Normally, insects can present huge problems for farms, ruining crops, infecting cattle with disease and spreading blight throughout the land. In googly-eyed hero Beetle Bug’s latest adventure, Green Valley – Fun on the Farm, though, they’re actually in charge of turning an ailing estate and its fallow fields into a thriving concern.
A pleasing match-three mindbender that’s blessed with brilliant audiovisuals and myriad challenge types, from a pure value standpoint, the game proves a solid, if not banner harvest. As such, while well above average in terms of overall quality, it’s nonetheless a little rough around the edges for the – and we quote the developers here – “most agricultural puzzle game of all times [sic]!”
If marketing copy like that isn’t a dead giveaway, one of the title’s most obvious and immediately annoying gaffes is its Pidgin English translation. It’s a shame too, as from the second you boot up the game’s animated intro sequence, complete with catchy voice-overs by our bumbling hero and his quirky kids, the presentation’s otherwise top-notch.
Brightly colored, flush with personality and featuring regular cut-scenes with lively speech samples that appear between new scenarios, we can’t help but wonder how this annoyance was overlooked. That goes double when you consider that spoken dialogue doesn’t always match on-screen subtitles to boot, tainting one’s initial impression – strange stuff, indeed.
Thankfully for perplexed viewers, the actual hands-on action itself more than makes up for such shortcomings, offering a variety of challenges to tackle. Most stages take the form of grids of hexagonal tiles, and are themed after fields, fruit trees and soil beds. By dragging the mouse over adjacent sequences of playing pieces containing icons for strawberries, flowers, eggplants, peas and onions (among other objects), you’ll attempt to make groups of three or more identical items. Do so, and they disappear from the board, with fruits and vegetables tumbling downwards to either splatter uselessly against the ground or collect in waiting boxes, which Beetle Bug then harvests and turns into cash.
Earn enough money, and you’ll literally watch your farm – initially an old cottage – grow to encompass orchards, cattle pens and rolling grasslands. (Thank mid-mission interludes where you can admire surrounding grounds and click on flying birds to pop them for extra loot.)
But where the game really shines is in how it continually mixes things up over a sequence of 80 individual levels. For example, goals can shift. Rather than collecting X number of foodstuffs in a set amount of time, one stage might demand you remove stones from fields by pushing them to the bottom of the grid, while the next requires releasing a certain number of chickens from their eggs instead. Likewise, creating larger matches can cause bonuses to appear, letting you destroy nearby tiles with explosive force or remove entire lines from the playfield at a time.
An increasingly more diverse range of obstacles such as ice and blocked-off tiles that’s introduced as you advance also presents difficulties. Furthermore, one can additionally charge megabonuses that let you remove random tiles and add extra crates on-demand. There’s even the odd mini-game to savor, e.g. spastically clicking with a scissors cursor to shear a stampede of sheep, as play progresses.
Collectively, the experience proves brisk, beautiful and engaging, ultimately adding up to way more than the sum of its parts. But the hard truth is that there’s little here in the way of innovation or surprises; just a clever, and well-refined, mish-mash of common tropes. Keeping this in mind, Green Valley nonetheless proves an impressive repackaging of genre staples that’s sure to satisfy most comers. Take away the slick window dressing, however, and you’ll find that, as with the various vittles it features, there’s still plenty of room for growth.