Landscaping is one of humanity’s most magnificent art forms, and one type made popular by the Japanese involves arranging rocks to form colorful Zen-inspired patterns. This artwork is aptly named a Rock Garden, and the name also refers to a challenging puzzle game from Flipline Studios and Alawar Entertainment.
Talk about simple mechanics – your task in Rock Garden is to flip all the rocks on the board within the least amount of time possible. To achieve this, you must make matches of five same-patterned rocks as you bring them side by side. The rocks don’t have to be in a straight line to make them flip. All you have to do is to keep them adjacent to one another and watch how they turn into ordinary rocks once you’ve managed to match them up.
To move rocks, you have to click on a rock to select and drag the mouse to the direction you want that particular rock to travel. Basically after that, you just have to wait for the rock to stop sliding across the board. Much like any other sliding puzzle game, this involves much planning in your part since you wouldn’t want random rocks, and sometimes, movable objects hindering your path to making pattern matches. If you make a mistake, there’s always the undo button to help you out.
This objective holds true throughout all of the 115 levels presented in the game’s Classic Mode. In this mode, each level is represented by a unique rock marking your progress for the puzzles you successfully solve. The first 14 levels introduce you to Rock Garden‘s gameplay, and from level 15 up to 115, you have a chance to collect various kinds of beautiful stones (represented by a bigger-than-normal rock) introduced in each level.
As a matter of fact, collecting rocks is inarguably the greatest challenge presented by this game. To do so, you’ll have to beat the record time set by that particular level and reach five star points for all your efforts. Failing to reach the record time will only unlock the next level in the series but will not award you the designer rock for display in your Stone Collection, an area where you have a chance to learn more about your collected stones through trivia information presented when you click each one of them.
Planning is an essential part of Rock Garden‘s gameplay. This is because before you touch a rock, the game’s timer will stay at zero until you make your first move. Basically, you have to use this unlimited time to plan where you want your rocks to match, and when you think you’re ready, race to beat the level’s high score by making every move as efficiently as possible.
Aside from Classic Mode, you have a chance to play unlimited games in Random Mode. In this mode, you can exercise your puzzle-solving skills by setting your desired difficulty before you start playing a level. As a plus too, time doesn’t really matter in this mode, which gives you the opportunity to practice and increase your skill. That’s pretty convenient, eh?
One of Rock Garden‘s greatest features is its overall visual presentation. Coupled with a relaxing ambient sound, it almost feels like you’re reaching a level of Zen during casual play, which is of course, the whole objective of an actual Rock Garden landscape. And speaking of landscapes, the game enables you to create your very own Rock Garden designs in the View Garden Mode, where you can use your collected stones on dozens of backdrops to satisfy your own artistic urges. It would have been nice to be able to save my creations as a desktop wallpaper, but I guess that’s just me wishful thinking.
Overall, Rock Garden is really one heck of a challenging game to play. Just when you thought that all is smooth sailing during the first few levels, the game picks up the pace until you start to have trouble adding stones to your collection because of the seemingly impossible high score. This may mean hours and hours of gameplay as a trade for your purchase, but can get very disappointing too if you just can’t get your skills up to snuff for beating the set time trials.
For puzzle gaming fans, though, this game is heaven-sent and will prove to be a great challenge for those who are tired of the same old rehashed puzzle games we all continuously play in the casual gaming space.