It’s not easy to quantify something like —> <> ($1.00). Not just because it uses hieroglyphics for a title, which is like reviewing the game formerly known as Prince. That it’s Japanese may account for the clash in cultural ideas, though there’s plenty of overseas games that seem eccentric at first glance, but offer a kind of fun ‘different’ that Western developers can’t. In the case of —> <>, at best, I can say it combines the daftness of Goolin with the growth / assemblage aspect of Pikmin, with only confusing pictograms to use as guidance.
Not that there’s some great mystery at work in the game, as you (you… the big green God hand) are essentially conscripted to squish grapes, grow trees, then jerk them off to create an escape vehicle for the surviving grapes. You might think I’m funning with you here, though I assure you, —> <> is a one-of-a-kind experience that absolutely advocates you tweaking nature’s… ahem, trunk, for good cause. I guess that makes this kind of like Pikmin for Perverts, as I certainly don’t recall you having to masturbate trees until they turned into spaceships in Captain Olimar’s escape from marooned plight.
Yet, such is the role you play in —> <>, and when the fruits of your labor finally board the ship and take off for parts unknown, you’re assigned a high score (more grapes / ships that escape equals more points), and repeat. Nothing left to discover, no new mechanics get introduced, and no happy ending (save for the trees you’ve touched; sorry, too easy).
There’s a few things to experiment with, like flicking branches to release more grapes, or using the mutated red beans that (supposedly) work as added rocket fuel, though that’s being generous to a game like this, which I can’t see anyone without a morbid curiosity sticking with for longer than the trial. Without more detailed instructions or exposition, it’s entirely on you to ascribe any worth.
… Another ‘happy customer’.
So while it’s true that this game sells that kind of quirky concept that initially draws you in, it inevitably misfires once the novelty and weirdness of it is stripped away. —> <>‘s bizarre antics have ruined digital gardening for me, so if you find yourself pining for a bit of the outside world, take a hike in an actual forest. Just do us all a favor and don’t touch the trees, eh.