The princess has returned to her kingdom after making peace with the trolls. Her keen eyes notice something is a little different, however. The castle has disappeared! It turns out there’s a wizard who likes to go around miniaturizing things and taking them home as toys. No princess is complete without her castle, so it’s time to travel to a distant land and get that thing back!

Gnomes Garden 3: The Thief of Castles is a casual resource management game that’s all about efficiency. Levels present you with a maze-like screen of paths running through the field, each blocked off by different types of obstacles. Click to send your workers out to harvest resources, remove piles of rubble, fill in pits, or fix up buildings. Open up new pathways to gain access to new buildings, then use those resources to fix up other structures and complete the level goals. Every step you take eats up valuable time, as does assigning a worker a task. Think before you queue an action and you’ll get that castle back in no time!

screenshot27

Doing pretty much anything in Gnomes Garden 3 costs resources, and wouldn’t you know it, resources don’t grow on trees. Piles of food, stone, and wood dot the landscape, but if you want to repair buildings and level-up your tent, you’re gonna need a steady supply. Fix up fisheries, farms, sawmills and quarries to generate piles of each resource over time. Have your workers carry them back as soon as they appear so you can maximize their usefulness. Even simple tasks cost a lot of resources, so there’s no room for error.

The focal point of Gnomes Garden 3’s challenge is efficiency, and this game is ruthless in making you adhere to that limitation. To get three stars in a level, you can’t miss a single click. Paths are constructed to give you the illusion of multiple ways to beat a level, but the designers obviously had a certain order in mind. Deviate from this and you run the real risk of losing a star. Or worse, having to restart the level from scratch. Plan before you send your workers out, and don’t upgrade a building unless you’re sure you’ll need the resources. Even if you’re careful you’ll still get stuck, forcing you to hit that embarrassing “reset level” button.

screenshot28

Gnomes Garden 3 feels a bit sluggish at the start, but things soon pick up with a new resource to manage, power-ups to activate, and different environments to conquer. The gameplay doesn’t deviate much from the original set-up, but the experience feels more satisfying, even with the increased challenge later in the game. It’s a simple experience, to be sure, but Gnomes Garden 3 delivers enough lighthearted challenge to keep you clicking until the castle comes home!