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Bō: Path of the Teal Lotus' demo reminded me of the sanctity of tea

Steep calm and carry on.

A fox from Japanese folklore sips tea by a shrine in Bo: Path of the Teal Lotus
Image credit: Eurogamer/Humble Games

Where there is tea, there is hope. I have always appreciated this sentiment. Often when things are feeling overwhelming and I can’t quite get my thoughts in line, I will put the kettle on. It's a simple ritual, but there is something incredibly soothing about the whole process. The selection of which leaf - something that changes depending on the time of day - and finding the perfect mug to go with it. Then, pouring the boiling water into a pot, watching as the tea leaves slowly start to stain it with swirls of brown, and, ah! That restorative first sip. As the warm liquid slips down, I take a deep breath. Yes, where there is tea, there is hope.

I thought of this again when I played the Steam Next Fest demo for Bō: Path of the Teal Lotus. In this game, you are Bō, a small celestial blossom creature known as a Tentaihana, who falls from the heavens. Originally, it was Bō: Path of the Teal Lotus’ beautiful hand-drawn art style that grabbed my attention. From a purely visual point of view, it reminded me of a sidescrolling, 2D Okami. However, don’t let its charming and colourful exterior fool you. This Japanese folklore-inspired Metroidvania can be tricksy, and even in the demo I found myself in need of rejuvenation more than once. Thankfully though, when times were tough and Bō needed a pick me up, there was tea.

One of the very first items Bō gets is a kettle, which they can use at shrines or while grounded during battles and exploration to heal themselves. It's very similar to Hollow Knight's Focus spell in that regard. So, at each shrine I came to, I paused for a moment to breathe, top up my health, and save my progress. And as this was happening, Bō would pour themselves a cup of tea.

While I stopped at each shrine regardless of my health, there were also times when I simply needed to drink tea so I could heal. And much like watching Link wolfing down a three course meal in Breath of the Wild, I found it quite endearing to see Bō whipping out their kettle for a quick restorative sip, even while a battle was still raging on around them (although, unlike in Breath of the Wild, gameplay doesn't pause). Despite the hectic chaos, there was a little moment of calm.

A fox and an insect spirit from Japanese folklore talk about tea in Bo: Path of the Teal Lotus
Image credit: Eurogamer/Humble Games

Bō doesn't just drink tea on their own, however. When I completed one fight early on in the demo, the character I rescued thanked Bō by inviting them to share a cup of tea together. I loved this offer. It felt so genuine. But this sharing of tea was more than just a friendly gesture, as drinking the arcane brew also allowed Bō to unlock another ability - a baseball bat transformation for their magical earring (which until now could only be used as a staff). So, with my health topped up and new skill in hand, I progressed further into the demo.

To borrow another Hollow Knight comparison, the kettle can be topped up by striking enemies you encounter along the way, so instead of souls, you're filling it with more healing tea leaves. But the kettle is also used to fuel a number of other systems in Bō: Path of the Teal Lotus, including trinkets called Daruma dolls which can be used in combat. These can be assigned to give Bō extra powers, and during the demo, I got hold of the Chomper, which did exactly what it said on the tin - it shot across the screen and chomped through enemies.

A fox fights Japanese folklore spirits inside a cave in Bo: Path of the Teal Lotus.
A fox fights a large ghost from Japanese folklore with a staff in Bo: Path of the Teal Lotus
Image credit: Eurogamer/Humble Games

Darumas can be deployed at any time during your adventure, but to power them up to their fullest, it all comes back to your trusty kettle. Combined with the Kodama Charcoal you receive as a gift from another creature of Japanese folklore, your kettle will start producing heat the more airborne combos you maintain during combat. A little kettle gauge will start boiling on the side of the screen, and when it starts steaming, your Daruma Dolls will be more effective, so it's worth trying to keep Bō’s feet off the ground when you are fighting enemies. Honestly, tea really is that important in Bō: Path of the Teal Lotus.

As I said before, Bō: Path of the Teal Lotus is not without its challenges, even at the game’s start. One particular climb towards the end of the demo took me multiple attempts, with platforming requiring precision and patience (two things I typically lack). But, I didn’t mind this especially. I quite enjoyed the challenge, and I am sure those with more skill than me will be able to complete the ascent in a much more timely manner. So, regardless of my own shortcomings, whenever I did need a moment to recentre and focus myself, I took a leaf out of Bō’s book. I stepped back and paused, before going back to try again.

After all, we all need to stop for a cup of tea sometimes.

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