March 21, 2014 8:48 PM | Lena LeRay
If you're looking for a puzzle game that will give you a chance to relax and exercise your inner artist, then Let There Be Life from husband and wife developer Backward pieS is exactly what you want. Originally conceived for Edge Online's Get Into Games Challenge 2013 under the theme "do no harm", Let There Be Life tasks you with attaching and elongating leafy branches to a tree trunk to increase the tree's health without throwing too much shade on the flowers below.
In each level, you begin with a tree trunk with some flowers (and possibly a couple of mushrooms) on the ground around it. You are given a series of random tree branch pieces which must be attached to the existing tree in order. Any piece of branch can be attached to any part of the tree that is bigger than itself. This allows the player to attach chunks of branch of gradually decreasing size to each other to create long branches, but it also allows for twigs to be attached to larch branches or even directly to the trunk. Each chunk of branch has zero to several leaves, which cast shadow straight down onto the ground below them, and having multiple leaves cast shadows in the same spot makes it darker and darker.
The flowers on the ground can survive with a certain amount of shade, but if there are too many leaves above them, they'll die. If a flower dies, you fail the level and will have to start again. Mushrooms, however, love the darkness and will grow in size as they fall into greater shadow. When a mushroom reaches full size, it starts to glow, giving flowers a one-time regeneration to full health. This allows for putting a lot more shadow on a flower if leveraged correctly, but it's often possible to fill out a tree without needing the mushrooms.
Let There Be Life isn't really a challenging puzzle game. It's easy to fill out any tree's health without killing the flowers underneath, though you certainly can fail if you're not paying attention. The real challenge is in creating a tree you'd be willing to show off to someone without killing the flowers. You have to use whatever chunk of branch you're given when you receive it, and sometimes that leads to some wonky-looking branches. Even those strange branches can be made to look like they belong there, though, because many real trees have a branch or two that makes a strange turn.
Purely decorative elements such as birds and butterflies are unlocked as you play, too, which add splashes of color and can be used to fill in strange-looking gaps in your tree. It's a great game to play at the end of a long day (or a long two weeks, as was the case when I tried it), allowing for creativity within gentle restrictions and with lovely art and music.
Right now, Let There Be Life is only available for Windows at the price of $7.99, but an Android version is currently in the works and Mac and iOS versions are planned for later this year. It's currently being distributed via Desura, IndieGameStand, and a Humble Widget, but the game is up for votes on Steam Greenlight, as well, and anyone who buys it now will get a Steam key if it's successfully greenlit.