In Bloom

For Song of Bloom, Philipp Stollenmayer let his imagination blossom.

Song of Bloom

A Story in Pieces


In 2018, Philipp Stollenmayer created what is, objectively speaking, the App Store’s best game about throwing bacon on stuff.

Filled with pork, physics, and puns, Bacon—The Game is part of the successful food-flinging trilogy that included Pancake and Burger. It was also part of an incredibly prolific release streak: Stollenmayer has 20 games on the App Store—remarkable for a developer who’s all of 28.

But for his 2020 Apple Design Award winner, the mind-bending puzzler Song of Bloom, Stollenmayer set out to create something very different.

Just two of the wildly varied art styles you’ll encounter in Song of Bloom.

“I really don’t like doing the same things again,” Stollenmayer says from his home in Riedstadt, a small town near Frankfurt, Germany. “I want to keep myself entertained, so the fun I have is mirrored in what I’m making.”

By that theory, Song of Bloom was an awful lot of fun to make. Aesthetically, it’s an abstract sea of overlapping art styles, visuals, and narrative concepts. Thematically, it’s an exotic mixture of logic, art, and (sometimes) popcorn: In one level you rotate ancient monuments; in another, you do a little knitting, which Stollenmayer had to study.

Sometimes, you’ll solve a level by physically manipulating your iPhone or iPad, plugging in a charging cable, or firing up the flashlight. In numerous instances, the game will do something you’re very much not expecting. Saying too much more would give too much away—and surprises are a huge part of Song of Bloom’s design.

An early sketch of the game’s home screen, in which levels literally branch out from one another.

‘It was these endless ideas’

Stollenmayer flipped Pancake in a day, but Song of Bloom is the product of a year and a half of work. To master all of its visual styles, he taught himself new skills: creating 3D visuals, integrating live-action video, and animating with clay and yarn. ”I started with a short video I’d taken of the ocean, and one thing led to another, to another,” he says. “It was these endless ideas.”

That torrent created its own problems. “The ideas came faster than the story, so I kept it quite vague,” he says. “One person might see a comment on pollution, while another sees a comment on overpopulation. I tried to keep it where it’s not quite clear what the game’s all about, but also not so vague that it’s annoying.”

Though Stollenmayer released 20 titles, Song of Bloom represents his inaugural stab at storytelling. “I’m not the kind of gamer who plays because of a story,” he laughs. “I’m like, yeah, I just want to kill the boss.”

In one level, you’ll manipulate a painting; in another, you’ll face a curious word search.

For help, he enlisted Bennett Foddy, who authored the cult-hit game Getting Over It. “He had a really good sense of storytelling, and pushed me in that direction. I’m really happy he did.” The result is a surprisingly poignant story that touches on the broader human experience: During a key scene, a character asks, “When did we forget to appreciate?”

Yet for all its experimental wildness, Song of Bloom speaks to an experience that’s more universal now than ever.

“The game is about coping with isolation,” Stollenmayer says. “It’s about realizing that a new start doesn’t have to be about looking back to see what’s been destroyed. It can be about looking forward to see a chance to start something great.”