcome to WonderSwan World' posts and photos of Tane wo Maku Tori's lovely packaging

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