Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Enchanted Gardens Review

Enchanted Gardens, developed and published by Yatec Games.
The Good: Simple mechanics, a number of puzzle objects and bonuses keeps the game fresh, appropriate difficulty, decent graphics for the genre
The Not So Good: Some might find the game repetitive
What say you? A straightforward puzzle game that is varied and suitably challenging: 6/8

A lot of people enjoy gardening. It’s cheap, relatively easy to do, and you can watch the fruits of your labor get overgrown with weeds. What’s not to like? Cashing in on the gardening extravaganza is Enchanted Gardens, a puzzle game where you match tiles in order to grow grass. I had always thought that sunshine and rain was required for grass to grow, but apparently I am wrong. There are countless puzzle games available for the PC; is Enchanted Gardens unique enough to stand out from the crowd?

Although not the focus of most puzzle games, adequate graphics and sound are still needed. Enchanted Gardens features decent graphics and sound for the genre. The puzzles are crisp and it is easy to identify objects in the game. The special effects are pretty standard for the genre, with scores popping up when combos are made. There are some nice touches to the graphics, like flowers rustling when moved. The sound is appropriate for the game, and the background music, while extremely repetitive, fits the overall theme. Overall, Enchanted Gardens doesn’t amaze or horrify with its graphics or sound.

The goal of Enchanted Gardens is to match tiles by rotating two by two sections of the puzzle. It’s a fairly intuitive procedure and the game is easy to learn, but the mechanics lend themselves to some advanced strategies, at least for a puzzle game. When you clear a section of tiles by matching them, grass grows (the whole garden thing). When grass grows twice on every tile of the puzzle, the level is complete and you move on. Points are earned by growing grass and making large matches or matches in quick succession. Any time you have left over at the end of the match also results in bonus points. Enchanted Gardens lets you play 100 levels in the regular garden mode, 300 levels in the relaxed mode, and 20 intricate levels in puzzle mode. Although each game is essentially the same, every successive puzzle adds more tile types and enemies to make the game progressively more challenging. Enchanted Gardens strikes a good balance between simple mechanics and challenging difficulty: the game is easy to learn, but it requires effort to beat. Besides the fact that a number of different flowers can be present on the same puzzle, complicating the process of making matches, but Enchanted Gardens adds some new wrinkles to the equation every so often. First, rocks can be present on the map: they cannot be rotated and you must make a match next to them in order to remove them. Frozen tiles are similar, in that they also cannot be rotated, but they must be matched with a specific tile type. Gnomes living next to the puzzle will get angry if you take too long to make another match, and they will show their anger by throwing rocks onto the puzzle, freezing tiles, or plunging the puzzle into darkness. Matching tiles of a specific color results in gaining bonuses: green flowers break up rocks, purple flowers add combo bonus points, red flowers melt frost, and yellow flowers combat darkness. All of these additions to the basic game serve to extend the life of the title and make the game more interesting. In addition, the game slowly introduces new things to the game, easing the player into progressively more difficult puzzles. Enchanted Gardens never becomes unwieldy and it requires real thinking, rather than some puzzle games that are simply superficial. The mechanics of Enchanted Gardens are solid, and the changes the game makes during the game modes works to keep you interested in the game.

Enchanted Gardens is an above average puzzle game. It starts a relatively easy-to-learn premise that has some depth and requires skill in order to be an effective player. Enchanted Gardens progressively adds more extras to the game, keeping your interest in the title as you complete all of the game’s levels. The game is also appropriately difficult, never stacking the cards against you unfairly. Each of the game’s levels can be completed, it just a matter of you rotating the best tiles. The graphics and the sound also hold up their end of the bargain. This is one of the better puzzles games available on the market, as it successfully combines uncomplicated gameplay and apt complexity.