|Publisher: PlayFirst Genre: Action|
|Min OS X: 10.3|
PlayFirst games has become a purveyor of all things quick and cutesy in gaming. A visit to their website (www.playfirst.com) will reveal a broad array of quirky casual puzzle/action gaming featuring bright colors and adorable characters. Tucked quietly away at the bottom of the page is Plantasia, by Gamelab.
Plantasia is a game based on a concept similar to some other PlayFirst titles that our glorious readership may be familiar with; games such as Diner Dash or Mystic Inn. However, in this game the goal isn’t to serve as many patrons as possible in the time available. Well, not quite, anyway. The gamer takes on the role of Holly, a fairy in training who has one last step on her quest to become full-fledged. She’s already managed some awesome feats, like solving the Riddle of the Sphinx (hint: the answer is man), and for her final trick she must grant a wish. After she comes across a run-down old estate, she finds its owner, the surly Jack. He shrugs off Holly’s request for his wish, telling her to repair all the gardens at the estate. And so… Holly and her relationship with Jack are off to a rocky start.
The estate is split into five different garden areas, each with 10 levels. Holly’s goal is to plant and harvest flowers while clearing out rocks and weeds and pests to gain enough fairy magic to restore statues and create structures in the garden before time runs out. To accomplish this task, Holly works with many different types of flowers, all with different characteristics, and a series of gardening tools: pesticides, weed rakes, shovels, watering cans and wheelbarrows.
I mentioned earlier that the game runs on the same principles employed by such titles as Diner Dash. If you think of the young seedlings in the garden as customers, the analogy becomes pretty clear. You seat the customer (plant it), take its order (water it) and then usher it out the door (harvest it) only to start the cycle over again. The inclusion of various species of insect and weed that both feed on the plants and divert water from them mixes up the action and leads to some furious clicking frenzies as the levels advance.
Every level in the game is limited by the timer. If enough points are not earned for a normal or expert win on a given level, the gamer must try once again. This sounds simple enough, but when the points needed to create statues and fulfill the level’s goals are the same points used to purchase seeds and tool upgrades, it becomes vitally important to get the hang of what to spend magic points on when. Upgrading tools to their advanced levels can speed up how quickly the gamer can dig holes for flowers, eliminate pests and weeds, and water their needy seedlings, but it also gets pretty expensive. But without those expenses, it’s pretty difficult to grow and harvest enough flowers to keep growing magic points. Balance is key.
Even after the gamer has figured out the proper progression to pick up updates for tools, the management of the flowers is still tricky. Flowers give more magic points when harvested in a group than when harvested solo. To be in a group, they must be planted in adjacent spaces. At the same time, though, gardens will have scattered “fairy circles” of a certain color. Seeds of that same color will grow faster in those spaces, which are always conveniently spaced far from each other. Lower level flowers require little care, but yield little profit. Higher level flowers are either more delicate and demanding, or simply take longer to bloom. So, balancing the needs of all flowers in a little dance to get the largest combos to maximize magic intake can be hectic.