Developer: VaragtP Studios
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Release Date: 7 December 2017 (US) / 12 December 2017 (UK)
Price: $4.99 / £4.99
Reviewed by Pat Lunn
As much as I wish it was, Plantera DX is not a vegan tie-in to everyone's favorite metal band. But it must be said, that description of the cookie-clicker style game is about as close as the one we're given by the eShop. The product page promises the ability to 'breed plants and animals' and 'create your own dream garden'. As a lover of both Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley, I'm sure you can imagine how that got my gamer taste buds watering. Unfortunately, while I was hoping to chow down on a juicy steak of farm-based RPG action, I was instead served a pile of mobile gaming fast food.
Farming In A Vegetative State
Gameplay is simply a case of buying and selling various trees, bushes and crops which spew out coins at different rates which either you or your multiple, blue, Mr.Blobby-shaped minions collect. These coins let you buy more stuff for your farm, eventually including animals which excrete more items that can be collected for coins. You can also expand your number of coin ejaculating flora and fauna on screen once you start making some serious cash. Added into this basic ‘waiting game’ mechanic is the duty of protecting your crops from foxes, wolves and magpies who all seek to nick your coins. However, once you have enough coins these threats no longer matter. I got to the point of allowing some creatures to make off with their money with a hope that it would count as a tax-deductible form of charity. Simply put, its coins coins coins, and when the game is both structured around currency production, while also making the in-game currency meaningless, it all just feels like a some bizarre capitalist treadmill.
The Noble Plantera Lineage
I didn't just pull a comparison out of my backside earlier when I compared Plantera to fast food. Much like my favourite chicken nuggets, it's a game that offers instant gratification without any real flavor or depth. There is no story, there is no context. I was going to say it feels an awful lot like a game designed for phones but after few minutes of fevered research (not just a Google, but also a Bing) I discovered that this is actually the remastered 'deluxe' edition of the game ported onto the Nintendo Switch.
The original, classic version, was indeed an iPhone/Android game designed in the vein of so many other games of its ilk; hook the player in with decent aesthetics and the cheap feeling of arbitrary achievement, then mine their wallets for cash. I actually downloaded the free app for my iPad and found the difficulty curve spike much faster than the Switch version as my screen became filled with thieving magpies and foxes. It was at this point I was offered the chance to pay 99p in return for a guard dog upgrade that keeps some of the ground-based pests away, an upgrade that is earned through in-game currency in the deluxe edition. This lead me on to a strange train of thought, if the original game was designed to pry open my wallet for the profit of Developer, then who is the deluxe edition serving?
Watching Paint Dry In Style
Recently, I have found that video games have programmed me to constantly fidget while watching TV. I have to be playing something, even if it's just wandering about the Aloha region in Pokémon Sun with no real aim. I find myself a little lost without something to do with my hands. I think this is where Plantera DX comes in, it's a completely safe fidgety nicotine patch.
With it's pretty design, relatively low cost and removal of micro transactions, Plantera DX offers a virtual fidget spinner for your Nintendo Switch. A small feeling of achievement while you make your way through the latest Netflix series but ultimately an empty experience. Taking up knitting is cheaper and more fulfilling, but a nice coat of polish keeps this game from the realm of pure trash.
Pros & Cons
+ Nice visuals
- Paid port of a free app
- Shallow gameplay