When you walk through a forest or exercise your green thumb while gardening, you venture remarkably close to the secret world lurking just out of view. Peel back the flickering leaves and peek through the thorns and stems, and you spy ants and aphids as they go about their business. Inchworms crawl along the branches, and millipedes tunnel into the soil. The ground is alive with activity and contains both the peacefulness and apathy of Mother Nature.
Morphopolis introduces you to such a world, putting you in control of various insects over the course of five stages and having you mosey along stems and leaves, solving minor puzzles so that you may progress. Those puzzles are not the game’s most pervasive element, however: most of the time, Morphopolis takes the form of a traditional hidden-object game. You lead your bug down the few possible paths, clicking on the eggs, flowers, and disembodied grasshopper legs hidden in the busy, detailed environments until you collect the prescribed number. In turn, you click on the insect or foliage associated with the collected goodies in order to initiate a simple brainteaser, which might involve parroting the sequence of lights signaled by a group of creepy-crawlies, or piecing together a moth-themed jigsaw puzzle.
Anyone up for wings?
Morphopolis’ picturesque backdrops and soothing soundtrack are immediately inviting. Seed pods and imposing dragonflies look as though they were brushed onto the screen, and background blurring allows your focus to remain on the foreground, even while the game implies many layers of thriving flora and fauna. The color scheme gives the game a surreal quality–this is heightened reality brought to you with soft magentas, vivid purples, and subdued greens. In the first level, a harp performs slow arpeggios while synthesizers drone soothing harmonies. In later levels, where the themes darken, the harmonies turn from major to minor, and the rhythm is provided not by the plucking of harp strings, but by xylophone clanks and bongo beats. A tapestry of chirping crickets and tweeting birds puts the finishing touches on Morphopolis’ atmosphere. I loved being in this place. It was almost as if I could feel the pollen and humidity fill my lungs with every breath.
Pixar should make a film about bugs. Oh wait. They totally did.
When it came to interacting with its world, however, Morphopolis left me wanting. Each level follows the same pattern as the last. You click on hidden objects until you unlock a quick-and-easy puzzle, so that you can unlock the next group of objects to click on, so that you can unlock the next quick-and-easy puzzle. The only puzzle that I got hung up on wasn’t due to its challenge, but due to its lack of visual feedback; because it wasn’t clear that certain elements could be interacted with, and how to interact with them, I had to fiddle around until something happened. Otherwise, I breezed through the five levels relatively unimpeded in about 45 minutes, wishing that the game would uproot its structure and deliver new ideas.
It was almost as if I could feel the pollen and humidity fill my lungs with every breath.
Clicking on objects that seem organic to the world rather than ridiculously random objects cluttering the screen makes for a nice change among hidden-object games, but the items are so easy to find that I was never transfixed by the process. Eventually, I grew to see the puzzles, as well as my insects’ dawdling speeds, as a hindrance to what I really wanted to experience: the joy of taking in a new set of gorgeous sights. What a terrific place Morphopolis is. So terrific, in fact, that I wish there were less tedium to separate me from its stunning scenery.