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Aug 24, 2011

Get yourself a green thumb in Plantasia

Game Category: Casual - Time Management
Developer / Distributor: Gamelab / Playfirst
Release Date: 13 Oct 2006 
Rating: ESRB - Everyone

Note: This is my second review of a game coming from casual game developer Gamelabs - creators of Diner Dash. Head over here to read the first review - Egg vs Chicken.

Roses are red, violets are blue... and it is with these magical lines (often blurted during Valentine's Day) that I begin my review of Plantasia today.

Gamelabs have created an addictive and unique time management game that takes you on a horticulturist's journey planting seeds, harvesting flowers, and restoring fountains in fifty gardens. By the end of the game, you would have beautified enough gardens with such lovely blooming flowers that you should be proud of your achievement. And as the game developers say, you don't even need to have a green thumb to enjoy the game.

Plantasia, whose name seems to be a portmanteau of plant and fantasia, doesn't let you go once it gets its grip on you. Though you may think this may be a game for the ladies, well you are wrong; it's a great game for all, and should deservedly get more attention than it already has.

Jardins de Plantasia
Game Play
There are two modes in Plantasia. You can play Holly's story, which takes you through a campaign of 50 missions following a petite little faerie-in-training on her attempt to help lonely Jack repair the gardens in his home. Alternatively, there is Garden Challenge; this mode will take you on an endless journey repairing a garden with ever increasing demands as you continue to rise in levels.

After creating your profile, you will find you can only play Holly's story. This game mode starts off by introducing you to Holly and Jack in a series of amusing light-hearted comic strips, so take a good read. You get to learn more of the story whenever you complete 10 missions.

Make sure you read the Help notes
Your first mission is very simple, and more of a tutorial than anything else. You can disable the tutorial at any time and just concentrate on playing the game proper if you so desire.

Once you complete your first mission, you will find you are able to access the Garden Challenge mode. Whereas Holly's story is more mission based with different objectives to meet, Garden Challenge is an endless game where you just survive wave after wave of pure gardening fun.

Each chapter introduces more plant types and hazards
Gardening in Plantasia is a simple affair and comprises several distinct areas of responsibilities:
  • Your main objective in every mission is to build at least one statue on the map. There is also a secondary objective of building an impressive statue in a fenced up area after you succeed with the main objective. This secondary objective earns you the Expert award.
  • To begin gardening, you must have an empty square where you can dig a hole with your trowel tool. Once a hole is dug, you can plant a seed there. Sometimes, a garden offers no empty square and is instead strewn with rocks; you use your trowel to slowly chip at the rocks to remove them.
Buy a tool
    • After planting a seed, you will see it grow. Once the plant blooms with flowers, you can harvest it by simply clicking on it. Harvested flowers give you a mana bonus. It is best that you harvest chains of similar colored flowers to score an even greater mana bonus.
    • If you run out of seeds, you use the mana bonus you collect to buy new types. You can also use your mana to buy additional tools to lighten your load in multi-tasking.
    • Sometimes a plant will start to shrivel and turn gray. Immediately move your mouse over it and water the plant or it will die.
    • Later levels have fairy dust circles marked in the garden. By planting a seed of the correct color in a particular circle results in a bigger bloom of flowers. This gives you even more mana to harvest.
    Hooray! I am awarded the Expert award
    The graphics in Plantasia has a definite cuteness to it. The 2D artwork, especially the comics, feature a colorful palette and the sweet little story of Holly as she grapples with fulfilling Jack's wish of reviving the gardens. The five type of gardens look very distinctive, and the decor in each adds a sense of unique beauty to the many missions. You will find paved paths, rock strewn swaths, fairy dust circle patterns, statues, fountains, and more on each map.

    There are of course nasty pests and weeds that make life miserable for you as a player. Pests will start from one corner of the mission and zoom in on a particular plant. Protect the plant by spraying pesticides at these pests. Your garden will at first be beset by slow caterpillars, but more threatening creepy crawlies will appear at the higher levels in the game. These pests are animated rather nicely as they move from square to square.

    There's a certain cuteness to the enemies too
    The plants themselves all have animated faces and this lends an overall cuteness to the game. There should be no doubt that the artwork will go down well with kids.

    The music in Plantasia is very catchy. I found myself humming along as the music played during the game as well as during menu navigation. The sound effects are useful cues that warn you when something important has happened - like when a pest appears or when a weed starts to multiply. Pay heed!

    Welcome to my cactus garden
    • Addictive gameplay is the word in Plantasia. This is in part thanks to the time management challenge and the puzzle like concept of placing the correct colored plant in the fairy dust circle to reap the most mana points. 
    • There's always something new in each garden to keep you playing.
    • The cute and colorful graphics does wonders to heal any frustrations you may have. The catchy music also helps.
    • Special spell powers will delight and surprise you.
    • You get a small enough game board map to play out each mission in a few fast minutes.
    • Attempting to chain large groups of similar colored flowers make this a real joy for strategy gamers. 
    Garden Challenge time
    • The different weeds and pests add to the frustration especially at later levels when they come at your plants like hordes of enemy soldiers.
    • The game play can get repetitive in the later half of every garden. 
    • Dig, plant, water, spray pests, remove weeds, transport plants from one location to another... that seems to be about all the variety there is in the game.
    Weed out the bad stuff
    Plantasia has truly brought out the green thumb in me. If only I'd known being a horticulturist was so much fun. I would gladly hang up my work any day and switch careers to being one.

    Visit the greenhouse to learn more about your cute plants
    Daily PC Game Review Score: 8.5 / 10
    Review Date: 24 Aug 2011


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