|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|
Lastly are the comb and paintbrush, and both of these tools are used sparingly and require an extra bit of finesse. The comb is useful when certain portions of a bush don't easily fall in line with a style template. The paintbrush, of course, allows you to add a bit of color to the end product. Using the paintbrush offers its own set of simple rewards, as you'll need to use the Wii Remote to dip your brush in paint cans, and some styles call for a subtle blending of colors, which offer a real challenge.
During the entire process of styling a customer's bush, you'll gain stars, indicating how close you are to completely satisfying your customer. Additionally, your bonsai friends will offer feedback periodically about your progress, which will keep on the right track. You can get up to five stars for each style session, and it pays to have satisfied customers. Happy bonsais will reward you with gifts, postcards, and certificates to show off in The Bumper Book. Once a customer is completely happy with your work, you select the mallet tool and whack the Wii Remote forward to hit a gong - another subtle yet completely satisfying, little game mechanic.
The game only allows you to work on five customers per real day (you'll be asked the date upon first starting the game), but it's a perfect serving, really, for the type of gameplay and experience on offer here. Of course, you can still practice on Prunella all you like, and you'll be able to earn stars for your work on her as well. Additionally, the last "leafstyle" you gave to Prunella will be displayed on the coffee table where she sits. You can also sift through The Bumper Book, which stores a ton of WarioWare-esque trinkets, such as awards, gifts, and photographs. At any time during a styling session, you can snap photos of your handiwork and either store them in The Bumper Book or share them with friends.
The presentation of Bonsai Barber is endearing and easy on the eyes. The visuals are comprised of hand-drawn, 2D artwork that looks like something out of a children's storybook. The vibe, however, is well-suited to gamers of all ages, and each of your customers will offer short dialogue snippets that are hilariously ridiculous. The music and sound effects are low key and make for a great backdrop to your daily playtime. All of the character chatter is done via text bubbles, so there's no voice work, but the bonsai critters rattle off a host of cutesy mumbles.
Bonsai Barber might sound like a totally senseless idea for a game, but it's just the kind of oddball creation WiiWare was designed for. You wouldn't think cutting shrubs would be a fun pastime, but everything from the use of the Wii Remote, to the perfectly rationed regimen, makes for a great, little daily ritual. The game is as inviting as Sesame Street, yet the mechanics and humor are rewarding no matter how old you are. The price seems a bit steep at $10, but the design will ensure you get your money's worth over time.
CCC Freelance Writer