Morphopolis is one of the most visually luxurious games I’ve ever played. As soon as you enter this world, you’re struck by the intertwining vines, soft petals, silk buds and rough bark of the branches. Playing the game with the touch-screen of my iPad felt like I should have been able to feel the textures as I brushed my finger over the natural-chic scenes.
It’s not just a painterly feat, either. Each of the five levels in Morphopolis are brought to life with the ritualistic habits of the bugs and light particles that hover in the foreground, and shifts in focus add a sense of depth. It’s quite magical.
As Morphopolis is a hidden object game, it’s your duty to search every last morsel of these screens. It’s doubly rewarding when you notice a wing of the type of bug you’re looking for poking out from behind an overhanging flower. Not only have you found another of the item you needed, but you also get to admire the illustration up close.
“in the beginning, the grass blades look like skyscrapers”
The delicate piano playing in the background as you scan for petals, seeds and bugs provides the same relaxing quality as similar hidden object game The Ting Bang Story, which had gentle percussion-led tracks that caused me to affectionately rename it “my lullaby game.” To mention The Tiny Bang Story again, I’d compare the thin narrative of both it and Morphopolis that links each of the levels together in sequence.
Morphopolis has you play as an aphid that you can move around the levels along pre-set paths. Your end goal in nearly every level is to repair the corpse of a larger bug, maybe a bee or a mantis, and then hop inside its head for a parasitic ride. In the next level, you’ll be playing as the aphid inside that bigger bug, and this continues until you end up with a a bug-themed Matryoshka doll. It also means that each level zooms out further than the last. So, in the beginning, the grass blades look like skyscrapers, but nearer the end of the game, you’re stepping over them.
It’s quite unusual for a hidden object game to have a central character as Morphopolis does, but it works well here, mostly. The only problem I found with having this aphid to control is that the game fails to explain that you can tap it to let out a small exertion, as marked by the green particles that fly out from its body. It should have been covered in the tutorial, which did show you to drag your bug around and to click on parts of the HUD to connect collected items and the plants or bugs that require them.
So, when arriving in the second level and needing to tap the bug to clear a drop of liquid, I didn’t know what to do, and only when consulting a Let’s Play did I find this out. I’d point out that the person playing in that video happened to stumble across that ability through luck.
Once you discover that you can use your bug to affect some parts of the environment, it’s smooth sailing all the way through.
“one of the most beautiful and characterful of the genre”
Something I enjoyed over and over in Morphopolis is how the objects you collect aren’t just random items that blended in well with the environments (although they do, naturally). The objects are connected to the life in the microcosm, and when you collect them, they’ll affect the fungi, plant or bug that you give them to.
The tutorial level has you start off hanging down from a branch, looking to cocoon yourself alongside another of your kind. To do that, you need to move into position, and then draw out enough silk to dangle down near the flowers below. You need to collect the silk from a nearby plant, but not all of it has sprouted yet, and so you employ the help of a flying insect to encourage it out after you’ve found some buds for it to eat.
The silk and the buds are the hidden objects in this case, although, because this is a tutorial, they’re made easy to find. But that’s an example of how finding the objects in the screen actually makes sense within the scenario and helps the aphid along on its journey through the undergrowth.
To break up the routine of scanning the screen (as gorgeous as it is), Morphopolis has some mini-games for you to complete, which are provided by, or take place within, the bugs and plants once you’ve found all of the objects they require. One involves tracing muddled lines to match colors, another involves memorizing a sequence of glowing fireflies, and yet another is a jigsaw puzzle made out of butterflies and moths.
They get progressively trickier, and I ended up solving the last one by brute forcing my way through. Not that it was bad; I just don’t have much patience for slightly fiddly, and I don’t think there’s really a way to plan a solution for it, unless you want to spend needless minutes drawing it out. On that note, the last puzzle opened up a rock into, well, somewhere; you send your bug in, but don’t get to see for yourself. I’m not sure if I’m missing something, but the level ended there, and so did the game. I was expecting something more. The narrative seemed to be leading up to a conclusive event as I was heading to a destination, presumably, but I got nothing. It didn’t feel right. It didn’t detract from the game as a whole, but an ending sequence, or some kind of resolution, would have finished the game off well is all.
While Morphopolis isn’t the perfect hidden object adventure game, it’s one of the most beautiful and characterful of the genre and easily pokes its head out above many games outside of the genre. Unfortunately, the hidden object genre does tend to be overlooked, but if you enjoy these types of games, know that Morphopolis is a must-play whose relaxing two-hour journey will have you engaged, rather than frustrated, throughout.