App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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Evergarden may look like a combination of puzzle games you’ve seen before, but it’s truly a game that’s more than the sum of its parts. This game finds balance between having a satisfying progression system, maintaining a sense of endless replayability, and—oddly enough—telling an intriguing story. So, while Evergarden may look like any other pretty puzzler, know that it’s much more than that.
The constant gardener
The gameplay of Evergarden is reminiscent of games like Triple Town or Threes!. You have a garden laid out on a hexagonal grid, and your goal is to plant new plants and eventually combine already planted ones to make better ones and increase your score. Once you combine plants enough times, you may unlock a pillar, which grants you an additional three turns.
The only thing working against you in Evergarden is your turn limit. You can fill up your garden with plants and take as long between turns as you want, but if you run out of turns, your score is totaled any you can try again. One other peculiarity to the game is that you can’t advance turns in Evergarden without first planting something, so you’re constantly having to make moves at all times.
Evergarden may seem like a pretty simplistic puzzle game at first, but there’s a lot more to it than initially meets the eye. As you get further into a run, for example, pests may enter your garden and eat your plants. Additionally, there’s always a fox avatar watching you garden who submits requests for certain plant arrangements. Fulfilling these requests gives you bonus plants that you can drag and drop anywhere you want.
All of this doesn’t even touch Evergarden’s overarching meta puzzle layer, either, which is perhaps the game’s most surprising feature. As you create columns in a round of Evergarden, you earn collectibles that you use to solve different puzzles outside of the garden-matching gameplay in the rest of the game. Solving these puzzles grants different powerups to use in the main game, all while telling a surprisingly good story.
Room to grow
The narrative elements of Evergarden can make playing it feel like other story-based puzzlers like The Room. The only difference here though is that instead of having complicated exploration, new puzzles and stories only get revealed by unlocking pillars in a more score-based puzzle experience.
The way Evergarden combines puzzle tropes from different styles of games feels effortless and natural, though there are some aspects of the experience that don’t feel as polished as they could be. There are times in Evergarden when I wish I could resume a session at a later time, but the game unfortunately doesn’t save your progress. Each run has to be played in a single session. In addition, there are times in Evergarden where requested plant formations are so hard to parse that you might painstakingly re-create one, only to realize that it's somehow wrong. It’s only weird, small things like this that hold back Evergarden, though. The core of the experience is still fantastic.
The bottom line
Evergarden is a surprisingly compelling package. It’s equal parts a score-chaser and narrative puzzle game, and built in a way where both components feel fun and fully realized. There’s something here for you if you want to spend a few hours uncovering a story and completing bespoke puzzles, and tons more if you want to spend time learning the best strategies for combining plants and netting high scores. It may have a couple rough edges, but Evergarden’s core is so strong that it’s worth playing anyway.