Full disclosure: A review copy of UNDO: Cherry Blossom Festival was provided by Pegasus Spiele.
Another week and another UNDO game! Some of these game reviews will inevitably get shifted around as I, foolishly, try to lock in my August schedule before Gen Con. I mean, I respect the effort and all that, but I can’t really say that I expect this schedule to stay locked in between now (the end of July) and now (whenever you’re reading this review). But that’s a lot of Temporal Review Mechanics; we can worry about that later. In the meantime, let’s talk about UNDO: Cherry Blossom Festival!
In Cherry Blossom Festival, you take on your role as a Weaver of Fate once more, this time in modern-day Japan. A man is dead on the floor, holding a photo and a now-broken wine glass. Who is the mysterious woman in the photograph? Why is he dead? And most importantly, what can you do to prevent this tragedy? You’ll have to go back even farther to Hiroshima in the shadow of the 1940s to figure out the twists and turns of this tragic tale. Will you be able to save his life?
- Again, don’t forget to go after those Clue Cards for extra help. There are a few Clue Cards that you’ll likely find invaluable, either because they help steer you towards the correct answer or, just as importantly, they eliminate what you thought was the correct answer. That can be pretty critical; you’d rather not mess up and risk negative points. Just remember, you have a limited number of Magnifier cards, so try to only go for Clues when you’re really unsure.
- This is definitely a game that benefits from coming up with a theory, discussing it with your coplayer(s), and then comparing that to the evidence you’re getting. I think using a theory to guide your progress is really helpful, because that helps you also identify where key deviations might result in the most positive points. Again, you want to figure out why that particular change matters. What about it changes things the most? Does it even really do anything? If not, maybe a different outcome might be better? Try to keep in mind why the person died, and work backwards from that to figure out what you need to do to fix it.
- Read the Story Cards carefully! They can help provide context as to what the right decision to make might be if you want to change the character’s fate. There are clues to the overarching narrative and the character’s reaction to it. If you’ve got a theory, you should be able to identify which choice is unhelpful, which then pushes it to a 50/50 guess (even if you don’t know). But I find that reading the Story Card carefully can often steer me in the right direction. There is a lot of information on those cards!
- Different Story Cards are worth different amounts of points! Try to identify these critical moments and make the right decision if you want to really succeed. Not every moment in this man’s life is critical to his death. Changing some of them might make him more comfortable or happier, granted, but there are some particularly critical junctures where you can have an outsized impact. Look for those and then make the right choice. Think carefully!
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I really liked the art style for this game! It’s got a pleasant ornateness to it, with the lanterns and the flowers and the whole thing. It seems like the art is generally consistent across each game, in terms of general artist style, but I appreciate that the settings and color schemes seem to be changing drastically with every game.
- I appreciate a story set against the backdrop of a historical event. It’s not necessarily like, happening while the story is going on, but there’s a few things that clearly refer to some historical events in the game. I appreciate that; it helps make the game feel grounded and realistic even when we’re doing fantastical stuff. Plus, I just like historical fiction, a bit. It’s a fun genre.
- I like the UNDO system’s way of providing context through the different events you visit. Even though you can play the game out of order, I like that I increasingly know more and can make better decisions in the future. I enjoyed learning about the story in pieces and theorizing with my housemate to put everything together, and this was another solid entry in the series, as a result. We had a lot of fun and it was an interesting story (at times) to try and figure out.
- It seems like the box edges line up like old Dragon Ball Z VHS tapes? I’d be interested to see what image they make. That’s a fun incentive to collect more of these, which I can respect. I like when things form an image by connecting a bunch of them.
- Again, things moved at a pretty good pace. We made good time through the game and were successful. I don’t find these too difficult, but there are places where we almost made the wrong decision, so there’s a nice looming tension there, for us.
- This one caught me off-guard a bit after Forbidden Knowledge, since the scoring threshold for success in Forbidden Knowledge is significantly lower. You need a lot more points to be successful in Cherry Blossom Festival than in Forbidden Knowledge, which surprised us a bit. Granted, we thought we were just doing well, but I think the score threshold for Forbidden Knowledge is just lower overall (partially because of the Insanity mechanic). I’d have to try another game to be sure, but that’s the operating hypothesis.
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- (ROT13) Sebz n cybg crefcrpgvir, guvf fhssref n ovg sebz gur jubyr “bar pbairefngvba jbhyq unir fbyirq zbfg bs guvf” gebcr. Guvf vf n avgcvpx, tenagrq, naq vg’f uvqqra oruvaq guvf onfvp pvcure fb gung jr qba’g fcbvy gur cybg sbe sbyxf, ohg V svaq gung gebcr n ovg grqvbhf. Vg’f na vagrerfgvat zlfgrel gb haeniry qhevat gur tnzr, ohg univat n ybg bs gur tnzr uvatr ba gung cnegvphyne zvfhaqrefgnaqvat vf sehfgengvat, aneengviryl.
Overall: 8 / 10
Overall, I think Cherry Blossom Festival is another solid entry in the UNDO series! We actually ended up playing this back-to-back with Forbidden Knowledge, so we were having a pretty great day for mysteries, adventures, time travel, and that one time some guy got buried. I don’t know much about that last part; you’ll have to see my Forbidden Knowledge review? Unclear. I don’t think I mention it there either. But I liked the story of this game, even though it was a little sad. I appreciated the implicit backdrop of the atom bomb causing challenges for the character, and I really liked the art style. I like that there’s some uniqueness to that across the UNDO games and some touchstones that stay the same between games. It’s good! I think this is a better lead-in to the UNDO series than Forbidden Knowledge, which is kind of funny, since we played them in the reverse order, but what can you do. I like the system, and I’m hoping I’ll get the chance to try more of these and see what other ways they change it up. If you’re looking for a quick little narrative puzzle game with some great art, you’re a fan of the UNDO series, or you just want to try your hand at turning back the clock, I’d recommend UNDO: Cherry Blossom Festival! We had a great time with it.
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