Enchanted Gardens Review

If only gardening in real life could be as simple as it is in Enchanted Gardens, where you can make lush green grass sprout on cue simply by rotating a few tiles. Even if you’re the kind of person who has trouble keeping a cactus alive, you’ll have no trouble restoring five beautiful gardens in this flora-themed tile-swapping puzzle game from Louisiana-based Yatec Games.

In the main mode – aptly named Garden – you’ll be presented with rectangular grids of dirt in various sizes, divided into squares that contain garden-themed symbols like butterflies, acorns, worms, ladybugs and all kinds of different plants and flowers. The goal is to match at least four of the same type of symbol into larger squares by rotating them. When a match is created, the symbols will disappear and be replaced with new ones, and grass will grow inside the square. The goal is to cover the entire grid with grass by “growing” the dirt squares through rotating them. Think of it like tilling soil.

You’ll earn points by growing grass, and score combos for chaining matches together quickly – if you’re fast you can even rotate new blocks as the previous match is still clearing and keep the combo going.

There are a few twists to the formula. One is that you rotate two tiles at a time instead of one, using the straightforward control scheme of right mouse-click to rotate clockwise and left mouse-click to rotate counter-clockwise.

Rotated tiles will stay put even if there’s no match, however performing too many of this kind of move risks raising the ire of the garden gnome, an evil little fellow who delights in cluttering up your garden with rocks. Just like in a real garden, rocks are an obstacle that stops anything from growing in that space unless you break them (in this case, by creating a match adjacent to a rock).

The gnome is there to stop things from being too easy, and he does just that – especially in the later levels when he’ll have a timed rock launcher that deposits rocks into the garden at regular intervals whether you’ve moved tiles or not, as well as a nasty frost attack that slowly spreads from tile to tile, immobilizing them.

Thankfully, you’ll have a few power-ups at your disposable to even the odds. Power-ups all take the form of jars that you gradually fill with sand by matching objects of a certain color. For example, the Magic Fire power-up, which melts frost, is activated by matching only red objects (lady bugs, red flowers, and so on), while the Rock Breaker power-up, which destroys all rocks, is a green jar filled by matching ferns, bamboo, and other green tiles.

Unfortunately this rather innovate power-up system is under-utilized because it’s often possible to complete the level long before the jars have filled up to capacity. In fact, the only significant challenge offered by the game’s 100 levels is in the fifth and final “Midnight” garden where you’re in the dark trying to create matches with the aid of a tiny flashlight.

Every five levels you’ll earn an upgrade for your current garden, like decorative shrubs, benches and flower beds. There isn’t an overwhelming number of upgrades, but it’s still a nice touch to see your garden go from relatively plain to ornate and flourishing as you progress through the game. Each of the five gardens (Wildflower, Zen, Aquatic, Winter and Midnight) has its own unique tile-set as well, which adds welcome variety to the format.

Enchanted Gardens also gets kudos for its trophy system, which instead of doling out predictable prizes simply for finishing levels, instead rewards the player with Xbox 360-style achievements for more abstract milestones like performing a 9-combo, growing 1,000 grass, clear 60,000 tiles and so on.

The game’s Puzzle mode adds another 100 levels to the playtime – and for the record, these do get more challenging more quickly. The goal here is to rotate the tiles in such a way as to mimic various patterns and shapes (similar to the puzzle mode in Lumines). The final mode, Relax, lets you explore the levels with no time limit, gnomes or power-ups. That’s more than 200 levels of tile-matching goodness, which isn’t too shabby at all.

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