In Ender Lilies, you play as Lily, a young girl who awakens to a kingdom that has been plagued with blight, a curse that twists humanity into monsters. Guide her on her journey to unearth the secrets hidden within a world that has succumbed to sickness.
Ender Lilies scores a 10/10 for the atmosphere alone. Upon loading the game you are greeted with gorgeous visuals and haunting music that immediately sets the tone, sucking you in and readying you for your upcoming melancholy adventure.
This world is a solemn one, devoid of hope and desperate for solace. The gentle notes from the piano rarely ever tilt towards the faster-paced ‘enemy incoming’ tones that are commonplace within usual game sound design. All you can do within this world is destroy the rot that appears before you, regardless of whether the threat is from a friend or foe. Occasionally you can purify their soul – but they are dead, and all this does is ensure that their afterlife is peaceful.
For a game to be so brutal and yet so serene offers the player a unique experience. Within this harrowing world there is beauty to be found, and surely that elicits some hope that it can be saved, even when the circumstances seem hopeless.
I’ll be listening to the soundtrack for a long while, I imagine.
The main gameplay loop comes from defeating bosses and then using their spirits to further progress through the other areas. I love this idea – I often fall in love with exceptionally designed bosses in other games, and it’s always bittersweet when they’re defeated because, well, they’re dead, and I don’t get to see them for the rest of that playthrough. But this isn’t a problem in Ender Lilies, as their spirits become abilities for you to use in combat. There are a good handful of spirits to choose from, which helps to keep the gameplay fresh and make combat versatile, especially in the late game. There are dozens of combinations to choose from, allowing the player to really cater to a play style that suits them the most.
Bosses are hard but nowhere near impossible. Of course, some are easier than others, but the harder challenges never felt unfair. It was a satisfying experience to overcome a boss that I’d previously struggled with, and I was rewarded with a new ability that furthered my exploration. Boss design is where the gameplay really shines, and where I found myself having the most fun.
The platforming is okay. There aren’t any crazy challenges that fans of the genre may be hoping for. I’d say that the games focus steers more towards combat, and the platforming aspect was rather an afterthought for the style of game they chose to design. It’s not bad by any measure, but it doesn’t try to do anything innovative or different from other entries in the 2D platforming genre.
Ender Lilies story isn’t one that is going to stun or astound the player. The basic plotline is quite simple: there is a disease that is rotting the world, Lily has not been tainted by it, it’s her job to remedy it. It’s a storyline we’ve seen time and time again, and there are no particular twists or turns along the way that personally caught me off guard.
However, I had fun revisiting the previously unexplorable parts of areas when I received new skills. I think a majority of the hours I spent in this game were spent exploring, finding hidden tidbits of lore and secret relics to upgrade my character. Whilst the storyline isn’t anything particularly new, there is a charm to the way that it is handled, and I found the overall experience to be enjoyable.
Your Umbral Knight speaks to you at certain points upon discovering new locations, adding much needed context that can sometimes really help the player understand the significance of the area they’re about to adventure through. Small, stylistic choices such as these help with the overall world-building. At no point did I think an area was designed a certain way just for the ‘spooky’ factor, every detail felt purposeful, and that enabled my immersion.
Ender Lilies absolutely hits the nail on the head when it comes to character design. From bosses, to spirits, to Lily herself, there is so much personality given to those which you encounter along your journey.
Lily especially encapsulates the tender, fragile world that you are traversing. She is young, and she is scared. Her idle animation has her arms encircling her waist, cowering into herself as she stands alone, her only companions the ghosts that accompany her. I like that Lily never directly engages in combat herself. Her spirits fight on her behalf, protecting her on her journey, keeping her innocent hands clean as she faces a fate she has no choice but to embrace.
There are many positive things I could say about several of the bosses, but in order to keep this review spoiler-free, I will refrain. It is an experience the player deserves to have themselves, as I know I was captivated numerous times during my blind playthrough, and prior knowledge would have soured that experience.
Ender Lilies is a solid game that feels fleshed out and fulfilling to play. Players who are looking for a darker style, combat-focused Metroidvania game will have a lot of fun with this title. For its current price of £21.99 on the Switch, there is a lot of value for money, with lots to explore, a satisfying gameplay loop and three different endings. There are many hours of fun to be had for a reasonable price.
If this review has piqued your curiosity at all then I highly recommend you give this title a try. I was pleasantly surprised, and those who are craving a shorter, more manageable gameplay experience will no doubt be satisfied.
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