There are myriad puzzle games out there, but very few of them are great. Most puzzle games add addictive elements like a leveling system or micro-transactions in their games, but lose sight of what’s important. Pixel Garden from Oooweeooo Inc. nails down the essence of what makes a great puzzle game. It doesn’t need those elements that have become the norm. Instead it relies on its well done, simple mechanics that make it hard to put down and a lot of fun to play.
In Pixel Garden, the goal is to get as many points as possible before you run out of moves. At the top you are given a Flower, which is a shape that you can set down onto the grid. By tapping on the grid you can only put down Flowers next to other Flowers that are colored and/or shaped the same. For example, you can put down a blue heart next to either a blue shape or a different colored heart. The only other time you can put down shapes is if they are next to rainbow-colored blocks, which are Gardens.
Every time you match four shapes that either have the same color or shape, you score points as well as turn that square into a Garden. These rainbow colored blocks prove useful, as they provide many empty spaces for Flowers that may not fit elsewhere. Another way to clear the board of Flowers is by creating horizontal or vertical rows on the grid. These are useful for clearing the board and gaining more points than creating a simple Garden.
Another useful item at your disposal is the bomb. The bomb allows you to destroy one Flower on the grid. You only get one bomb and if you want another bomb, simply watch a video ad. I found this solution to be a fair monetization method that never felt annoyingly intrusive. There are no banner ads while you are playing the game; an ad will only appear if you want another bomb. Ads are typically no longer than 8 seconds. This form of advertisement works since, often times, you want to get another bomb because you are on the cusp of surpassing your highest score or you are about to run out of moves.
The strategy aspect never takes over the game as it finds a good balance of being pick-up-and-play while allowing you to plan out your strategies. The game does a good job of slowly introducing new Flowers that have new shapes and colors. You still need to play smart, but you don’t have to be too devoted to planning out or creating strategies to enjoy and succeed at the game. It’s well balanced, as it provides a casual experience while also allowing players to take advantage of its nuanced strategy to get the highest score possible. For example, Gardens that are created with Flowers that have the same shape and color give you quadruple the points if you were to just create a square that had just the same color or shape. Its simple mechanics make it feel casual, but its hidden depth makes it more repayable.
Tips for the Perfect Garden
The hint system in the game shows you every spot on the grid that you can put the current Flower. This can be deactivated at anytime and does make things easier. I had a much more enjoyable experience with it turned on as I could visibly see where I can put down shapes and pick out the best spot accordingly. People looking for a more challenging experience should deactivate the hints.
Visuals are downplayed, but work in the game’s favor by creating a relaxing atmosphere. The designers have implemented a very cool looking physics-based blocks displacement technique that results in sparkling rainbow blocks. Colors and shapes stand out from one another, making it easier to scan the grid quickly and every other graphical effect looks great.
Where Aural Meets Floral
Sound effects are crisp and satisfying without being overbearing. Every time you put down a block or gain points, different echo-y sound effects play, which sounds almost like a song. There is no music whatsoever, which was a surprise since most games nowadays have ambient music playing in the background. The lack of music didn’t detract from my enjoyment, in fact, it aided in making it feel more like a garden and only highlighted the sound effects more. When you put down Flowers in a quick succession, it sounds like you are playing the notes of a song. It would have been nice to see the notes change the further you got into the game.
I only had a couple of issues with the game: It seems to drain my phone’s battery fairly quickly, even with dim brightness settings and no other apps running in the background. Be wary if you plan on playing in for long stretches. The only other issue I had was the lack of other game modes. I would like to see the developers expand on this game and provide more variety. The game is a lot of fun and you’ll lose yourself in it, but I can see how people might get bored with only one game mode.
Green Thumbs Up
Pixel Garden is a puzzle game I highly recommend. It’s easy to learn and has a good amount of depth. It’s rooted in providing a fun, addictive, score based game on the go, and it succeeds in doing just that.