Plantasia


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PatrickPlantasia is a charming and addictive downloadable game about gardening from the folks at GameLab, creators of Diner Dash and other excellent games previously reviewed here. The game requires you to dig up rocks and soil, plant a variety of multi-colored flowers and vegetables, water them, and defend your garden against malicious bugs. These gardening chores earn you mana to spend on upgrading tools, moving plants and buying new seeds. Unlike the back-breaking labor of real gardening, Plantasia's flora grow back in moments, and they have faces, which is cute in a game but traumatizingly creepy in an actual garden. The storyline puts you in the role of a forest pixie charged with repairing the gardens of an old estate, and there is a love story involving the pixie's relationship with the isolated young Lord of the manor. The game sports a lot of content to keep you content: five garden regions each with about ten gardens in need of repair. The visuals are lush, the colors vibrant, and the gameplay pulls you in like a weed in rewind.

Plantasia screen 1Plantasia, like Diner Dash, is a queue based game that encourages the player to line up material actions at the same sequential step. You get more points for harvesting a bunch of flowers at once, just like the combo bonuses Diner Dash gives for chaining the same kind of actions in consecutive order. Plantasia's queue-based gameplay also incorporates a spatial element like Diner Dash's restaurant layout; you are rewarded for harvesting plants at the same time only if they are next to each other.

There are also colored spaces that amplify your score for harvesting plants of the same color from them, like Diner Dash's bonuses for seating customers in the same seat as the color of their outfit. The main difference in the two systems is in the user interface: Flo's great ordeal in life was moving around her restaurant, there was always a delay between the click and the action; Plantasia's fairy is only slowed by the speed of your mouse, a click brings an immediate action. By limiting the impact of spatial organization Plantasia lets you focus more on bringing groups of plants to harvest simultaneously, and it lets you think about these groupings as you plant them. You're encouraged to make the garden beautiful and try to get the high score—the two go hand in hand.

Tip: sometimes there's more than one type of seed you can buy, the more expensive seeds grow into plants that yield more mana. The trick to affording these seeds and raking the big points is to go ahead and buy the cheaper seeds, plant them in the appropriately colored soil, and use their mana to fill out that color section with the more expensive counterparts. The bonus you get for grouping plants together is based on color, not species, so lilies and daisies can group together to propel you past the expert goal.

Plantasia screen 2Plantasia does have two interface issues. The game forces you to manually switch the seed type to plant by choosing from a button column at the top of the screen; sometimes plant a flower of a color other than what you intended, with a cost in correcting the error. A solution would be providing a sub-menu of plant icons every time you click on plantable soil, requiring another click on the desired plant to get it in the earth. Since planting is one of the most infrequent actions that could be an elegant alternative to the static menu. The other issue is that plants give you fair warning when they begin to wilt, but blossomings happen in an instant with no visual warning. While blooming might seem universally good, sometimes you try to water a plant and it suddenly blooms, causing you to harvest too early. Adding a simple transition cue might have fixed that issue, a few frames of animation or even flashing the bloomed graphic would do the trick.

Despite its minor flaws, Plantasia serves as an example of what casual games should be: an inventive setting with conceptually integrated gameplay and a positive vibe.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Download the demo
Get the full version

20 Comments

I have to say that I find it somewhat silly to ask $20 for a yard work simulator. And even better, that people would rather pay money for the chance to do it when they could go out and mow the lawn for free. Now yes, that would involve getting off your butt and doing real physical labor, but still. The concept strikes me as funny.

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An interesting (and amusing) point, Jonas, but Plantasia is no more a gardening simulator than Tetris is a crate stacking simulator. Yes, you 'dig' holes and 'plant' seeds and 'harvest' flowers and 'kill' bugs, but those activities don't actually "feel" like the real thing, nor are they supposed to.

Gardening is simply a familiar frame of reference within which the queue-based gameplay design exists. This is done to create a game that is both familar and rewarding to the player, something the player can relate with and find enjoyment in doing.

Now compare the gratification felt by stacking boxes together in nice complete rows as in a game of Tetris, though you probably wouldn't get the same enjoyment out of doing that with real crates in a warehouse.

Familiar concepts are used to get the player up and running with a game quickly, which is an essential element of casual games in general.

Note also Patrick's frequent references to the developer's other game, Diner Dash. In DD you play a waitress that takes care of customers in a busy restaurant. Customers come in, orders are taken, food is served, and money is collected. The frame of reference is different, but the queue-based gameplay is in fact quite similar.

Cake Mania, which was also reviewed here, is also queue-based: customers come in, orders are taken, cakes are baked, decorated, served and money collected. Different frame of reference, similar gameplay.

Queue-based games work because is it a challenge for the human brain to multitask and maintain several different queues at various stages of a sequence. The familiar 'chores' actually help the player to achieve that auto-pilot feeling of being "in the zone", which is highly gratifying (and addictive).

