Developer: Viridino Studios
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Classics, Puzzle, Trivia
Platform: Xbox Series S (via backwards compatibility – also available on PlayStation and Nintendo Switch)
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 22/12/2021
A code was provided for review purposes
Gardener’s Path is a puzzle game that involves taking out bugs and other pests from a massive underground garden. I slid my way through tiled arrays taking out enemies, avoiding spiky cacti and reaching the end of the level. Was this title a breath of fresh air? Find out in this Rapid Review.
The first time I booted up the game, I watched a brief cutscene detailing the world. I learned that oxygen was no longer sustainable normally and that an underground garden was the only sustainable source of breathable air. Thus, I needed to slay each creature that was living in the garden. It was an incredibly simple story, but it set up the game, and I enjoyed it. I did not find it worthwhile enough to pick up the game, but it was a pleasant addition.
Though the story was not gripping, it began the gardening theme. The developers cultivated this theme throughout the levels. I died to cacti, all the enemies I fought were common garden creatures, and I sought the help of gnomes. Every element of the game was a part of the garden. Nothing was weird. This continuity made exploring the various levels seem even more realistic, as though I was truly investigating different gardens underground. Gardener’s Path had a lovely theme.
Frolicking in the Fields
In addition to this wonderful aesthetic, the gameplay was fast, precise, and interesting. Though there were a few powerups, the primary mechanic in the game is sliding between tiles, damaging enemies when there is a collision. Movement felt great even though it was simple. Moreover, each row was clearly indicated so I never felt confused as to where I would end up. Even more advanced mechanics such as teleporters or bumpers clearly indicated where I would end up. Though everything was well telegraphed, many of the elements in the game were simple. I liked how the puzzle designs only revolved around moving. It helped me focus on how the puzzle should be solved instead of paying attention to timing and other mechanics. These simple puzzles kept me engaged throughout.
Despite featuring simple mechanics, the puzzles were not overly easy. They constantly pushed me to evaluate how assets could be used and made me pay attention. Personally, I had a lot of trouble solving a couple of the puzzles. When I had trouble, the game would allow me to skip a level and proceed to the next one. This helped a lot, as sometimes I wanted to take some time away from the level. Unfortunately, it does not mark these levels differently, so if I wanted to return to the level I skipped, I would have needed to remember it. I thought Gardener’s Path took an excellent approach to difficulty. It offered challenging levels, and then if I got frustrated, it allowed me to progress.
I also enjoyed how new elements were introduced. Before any new assets are used in challenging puzzles, I got to experiment with them in an easier level. In each of these, a gnome explained what the object does and how it impacted the world. Then, I got to explore several levels implementing the strategy, ultimately ramping up in difficulty. The multiple assets kept me immersed and made the new areas more refreshing. I had a lot of fun exploring the various assets and thought the level designs utilized these ideas in creative ways.
Though I had fun experimenting with these new assets, I wanted more. Even at the price point, I was disappointed to see that there were only sixty levels in the game. Considering that some of them are brief tutorial levels for new concepts and how fast-paced gameplay is, the game flew by before I even knew it. I was disappointed by how short Gardener’s Path was.
To supplement the gameplay, there were unlockable costumes that I obtained by collecting hidden objects in a few levels. These did not have a large impact on my experience, but I did enjoy seeing the collectables and grabbing them. They added an additional challenge, but they add much longevity, as there is only a handful of them. Still, the collectables improved my experience with the game.
Showcasing the View
I largely enjoyed my experience with Gardener’s Path even though it was short. However, even though I was playing on the Xbox Series S, my game was experiencing some slowdown in certain areas. It was never substantial enough to impede my experience, but it was noticeable and a bit annoying.
Despite these slight hiccups, the game looked and sounded excellent. The visuals were dark but they still stood out. Creatures looked slimy and antagonizing without losing the naivety that comes with an insect. The death animation was dramatic and tedious though, and it made each failed attempt more tedious. There is a quick restart button, but that cannot be used unless I was standing still. Still, the visual effects were appealing even if some were time-consuming.
The sound effects were fine too, but they were nothing incredible. It was satisfying to slide from area to area, listening to the sounds of collision. The background music kept me engaged as well, but I never found myself humming along. The game was presented nicely.
A Rose in the Cement
Gardener’s Path was a lot of fun. Though the game is very short, the core gameplay is largely a lot of fun, and the elements introduced kept me engaged while I was playing. Neither the story nor the soundtrack was anything exceptional, but as a simple puzzle game, Gardener’s Path is a lot of fun.
Rapid Reviews Rating
3.5 out of 5
You can purchase Gardener’s Path on the Microsoft Store here
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.