App Reviewed on: iPhone SE
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When you first start playing Valleys Between, it’s hard to know what to make of it. It’s a puzzle game, sure, but it’s not like one you’ve played before, and it doesn’t really explain itself well. After sinking some time into it though, you can peel back some of its layers of mystery, and the game’s structure reveals itself to be a pretty exciting score-chaser. So, as long as you can fight through a bit of an obtuse intro, Valleys Between is well worth picking up.
The basic premise of Valleys Between is a bit hard to explain, primarily because it’s a lot like the video game equivalent of spinning plates. You build land, grow trees, create forests, manage waterways, manipulate animals, put out fires, and destroy factories and obelisks using your animals. Your ultimate goal is to get as far as possible without losing life from fires, factories, and obelisks while also earning years, which are this game’s equivalent of points.
It’s easy to look at Valleys Between and see that there’s a lot going on, and--although the game’s tutorial teaches you about each mechanic in isolation--managing everything all at once and figuring our why or how these things connect can feel like a big mystery at first. The more time you sink into Valleys Between though, and the more these things click together and you understand why they’re all there.
Unearth the mystery
If you think the intertwined nature of Valleys Between’s base mechanics are dizzying, there’s even more to uncover here. For instance, you can combine forests that you create into houses and towns, which drop wisps. Wisps are important because you can use them to upgrade or unlock animal companions between rounds. Similarly, there are moments in runs where you may get a new animal companion, like a duck that floats around exclusively on water tiles, which further add depth and complication to an already deep and complicated game.
To help you navigate all of these moving pieces, Valleys Between gives you sub-objectives on every run, which cleverly guide you to these discoveries. If you’re like me, there may be times when you happen upon these new discoveries naturally, but if you’re not, it’s nice that the game guides you in the right direction over time.
The complicated nature of Valleys Between can make it equal parts hectic, exciting, and satisfying. It’s almost as if you’re playing a fully-fledged nature management game, though one that’s been abstracted into puzzle game form. That said, this exact format for the game can make it a little unwieldy to play, too.
For starters, getting a firm understanding of Valleys Between takes some time investment and patience. This isn’t like the boatload of dead simple match-threes on the App Store, so if that’s what you’re in the market for, this game is not for you. Secondly, Valleys Between woefully doesn’t suspend play sessions well when you close the app, so it’s only really great when you’re dedicating to play a full run, rather than playing it intermittently.
The bottom line
Valleys Between is a remarkably complex and rewarding puzzle game that feels at times like a strategy or management game. It may not be completely conducive to mobile play, but that’s all right. Valleys Between’s uniquely deep gameplay makes it a puzzler you’ll want to play over and over and over again.