When our future is in question, all we want to do is to live in peace and harmony. However, this rarely happens as this fine balance is easily disturbed. When a hero is called upon to restore order, there is always one person who’ll heed the call. You are that individual and you’ll battle any monsters that threaten your existence in Gardener’s Path.
Developed by Viridino Studios and published by Ratalaika Games, this is a nature-inspired puzzle title. Using a beautiful hand-drawn pixel art style, you must overcome problems, find collectables, and help the gnomes save the world’s food supply. The puzzles all appear simple at first glance, yet they are deceptively tough and will frustrate you throughout.
Gardener’s Path balances new mechanics perfectly.
Gardener’s Path comprises 60 hand-drawn levels that vary in difficulty and style. The core concept revolves around moving the protagonist like a slider puzzle. He can navigate North, South, East, or West, and only stops when he hits an obstacle. Therefore, you must plan your moves before you attempt each stage. The goal is to reach the crystal by destroying every bug in sight. You’ll slide from one creature to another while avoiding cacti and other obstacles. It’s annoyingly simple but unbelievably challenging to complete.
This is a tough nut to crack, but the developers aren’t monsters and they want you to have a fighting chance. Therefore, they have utilised drip-fed mechanics to balance out the learning curve. This was an excellent decision that made the latter stages extremely complex while making the opening gambit attractive to inexperienced players. Furthermore, you are free to skip any stages you can’t complete. This ensures you were able to progress even when struggling. This was a user-friendly approach that I welcomed as unfortunately there is no hint system.
Use any tool at your disposal.
I love how Viridino Studios combined fantasy elements with logic-based layers. You’ll use magic, swords, poison, and brute force to solve every problem. It was intriguing to see how each element worked and how quickly the puzzles expanded.
You must decide when to use each item you collect and only one solution is viable per stage. This limited approach will frustrate some players, but I enjoyed the restrictive nature of the action. Whether you are gathering poison to destroy bugs, teleporting to your last position, or hiding in a bush, each option is key to solving each stage.
The wonderfully intertwined layers will test most logically minded players. Therefore, I think the latter stages will be too challenging and complex for newcomers. This was a shame, as it will alienate a percentage of its player base. Potentially, a hint system would have overcome this issue, and this was an oversight from the developers.
Gardener’s Path looks great but lacks detail.
I love the retro aesthetic that comes from a hand-drawn pixel art style. Gardener’s Path looks wonderfully dated, with its earthy tones and rough exterior. Yet this old-school approach has its downside. In a genre that requires you to plan your approach, you’d expect the visuals to be detailed. Sadly, they were far from it! I repeatedly made errors as I confused cacti for rocks and bushes. This caused me to die, fail repeatedly, and get annoyed. If the developers had made distinct models for each element, then this would have been resolved.
In a world filled with danger and dread you’d expect there to be a dramatic soundtrack. However, Gardener’s Path delivers a varied, yet calm collection of songs. The oriental-inspired music was at odds with the overall theme, but worked brilliantly with the genre. Alongside this, the action is supported by some strange but uninspiring sound effects.
Easy to master thanks to the UI.
Though the puzzles are challenging, the controls are not. A well laid out setup is supported by a clean and easy-to-understand UI. Every command is clearly explained and there is no confusion surrounding each mechanic. This was fantastic, as an already tough title could have been much harder.
Thanks to the 60 unique levels and garden-inspired logbook, you get a lot of action for your money. Sadly, though, the difficulty of many of these stages undermines its accessibility to less skilled players. Therefore, its appeal will be limited, and this is a shame. However, its longevity is increased thanks to the progress-based achievement list. Moreover, completionists must be logically minded or patient enough to skip each level.
Gardener’s Path is let down by its complexity.
It’s rare that I negatively focus on a puzzle title’s difficulty. However, Gardener’s Path is far too hard in the latter stages. I hated relying on a bye into the next round, as you feel like you are cheating. I take on the puzzle genre for both reward and a sense of achievement, yet these are missing the moment you skip a level. It’s good and I recommend you to buy it here despite its shortcomings. Can you destroy every monster and save the world? Slide around, use your tools, and hit every crystal.