Gardenscapes

Gardenscapes

Garden as though you will live forever
Developer / Distributor: Playrix
Release Date: 12 Nov 2009

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Rating: ESRB – Rating Pending

Gardenscapes (TM)Introduction
Gardening has been around since time immemorial. In fact the most famous garden of ancient history would be the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Today, we have famous gardens such as the Yu Garden of Shanghai, the Keukenhoff Gardens in Amsterdam, the famous garden of Versailles, and my country’s very own Singapore Botanic Gardens.

In visiting such gardens, you have to admire the amount of patience and care gone into transforming these places into such immaculate swaths of lush greenery that are often dotted with bright colorful flowers. Gardens of such repute also have their own tranquil bodies of water and landscaped hills. And to add to the magical effect, they are often adorned with life-like sculptures and marvelous fountains.

In Playrix’s recent offer called Gardenscapes, you will find yourself inheriting your grandfather’s home and gardens. Together with Austin the butler, you will be scouring the house for things to sell in a long series of jumble sales. With the money you earn, you will be able to buy accessories and sculpt the garden back to its former glory.

Time to garden

Game Play
Gardenscapes is a single player casual game that focuses on hidden objects. After creating your user profile at the start, you are treated to an introduction that tells you of your inheritance by a letter from Austin. After reaching at your grandfather’s estate, you find the gardens to be in a bad state. Together with the butler’s help, you will organize jumble sales to make money in order to restore the gardens.

The butler did it!

As you start the game proper, you have the choice of playing in Relaxed or Against the Clock mode. I prefer to play the latter option in Gardenscapes as it presents more of a challenge, while my mother tells me she prefers the former. Her reason is that there is no stress involved in Relaxed mode, and since no one will be rushing you, you can concentrate more on trying to find the objects and the goodies hidden within each scene.

For me, the Against the Clock mode puts some pressure on you which serves as a good tension. But even if you can’t find all the objects in a room fast enough, the only penalty you get is that you make less cash.

Try the tutorial if you are new to HOGs (Hidden Object Games)

There are 15 rooms in the home where you will be holding your jumble sales. The game selects each of these rooms randomly for play every time you click on the large green Start button while in the Garden.

Which room will I play in next?

In each room, you will have twenty people who will want to buy objects. The list can only accommodate five people at the time, so things won’t be too hectic. Three hearts will be stamped over a person at first and the amount of money they will pay you if you find the listed object is shown. Take too long to find an object, and you will start to lose hearts; at the same time, you get less money for the completed transaction.

Tick tock, tick tock… Against the Clock

Every time you enter a room, several goodies will be randomly placed. There are three kinds of bonus items that will make your life easier in Gardenscapes – a question mark, a camera and a thermometer. Objects are placed in a manner that is fair and smart, so you won’t find yourself using the bonuses that much. You also get a couple of other collectibles such as coins and pearls that serve to give you more cash.

The question mark gives you an additional hint; clicking on the hint button will show you the shape of the object in the list at the left. The camera will reveal to you all searchable objects by turning the background to pure white before fading it in. If you look quickly enough, you will be able to see all the objects you need to find including the goodies. The thermometer will show you the location of objects via a hot and cold system. If your cursor is far from an object, the ítem listing will appear white and cold. The item listing turns red hot when your cursor gets way to close to the object.

Thermometer bonus time

Once you have enough cash from your jumble sales, you can choose to build an improvement for your garden. There are four types of improvements you can build at one time, and they all serve to beautify your garden. Each improvement type will come with three choices for you to choose from. If you don’t like it, you can always click on the Design button to make changes at a later date.

Let’s see, improvements includes benches, walls, ponds, and even a dog house. Later levels will bring you lawns, birdcages, swings, and other big and interesting improvements. Wait till you reach the end of the game, the garden will look wonderfully splendid by then.

Shocking pink flamingos for my garden

Along the way on your journey of improving your garden, you will receive envelopes with simple tasks where you must find 20 items in a room. These are pretty straightforward and easy bonus rounds that can earn you extra cash, so go for it. You will also get to meet people or talk to them on a phone. As part of the ongoing story, you will also get to enter your garden into competitions. Because of this, you also get a busybody news reporter covering your efforts on the restoration of your garden.

Chess pieces… this will be an easy bonus round

Graphics
The graphics in Gardenscapes is very good and pleasing to the eyes. I guess it may be the rich palette of colors the developers are using, as well as the lovingly drawn graphics.

The garden is nicely done, and so are the improvements. When you start adding an improvement, you will likely get hooked and want to get the rest of the improvements for your garden. They really do make the garden look absolutely lovely.

Judicious use of hints is important

The 15 rooms are also very nicely done, and the objects you have to find are all sharp in detail. Austin the butler looks great animated, but don’t forget the cute little dog, bird, and butterflies that you see in your garden.

Audio
I thought the sound effects in Gardenscapes were good. The music in the main menu was also catchy and easy to listen to. There is some narration at the start, but that sounds average to me.

That’s our hard earned money Austin


Pros:

  • Lots of hidden object game play as you continually cycle through the 15 rooms.
  • The developers boast about 1000 objects that you can search in Gardenscapes. That really is a lot of stuff to find!
  • There are 20 kind of improvements that you can add to your garden. Each improvement type features three different designs you can choose from.
  • Most objects feature some form of animation when you move your mouse over them in the rooms.
  • There’s a nice and simple story that runs throughout the game.
  • Austin adds some much needed humor to the game. Click on the objects or locations in the garden to see what I mean.
  • The game can act as a screensaver with just a simple click of a button.
  • There’s a very comprehensive help system and tutorial.
Help at the click of a button

Cons:

  • There are some pretty obscure objects (like a hookah) that you are required to search, so I thought the game is not really targeted at kids (despite the lack of an ESRB rating).
  • The garden building game is very straightforward stuff and boring. You could close your eyes and just buy the most expensive item for an improvement type. This portion of the game could have been expanded to add more decision points or maybe some arcade action – like an ivy that destroys part of the garden.
Wow, can you see all that glittering coins at the right side?

Conclusion
Longing for a great hidden object game with a gardening slant and lots of replay value? Then you don’t have to look any longer, for Gardenscapes is the game that you must get immediately to while away that lazy afternoon.


The Verdict

8Great

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