Published on February 14th, 2017 | by Lee Davies
Review: Plantera (Wii U)
Format reviewed: Wii U eShop
Other formats available: 3DS eShop
Developer: Varagtp Studios
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Website: Official Website
Welcome to Plantera!
In the world of Plantera you grow your own garden and breed plants and animals to earn coins with their produce. Use the coins to buy new plants and animals, and also special items and garden expansions. Watch everything grow, help planting and harvesting, buy new things, and defend your garden from sneaky magpies, rabbits, foxes, and wolves. Raise your level and the productivity of your plants and animals! Earn more and more, and create your own dream garden!
Coins are a necessity in any civilisation. This holds to complete truth while playing Plantera. Everything in game can be bought with in-game currency, no micro-transactions on view here. So, how do you get your hands on that most necessary evil, well, damn it, work. To the grindstone it is then.
Described as a 2D platform strategy game, Plantera, is well establshed in the 2D platform roots. All the action takes place on a 2D linear plane. You choose plants to buy, scroll and click where to place them, collect the fruit for a reward value in coins, or watch your helpers collect them. Strategy, has been used in the loosest sense of the word. The strategy is extremely minimal and gets the backstage to the main crux of the game, collection, and there’s an awful lot of that to do.
There are 3 depths to this 2D landscape, a foreground where root vegetables are planted, the level ground for shrubs, and the background for fruit trees. All depths can be seen at the same time, or a handy button can adjust to a single depth of interest, for those times when all hell breaks loose. And believe me they do, the amount of on-screen items rendered at any one time is phenomenal. It’s quite surprising that the game keeps in check of literally hundreds of individual blooms, fruits, animals, enemies, helpers and their activities. It was expected that the Wii U would turn this game into a chug-fest, and thankfully that scenario did not arise. All runs smooth with no slowdown except every 5 minutes when the game saves a half second pause occurs. Impressive stuff for so much happening at any one time.
Every plant has 5 levels of upgrade that allows for more cash intake, but each plant costs more than the last to place into your farm, and planting subsequent plants of the same variety also increases your outlay significantly. Animals come in 4 varieties that act in the same way. Extra upgradable items include an Alarm Clock, allowing your helpers to keep collecting even when your away from the console; Manure, which is a points multiplier; Guard Dogs, for vital pest control; and Scarecrows. The more you buy the costlier it becomes. Fortunately, through all your collecting powers a handy Level Up meter slowly continues to increase. By levelling up you can obtain more farm helpers, and very handy star shards which upgrade individual plant species, with the end result of allowing a greater sale value. More money to spend on better plants and upgrades, the cycle is endless!
Everything in Plantera, from Menus to the actual game, can be accessed through the touchscreen. Therefore rendering the TV, to a spectator mode for the enthusiastic farmer siblings. Optional, but very useful, working of the Analogue Stick or D-Pad to scroll the screen is welcome because for the most part, you will be tapping away like an insane geologist, just tapping like crazy to collect everything you can. You could just sit back and watch those slow farm helpers go about their business, but you can earn so much more money, and far more quickly by giving it a blast yourself. And, this is where the meat of the game is to be found. Tapping the touchscreen to pick up fallen farm produce, scare away crows, or choosing items to buy. Superficial, but insanely addictive. My son told me, “Dad, I’m a Tapper.” Fingers of steel are required, and carpal tunnel syndrome could well be coming your way if you fall in love with this quirky little tapper.
A relaxing tune plays in the background, but that’s just it, a single solitary piece of music that gets a little repetitive if a long play session is in order. Well, if so just turn it off at your leisure and go listen to something else, without turning off those necessary effects. You have to know when a fox is sneaking up to correct his behaviour sharpish.
Plantera hides its tutorial, an ingame manual, in the Help Menu. It breaks down all that can be learnt just by digging into the action yourself. Featuring 21 achievements, which most can be finished in a single long play session is not encouraging. So, the longevity of the game all depends what you get out of mobile phone style tapping collect-a-thons. It’s easy to see this as it was, a micro-transaction friendly mobile phone game. The whole DNA of it, is short bursts, over many days, slowly building up your cash to slowly build up your farming prowess. Brainless, yet harmless, fun.
However, the enemies are really no threat, birds and rabbits will steal a single piece of produce (no big loss), foxes and wolves scare the livestock, but with enough guard dogs roaming around your plantation the scare fests don’t stay for long. Not once in my hours of playtime did I see a single one of my livestock perish. They run to the santuary of a dog who barks the threat to a hasty retreat. So, the lack of deeper strategy elements do inherently hurt this game’s longevity. Something for a few hours fun, and a quick dip in and out irregularly, but nothing sustaining to a deep engaging experience. Another bonus is this game’s free cross buy status. Buy this on either Wii U or 3DS and get the other version for free. That’s a nice addition, but it does lack the ability to transfer the save file between consoles, and running two farms at the same time, oh no, one is enough.
Plantera (Wii U eShop)
Summary: Plantera offers addictive tapping gameplay in spades, but lacks the depth of strategy to sustain a more than fleeting interest. Only tapping addicts need apply.