Bonsai Barber WiiWare
Some games have pretty mundane premises. Sometimes there’s an intergalactic war with high-tech soldiers fighting an army of aliens. Alternatively, an emotional young man skilled with a sword wants to end the reign of a powerful tyrant who has a variety of individually skilled friends to accompany him. These are the norm. However occasionally, and probably not without the help of a large amount of acid, games like Bonsai Barber pop out.
You’re the new barber in town, and the residents are trusting you to trim their mops and style their hair. The major twist is, you’re the only one who can honestly attest to having ten fingers and ten toes. Everyone else? They’re just a bunch of fruits. Now that’s not me being homophobic, Bonsai Barber actually wants you to cut the hair of walking, talking fruit and veg. Well it’s not so much hair, and more the foliage that springs out of the top of their nutritious heads. They want you to shape their leaves into a variety of hair-ish styles.
Gameplay boils down to a steady hand. Your aim is to cut the leaves as close as possible to the style wanted by the customer, which is helpfully laid over their messy mop as a frame so you can see how close you are to getting it right. There’s an assortment of tools to use if you want to have a bash, but really you only need the scissors to achieve a five star cut. If you feel like it, you can use the buzzer to trim stray leaves or even a paint bucket to slather their dos in a random colour of your choice.
The customers rate your performance as you go, ranging from one to five stars. Most of the time, it’s a good idea to just stop as soon as you get the maximum number of stars, even if you’re not finished. Otherwise, there’s the strong possibility that you’ll mess it up completely or, as in my case, your helpful girlfriend will come along and cut off all of their hair in a couple of snips. She didn’t even have to steal my Wiimote either, as Bonsai Barber supports up to 4 players all chopping at once.
You can either gather a few friends, or act like the most badass barber who ever lived and cut with two Wiimotes at the same time. Fortunately, included in the inventory is a magic spray that causes rapid regrowth of any lost hair, meaning you can redo any mistakes. The easiest way to ruin a good cut is to, after achieving the five stars and trimming the edges to perfection, decide that you want to be a real barber and whip out the comb. Watch in horror as your finest style ever gets twisted about while you flail with the comb desperately trying to put it all back the way it was.
The pure style of Bonsai Barber completely bowls you over. The visuals are creatively simple, like an extremely polished child’s cartoon. The vegetables themselves all have their own distinct personalities, the most memorable being the grumpy carrot who instantly became my best friend when he sent me a postcard from London to my Wii Message Board. It’s the stuff movies are made of.
The game includes rewards for specific accomplishments, much like an achievement system, a simple but effective way to give players something to aim for in a game without much other motivation. The appeal in the long run may be limited, especially as you’re only allowed to serve five customers a day, meaning you can’t spend too long playing in one go.
Bonsai Barber stands out as one of the better WiiWare titles available to buy, but it isn’t an absolute must-have. Cute visuals and a quirky style accompany this entertaining if somewhat shallow game.