Plantasia takes the queue-based formula to the next level by making actions instantaneous, as Patrick mentions, which actually shifts the focus even more from the chores to the underlying gameplay. It does this while incorporating beautiful gardens made up of pretty flowers and magical mana, thus making this game quite gorgeous to behold as well as fun to play.

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When I was a kid I tried busting bricks with my head, but I decided jogging was enough and went back to playing Mario Bros. ;)

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I've played this game before,I loved it.
Not going to buy it because I can't but it was still great

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I still have about 50 minutes left :)

Am in Chapter 2-3

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Heh.. fun, even though it starts getting boring after a while. Patrick - you didn't eat any flowers while you were at it? fireballs sure would've been neat ..

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There actually is an indie game where you can play as a fireball and burn structures. I'll review it when it gets out of beta. If that sounds good, you may be in a different target audience than Plantasia was intended for. I personally wasn't compelled to buy the game even after enjoying it greatly for an hour, because I wasn't terribly concerned about the romance story and I figured I'd seen all the elements. I did shell out $20 for Diner Dash back in May, I think the game's cast being humanoid and the effect spatial movement had on pacing led to its greater successs.

There were three moments in the past few weeks where I was deeply tempted to buy Plantasia, but I think I'll get it for my sister for Christmas, and then play it.

Heh, when I was a kid I used to talk my little brother into buying games he's never heard of. He used to admire me before we both became delinquent teens, but back then my word on game's was it for him. I got him to buy Suikoden and hogged the play time, and I once got him to buy Lomax In Lemmingland, this really mediocre platformer for PSone. To me, the one thing that sums up everything exciting that is changing in "gaming culture", is that I can get my little sister a game that I'd want to play, in addition to my little brother.

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Nice review, Patrick. Keep up the good work.

Just remember, $2.00... $2.50 tops. ;)

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Good review, but the game is not the best queue type game ever.. Or at all. Cake Mania, Teddy Factory and Diner dash are much better.
What I specifically didn't like is the crampness, which in even early levels prevent you from doing what you want to do. Further, the game design promotes cramping flowers by giving bonuses.
I don't like how the game is considered an unwanted chore by the hero. DinerDash's optimistic perspective is somewhat more pleasent.

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I can't decide if I like this game or not. I wish they had an online short version so I could play a little more and hone my strategy -- that might help me decide better than the 1-hour demo.

On the one hand, it's adorable and oddly hypnotic. On the other hand, I'm finding a real uneven level of difficulty on different levels.

I'm just not sure, after 1 hour, if it has enough replayability to be worth $20 to me, or if I'll just be perpetually irritated at the uneven difficulty and not feel the desire to replay once I finish.

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Now might be a good time to mention Arcade Town's 100% satisfaction guarantee:

"60 Day Guarantee! Risk free. We're so sure you'll love Plantasia that if you don't like it, we'll give you a 100% refund, no questions asked!"

(This guarantee applies to the Windows version of Plantasia only)

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I am near completed on the game. It is very easy and hypnotic but entertaining....only problem is once I complete the game I dont think I would like to play again since it never really changes that much I personally am a Diablo 2 fan since it is always changing whether I am online or off.

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How do you beat chapter 2-2 on Plantasia? If you know, please tell me

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Doomhammer March 24, 2007 8:44 PM

Currently I only noticed one problem, the atmosphere that the game creates with its soundtrack and somewhat serene visuals really "crash into" the fast-paced gameplay and especially the time limit. Call me crazy, but I think that the game could have been better with a different obstacle rather than a time limit.

Other than that, the game is one of the best casual "timekillers" I've seen. I applaud one thing that sets it apart from other games of the same company and genre, it has a great storyline, I was really taken into it.

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I have a great problem with chapter 5-7, I can't pass it. What to do?

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**Glitch in Plantasia!**
**Spoiler not to be used if wanting to play game honestly**

When you get the Wheelbarrow spell, buy on and click it as though you will use it, then restart the chapter, this gives you lots of wheelbarrow spells at no cost! The only thing is that your number of wheelbarrow spells will go down to negative numbers, so I don't know what happens if you buy one. But this costs no extra mana when you use the free spells! I don't know if it works with rock-breaker spells, etc. Have fun!!!

Bekah
xx

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I can't get past chapter 5-7 to save my life. I've been playing it for weeks & just can't! HELP

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Katie M June 24, 2008 5:09 PM

does anyone know how to beat chapter 4-2? been playing for hours and i just cant beat it!

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The way i beat 5-7 was to buy another weeder asap then i bought 2 more as soon as i had money available to buy them. Hhen i bought another water can then i bought vegetables to create mana in different colors and another weeder. Then i bought my premium plants and planted them in groups. I didnt buy another insect killer because you only have one insect at a time in this roumd.

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The way i beat 4-2 was to buy 2 additional spades and 2 additional weeders. Break up the rocks covering your mana asap and buy one set of premium plants grouping them together on the appropriate colors of mana. I only used one watering can and one insect repeller and made expert easily using this method.

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