Evergarden by Flippfly
In just-one-more-try, koan-like hex-based puzzler Evergarden, you will cross-pollinate various flowers into evolved versions that can be combined into patterned combinations for bonuses.
When this is achieved, you will create a special plant that is stored in a limited inventory slot that can then be planted at any time back into an open space to score its special bonus value (and jump right to its level, rather than have to arrive at it via combination).
Once the Super Saiyan version of a plant is combined with another like it, it will give you special actions like additional turns, but they can have side effects. (I’ll leave some surprises.)
Alternatively, you can use a plant to reseed an adjacent hex, but doing so prevents it from being used again to combine for that turn.
The winsome low-poly creatures and mysterious framework are secondary to the actual meditative act of recasting seeds across emptied spaces to create maximum dividends on subsequent turns.
Each level is scored and completes after a specific number of moves has been taken. Completing levels over a certain threshold will grant you a special token that can be used to advance and unlock powerful skills – songs known as Fens – and areas.
It all seems so obvious and simple and within your control, but impatience and impulsiveness will invariably lead to missteps – perhaps not creating sufficient space to re-seed a plant, or being so tempted to level up a varietal that you miss a combination of similarly-leveled ones. Not to mention pesky little critters that can block your spaces, chomp through your hard-wrought flora, and other intolerable behaviors.
Truth be told, if you don’t get your act together with the negligible instruction (designed so as to lead you on a journey of experimentation and discovery) then this will become a grind. So get your act together PDQ. Focus, child, focus. Oh, and don’t forget to smash that rewind button (but you only get to once per turn).
High Score Harvest
The key strategy is to map out how to get as many similar species leveled up in tandem and adjacent to each other so that you can maximize your ultimate score, which unlocks tokens, which unlock special powers and cause a chain reaction of good stuff to come your way.
Failure to do so will see you repeating the same level over and over again without making progress. It plays kind of like Into the Breach, that other game that I played too long, too often, but ultimately docked for what I considered flaws and which others argued were design decisions. I have no such qualms here.
What appears at first simple quickly betrays its subtly introduced complexity. The wooden flute, birdsong and tapped percussive bowls underscore what is meant to be a contemplative exercise that begs you to slow down and choose with deliberation, over your next 10 or some maneuvers.
Every time you level a plant up, there is an increasingly ascendant music run to imply you are climbing towards a summit – which also serves as a lure to draw you away from other objectives. A subtle but devious ruse.
You will eventually unlock powerful skills that can be used either once per turn or in other permutations to level up your entire garden or confer other benefits. All the way, cryptic letters from your mother gently coax you forward towards understanding and increasing expertise at the levels.
Delicious color palettes, and chunky, inviting visual design make this package a real feast for the eyes to go with the satisfying puzzles. I don’t like to pick favorites, but I did enjoy this over Spring Falls, which our very own InfinityWaltz enjoyed immensely, calling it one of the best mobile games of 2019.
For me, the curiosity about the world, the shifting color schemes, and the very nature of the recombinant puzzles here made this a clear winner to which I will return when I just need to slow the hell down for a while and I don’t feel like meditating.
A beautiful effort if a little light on content. Kudos to the team that made it.
Evergarden is available via the Apple App Store, Google Play and Steam.
Watch the official trailer for Evergarden below: