Sawbuck Gamer

Take Care Of The Trees

Lost In The Woods

Take Care Of The Trees has something up its sleeve, but not enough.

By Landon Gray Mitchell • June 18, 2012

Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap ($10 or less) game.

It’s a trick. Take Care Of The Trees is not a game of arbor love. Oh, sure, everything starts out peachy. There are cottages and dusty paths and, yes, trees. The sun shines on a Zelda-like world. The player all but hears the Master Sword calling out “Adventure!” in the distance. But when your brother goes to town for an ax and doesn’t come back, the game’s tar-black heart is revealed.

Dark things happen in Take Care Of The Trees, and they’re only made darker by their delivery. The creator is like a magician who, in his attempts to artfully veil his trick, focuses entirely on the veil and forgets to put anything in the black empty space behind it. The veil is still lovely: The graphics are charming, the soundtrack is playful, and the voice acting is velvety. But Trees tells us nothing about what it’s hiding. We learn little about the characters, their relationships, or why they do the things they do. I would happily fill in the blanks myself if there were any not-blank fragments to grab onto—some point of purchase. Take Care Of The Trees gives the impression that it’s about to pull a coin from my ear, reveal my card. Maybe on the next level, or the one after that. Maybe in the final moments. But then the veil is lifted—ta-da! A “Play again?” button. It was just another trick.

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163 Responses to “Lost In The Woods”

  1. George_Liquor says:

    Does anyone else find the constant march of retro 8- & 16-bit-looking games a bit tiresome?

    • Girard says:

       Not any more than the constant march of naturalistic HD games, really. Like anything else, Sturgeon’s Law applies, but I’m not going to dismiss an entire aesthetic out of hand.

      • George_Liquor says:

        I’m not saying they’re all crap, nor am I dismissing the whole retro aesthetic out of hand. I’ve played several terrific retro-modern games. (SMB Crossover comes to mind.) But to me, it seems too many of them rely on that 8/16-bit look to draw players in by engendering a false sense of nostalgia, rather than developing their own unique look or gameplay. This shell of a video game is a perfect example.

        • Girard says:

           I definitely agree that a lot of flash/indie games tend to over-rely on a quaint pixel aesthetic and try to get by on that rather than on a compelling concept (or a genuinely interesting aesthetic). I also agree that this game is total pants.

          I don’t think the problem is endemic to this kind of game in particular, though. I’d wager the proportion of flash games that lazily coast of the supposed charm of pixel graphics is about the same as the proportion of console games that lazily coast on the supposed allure of rendering every sinew in excruciating (hyper-)realism. Most games of any stripe are going to tend to be a bit style-over-sunstance, I think.

  2. pgold05 says:

    Beat it in 4 Minutes, It took longer the read the review.

  3. Tehvin says:

    Ugh.

  4. HobbesMkii says:

    The ending was kind of weird. It more or less forces you to take an action, with no real payoff.

    Also, totally expecting the medicine salesman to be the villain. Why is he offering to sell medicine when he doesn’t have any?

  5. Swadian Knight says:

    I wish the authors had put more effort into the gameplay and story than they did into adding a ‘medal’ for every interaction you have with the game world. The game overall feels quite unfinished, although I quite enjoyed the music.

    • doyourealize says:

      Seems like the creator had one pretty cool idea, put it in a game, and then called it a day. I’ll admit I was intrigued (and yes, I enjoyed the music, too), but there’s just too many loose ends – the medicine salesman, which @HobbesMkii:disqus mentioned, the unexplorable path in the cave, not to mention the big loose end – to feel like I got anything out of it.

      • Swadian Knight says:

        I thought the medicine salesman was there to imply that the main character’s brother was hallucinating under the effects of his product, since he was positioned as if he was heading away from their house and towards the town.

        Everything else, though, I have absolutely no explanation for. Why do they live so far away from town? Who are they? Where does the cave lead and why do they want to go there? Why does the younger brother immediately head to the cave after seeing the massacre? It feels like chapter three of an old SNES RPG, and I don’t know why someone would make this game be the way it is.

        • Girard says:

           Yeah, the role of the medicine man was pretty clear, but the way he was implemented made zero sense – he tries to sell you the medicine he’s already sold to your brother, and he’s apparently sold it to your brother even when you don’t trigger your brother heading down in his direction.

          This game raises a ton of questions, which can be a good thing. However, it raises a ton of questions that are irritating and that I have no interest in answering, which is definitely a bad thing. (It’s a bit like Prometheus, in that respect.)

        • Swadian Knight says:

          @bakana42:disqus I think it’s not so much that I have no interest in answering these questions than it is that the creator seems to not have worried about providing any answer for them at all. It reminds me of the ending of Lost in that aspect, dragging you in with a mistery and then waving it away at the end (I have yet to see Prometheus, though. Is it worth watching at all?).

        • Girard says:

          @SwadianKnight:disqus :Damon Lindelof, co-creator of LOST, was one of the main writers of Prometheus, and a lot of same complaints have been leveled at both (I’ve never seen LOST, myself).

          The movie is extremely stupid, but has some interesting squicky set pieces and a pretty fantastic performance by Fassbender as the robot David. It might be worth a matinee showing, or an eventual Rifftrax viewing, but I wouldn’t recommend paying full price or making it the centerpiece of a fun evening out.

  6. Colonel_Popcorn says:

    I don’t know if this quite came off for me. Though I think it was interesting how it played with the idea of the retro silent protagonist, how the little guy couldn’t really react at all to anything that was going on. Plus the medicine man. What was his deal?

    • O Superman says:

      I think the implication is supposed to be that the brother took all the medicine and experienced the side effects.

  7. caspiancomic says:

    Wait, what? That wasn’t the end of the story! How could it possibly be!? It makes no sense! Why did any of it happen!? What happens next, and why should I care? Why am I being forced to slaughter these innocent civilians for no reason? And what in God’s name does any of it have to do with trees!?

    • Girard says:

      And why does nothing change if you choose not to talk to your brother, meaning he never heads down to town? (Yet somehow still commits his massacre?)

      And why does the medicine man offer to sell you medicine if he has none – this makes no sense from a narrative point of view (Why would he offer what he doesn’t have?), or from a ludic one (Why even provide a choice, if there is literally no choice to be made?). I guess a lot of RPGs offer false choices (usually, “Will you save the kingdom? Y/N” type things), but this game doesn’t seem to be commenting on that.

      And why does nothing change if, as the brother, you successfully navigate down to where the axe should be without killing or burning anything? Why is this game even interactive at all?

      This game barely has one idea, and it doesn’t even let you fully explore that. I can see it as an experiment or sketch for something more considered, but as it stands, it’s pretty lame all around.

  8. PaganPoet says:

    The frustrating thing is, this would actually be a really cool introduction to an action RPG.