April 12, 2021
Apr 23, 2021
Building a garden has never been so puzzling.
So, let's say you inherited a mansion with a vast but somewhat abandoned garden in it, What would you do? (Yeah, that was an awkward question, but something you should ponder about once in a while.)
Gardenscapes may have the perfect answer. In that case, the game decided that you really wanted to restore the garden to its former glory, and you found a Mario-looking butler (though he gives out more of a Luigi vibe to me) to help you out.
Oh, and keep in mind that you're actually broke. Never mind having to worry about paying your yearly property tax or the costly electricity and water bills. The garden should always be your first priority, amirite?!
Sorry for nitpicking, I just found the whole premise quite amusing. but I digress. Anyways, back to the game!
To my surprise, Gardenscapes was originally a PC game back in 2009 - with subsequent Nintendo DS and 3DS ports released in 2012 - so it's only natural that we would see PC-tier quality standards in the development of this mobile "port". I say "port" in quotes because I've read somewhere that this one is not exactly the same as the Windows game. For example, in the original game, you ran a B&B hotel, while this one takes place in a mansion.
One thing is for sure: Gardenscapes was one of the most advertised games I've ever seen, and I'm not exaggerating when I say this! It's no surprise that it became Facebook's game of the year in 2016 and its developer, Playrix, became one of the top-20 mobile developers worldwide that same year.
It has many things going for it, too. For one, this game is very flashy and pleasant to look at, all things considered. Then again, you could say that about many modern android/iOS games that are actually just hollow visuals with no content of real interest for the player. We've already seen many examples of this trend, especially in the Android ecosystem.
Notwithstanding, the gameplay is also fun, at least to the point where you don't have to pay in order to advance. Unfortunately, this is a free-to-play game. You read that right: Unfortunately. If you're aware of the way free-to-play games are set up, you'll know that you will get charged at some point. Gardenscapes is no exception to this rule, as you'll be heavily encouraged to pay your hard-earned money in order to beat certain levels.
In all fairness, though, you could theoretically overcome the challenges without paying a dime, so It's not totally rigged, but there are some caveats to this, considering that some items (shovels, for example) are very tough to buy - just like in real life, I suppose - and you will need tons of those (don't ask me why!)
Let me say just one more thing before talking about the gameplay. This game's presentation and UI are awesome. It's not the prettiest UI design I've seen, but it feels great to navigate through the menus, which is more than I can say for other mobile games of this or any other genre, for that matter.
Gardenscapes is a match-3 game with city-building elements. You are in charge of an inherited mansion with a very big but unkempt garden. You acquire the help of a butler named Austin, who essentially is one of the game's main characters.
Austin will tell you all you need to know regarding the mansion and its garden. He'll also hand out some tips that could help you raise funds in order to renovate the garden and restore it. During the course of the game, he will be traversing the different areas of the garden and performing many of the tasks as directed.
To accomplish the garden's restoration, you will need stars earned from the match-3 levels you complete. Restoration tasks include fixing broken benches, mending broken statues or fountains, and planting bushes or shrubs, among others.
The mechanics of the match-3 minigames are pretty standard. You must find 3 identical tiles in a row (hence the moniker "match-3") in order to get power-ups such as rockets, TNT, or rainbow blasts.
Each level comes with a specific goal, which is prominently displayed before it starts. You'll also have a limited number of moves, so you ought to choose them wisely. The higher the number of moves that remain at the end of the level, the more rewards you'll get.
While many match-3 games are a breeze to play (and quite boring in many instances), these match-3 minigames are packed with challenges, and they get more "creative" as you proceed through the levels. Some levels will virtually require you to spend some of the power-ups mentioned before in order to move forward.
The Rainbow Blast is one of the most powerful power-ups in the game. It charges while exploding other power-ups. Once it appears you can swap it with another piece and it will clear all matching pieces of the same type. If you match two Rainbow Blasts, the whole layer is cleared.
The shovel is another useful booster that allows you to remove a piece or obstacle from a tile, but it costs a hefty amount of coins (which are obtained as rewards for completing tasks or as in-app purchases). Rakes remove entire tiles in a column or row, making it easier to find matches, but those are even more costly.
Lastly, as far as characters go, you'll meet tons of them, each with their own story to tell and skill to offer for your gardening needs. Let's just mention a few examples:
● Olivia is Austin's mother and helps set up a wedding in the garden's Wedding Archipelago area.
● Robbie Wood is a carpenter that helps with wood (duh!) and wooden furniture around the garden.
● Einar Davidsson is a biker who visits you occasionally and invites you to play the Lucky Spin wheel minigame.
● Oh, and don't forget about the cute dog, whom you can... train? Well, at least you earn rewards for that too!
To wrap up, we ought to say that Gardenscapes offers a highly polished gaming experience on mobile, and not many casual games can boast of having such fleshed-out gameplay features with tons of details waiting to be discovered. It's a shame, however, that it gets a bit too "pay-to-win-ish" at some points, though many would claim otherwise.
Did you play Gardenscapes already? Did you enjoy it? Whether you did or didn't, you can voice your feedback in the commentary box below!
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