Bonsai Barber Review
Bonsai Barber box art
System: Wii (WiiWare) Review Rating Legend
Dev: Zoonami 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Nintendo 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: March 30, 2009 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 3.5 - 3.9 = Good

Though WiiWare has been host to abbreviated versions of tried-and-true gameplay types, we've also been treated to a handful of experimental games that take advantage of the uniqueness of Wii in interesting and entertaining ways. Add to that short list Bonsai Barber, the latest creation from developer Zoonami.

Bonsai Barber screenshot

This is one game where the name pretty much says it all. Bonsai Barber begins by presenting you with a newspaper announcing the arrival of a new town barber (you). Your clientele? Cute, little bonsai trees. From the art style, to the dialogue and presentation, this is one adorable and very quirky WiiWare entry that is entertaining as an everyday Zen activity.

When you arrive at your new salon, you're greeted by Spudsworth who will walk you through all the gameplay basics. Everyday you'll have five new customers to cater to, each with a specific style in mind. There are 12 characters in all - from a cactus bonsai, to a berry shrub who calls himself Strawbinski - and if you can give them the look they're longing for, these cuddly hybrids will shower you with gifts and praise.

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Bonsai Barber is a very simple game, yet its quaint and polished presentation and gameplay make for a rewarding daily routine. There's a couch, which seats up to three bonsai customers at a time, and there's a coffee table; that's pretty much the extent of the game world. The coffee table houses The Bumper Book, which stores all of your shop info (we'll touch more on that later), as well as Otto the goldfish who allows you to save your progress. Spudsworth will eventually reward you with Prunella, a practice bonsai who's also stationed on the coffee table, helping to decorate your shop.

Bonsai Barber screenshot

If we were to boil the game down, it could probably best be considered as to be a barber-simulation game… of the uber-cute kind. As the barber, you're represented simply by an onscreen hand, and the game is played from a first-person perspective. To begin work on a new customer, you simply click on them from the couch, and you'll enter a new screen that houses all your cutting tools.

Before moving on to the actual haircut… err, leafcut, however, the customer will first open the Bumper Book and select their desired style; when working on the customer, a soft outline will appear over their foliage as a template of where and what to cut. There are five basic tools of the trade, plus a gong to finalize your work.

The scissors allow you to execute your broad strokes, cutting both leaves and twigs. You'll use the scissors to cut off the bulk of everything surrounding a style template, and control is very intuitive and satisfying. You can turn the Wii Remote to change the angle of the scissors (as well as all other tools) and press either the A or B button to cut.

Bonsai Barber screenshot

Of course, if you accidentally cut off too much, you can simply re-grow any areas by using the spray can. No mistakes are permanent, and there's no time limit, so you can cut and re-grow 'til your heart's content. Some areas require you to cut only leaves, lest you lop off main branches and bald the customer, and you'll need the clippers (you know, that electric machine a barber generally uses at the end of a haircut) for that. As in real life, using the clippers will often tickle your clients, so you'll need to proceed carefully so as to not botch up any work you've already done.

Screenshots / Images
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