Already on its third iteration on Steam, the first game in the Gnomes Garden series has made its way to Xbox One. A resource management/strategy game, there are 40 levels to complete all with varying levels of challenge.
There is a story here, although not much of one. The King is ill and the once beautiful gardens of the Gnomes have withered. Your aim is to restore all them to their former glory thus curing the King at the same time. Simple, forgettable and easy to ignore especially as it’s told through sliding screenshots. Ultimately if you’re playing Gnomes Garden for its story, you’ve made a big mistake.
Gameplay is fairly basic but has a fair amount of depth and is surprisingly addictive. Each level asks that you complete a number of tasks to clear it. Things like repairing bridges, clearing roads, lighting beacons or collecting tree seeds. You begin each level with a starting hut and one worker (upgrade-able for more) and you must collect resources such as food, wood and crystals. These are used to repair destroyed buildings such as lumber mills, farms and mines thus giving you a constant stream of incoming resources.
This is necessary as every action of your worker requires food. Actions like repairing roads or rebuilding bridges require stone and wood. Getting a steady supply of stuff is key to completing the level as quickly as possible.
So, you might be wondering what’s the rush? There isn’t a timer so to speak. No, the urgency comes from the star system. On the side of the screen is a slowly depleting bar. Finish the level as quickly and efficiently as possible and you’ll get all three stars. Take your time and you’ll end up with just one.
It doesn’t matter what you get in regards to progress, none of the levels are gated off. So you can happily take your time throughout. However, there are achievements tied to getting three stars and trying to get all three in every level is where the game offers real challenge. A couple of levels are surprisingly tricky and you’ll really have to plan just how you can complete it quickly.
It’s frustrating though that the star timer doesn’t stop once you’ve completed all the tasks. For some reason, you’ll have all the tasks complete and it will then start going through an animation win screen but the timer will continue. This lasts for about 5 seconds so if you were right on the nose of the timer just as you completed the level, you won’t get three stars.
Another issue is the cursor when it comes to clicking items in close proximity. For example, many times I accidentally spent loads of resources upgrading a building inadvertently when I meant to just pick up the resource the building had spat out. This can be the difference between getting three stars or not.
It’s is very addictive though and later levels are a blast as you’re plan on how to best utilise your workers and resources. Unfortunately, the repetitive nature of it can’t be ignored and there really isn’t much in the way of variation across the 40 levels.
It’s nicely detailed but visually looks no better than a mobile game. You could very easily see this being a free to play game but thankfully it’s not. In fact, Gnomes Garden is great value for money costing only £3.99/$4.99. You’ll get a good few hours of gameplay out it for sure. Even more if you’re trying to get all 3 stars in every level.