Taiyou no Tenshi Marlowe: Ohanabatake wa Dai-Panic! (“Sunshine Angel Marlowe: Panic in Bloomland!”) or just “Angel Marlowe” is a weird game. It’s essentially a puzzle game that’s hard to categorize, but what really makes it weird are the names of the two main characters – Philip and Marlowe, as in Philip Marlowe, Raymond Chandler’s iconic PI made popular by such novels as The Big Sleep and others. The Big Sleep was adapted into a 1946 movie of the same name starring Humphrey Bogart. This is probably what inspired the creator to choose those names for the two characters. In fact, the game is incredibly cutesy and is the complete opposite of the hard boiled style of the novel and movie. There are several unique passwords that are the last names of several Hollywood movie stars from the Golden Age, which is even weirder. If anything, these odd references make an otherwise fun, cutesy game stand out a bit.
In the peaceful kingdom of Bloomland, the coolest angel around, Marlowe, is on his way to a date with his girlfriend Nancy. But Bloomland is a mess, the flowers have all wilted, and Nancy is nowhere to be found. But Marlowe does find the cute little sun, Philip. Philip tells Marlowe that the evil witch Amanda has kidnapped everyone and the flowers have wilted because of her. So Marlowe and Philip join forces to restore Bloomland and rescue everyone from the clutches of Amanda.
The game consists of eight areas which you can beat in any order to unlock the final areas. Each area has a total of five stages that need to be beaten before you can clear the area and move onto the next one. Every area features a unique theme with cutesy graphics of enemies that are also surprisingly well animated for a GB game. The goal of each stage is to make all the flowers bloom while avoiding enemies and preventing them from destroying your work. Philip patrols the border of the screen while you direct and aim his sun beams to stimulate flower growth and kill any enemies in your way. You can also speed up Philip by pressing B. Philip also has an energy meter of sorts that decreases as you fire a sun beam and if you deplete it, you must wait for it to refill. The longer the sun beam, the more energy it consumes. So you really need some kind of awareness or strategy for each stage as blindly button mashing won’t cut it. Either your flowers will get destroyed or an enemy will corner you and you will die if you’re not careful.
Killing enemies will also produce various powerups, which do various things like increase your score, recharge your energy, increase your speed and kill all the enemies on-screen with a lightning strike. There are also two special powerups. The first is the Moonnoon powerup which brings you to a bonus stage where you have to make flowers bloom in a fixed amount of time. The difference between this and a normal stage is that instead of a sun, a moon patrols the screen border and the game temporarily shows you where the flower buds are and then makes them hidden for you to find. Once the bonus stage is over, you’ll automatically move onto the next stage. The final powerup is the Angel Agness who makes all the flowers bloom, automatically clearing the stage for you. Once you do beat all the normal areas, the final stages are unlocked for you. However the strategy for beating these stages are different. Each stage has a boss that you must zap with a sun beam in order to beat them. The game also features three difficulty modes. Each mode has a different stage order and with progressing difficulty, there are more enemies and flowers to deal with. Beating the game on Hard difficulty will give you an alternate credits sequence with a cast list of all the characters in the game. The farmer is called Grandpa Coppola going back to the Hollywood references.
Despite being released only in Japan, the game is fully playable for non-Japanese speakers. The only thing you would be missing is the brief story, but there is a fan translation patch for anyone curious about the game.
In the end, the game is rather fun and unique. Like any decent puzzler, you’ll need a bit of strategy to get past each stage unless you cop out and pick the Easy difficulty.