Like the Harvest, Repetition is Key
Puzzle de Harvest Moon has a pretty interesting concept behind it. You wouldn’t think that a genre that defines itself almost exclusively through agricultural simulations would have much room for a puzzle game in its vast catalog of games. But somehow, we got Puzzle de Harvest Moon. As you might expect, the core gameplay of Puzzle De Harvest Moon involves farming. Essentially your task is to harvest more than the competition. It sounds daunting, but the way that this is accomplished is pretty nifty.
Essentially you start off with a 5×7 plot of land. This plot will be your “battle” area. Then it’s up to you, as well as four competitors, to plant seeds, and then water, fertilize, and harvest them and achieve farming glory. The way you do this is via a five-panel “toolkit” on the right hand side of the touch screen. Here you will find everything you need for success: seeds, watering cans, fertilizer, a basket for harvesting, and the occasional farm animal. However, the five spaces do not have a static tool in them; in fact they are all completely random. So you could end up with five panels worth of seeds and no water or fertilizer. But that’s all part of the puzzle!
Each item in your toolkit must be used in the communal plot for success. As you might expect, you start off by planting seeds. Each seed takes up one plot on the land. Then you use your fertilizer and watering can and nurture it until a fruit or vegetable grows. Once it does, then you use your basket for harvesting. Since your five-panel toolkit is a little random, you might not always have a basket, so you can alternately shake your onscreen fruit or vegetable by rubbing your stylus back and forth over it.
You may also have a farm animal or two dropped into your toolkit. There are five standard animals, which are upgradable to “golden” animals should you perform well early on in the game. But we’ll start off with the basics. There are five animals: a dog, cow, horse, chicken, and a sheep. Each of these animals can be used for strategic purposes, and smart use of the farm animals can really make or break the game. The most useful of the animals has to be the dog, which keeps a 2×2 plot of land safe from interference from anyone who might try to capitalize on your hard work. The cow has the opposite effect and prevents other players from working on their own 2×2 plots. The horse changes plots on a 2×2 plot to your color. The sheep only lets your opponents use one item from their toolkit, and the chicken eats your opponent’s seeds. The “golden” versions of these animals amplify these status effects by covering the entire farm plot instead of just one 2×2 area. The only exception to this is the golden cow, which causes your crops to grow twice as fast.
When playing Puzzle de Harvest Moon, there are some very important things to keep in mind. First off, all the plots are communal, so this means that you can potentially harvest crops that you have had no hand in growing. Yes it’s a slimy tactic, but it’s how you win. You’ll get less points for harvesting other people’s crops, but they still count! Another thing to keep in mind is to play your toolkit smart. If you have no seeds but a ton of fertilizer, you can fertilize all your neighbor’s crops and reap the benefits. Puzzle de Harvest Moon is all about strategic gameplay, and once you find a way to balance honest crop-growing with your own sneaky tendencies, you’ll have mastered the Puzzle de Harvest Moon.
And that’s where the trouble with this game begins. There’s only three real “modes,” and they’re all excruciatingly similar. There’s regular mode, where you pick from about twelve characters, pick a skill level, how long you want to play, and then you go for it. The next mode is survival mode, which is essentially the same thing, the only difference is that you’ll keep going through the puzzle until someone beats you. And if you’ve developed a working strategy, you’ll probably quit before you’re eaten, simply because the computer competition isn’t all that challenging. The last mode is quest mode, which essentially gives you bonus points for harvesting a certain crop. But the specified crop doesn’t really alter the score all that drastically, so if you just play through it like a regular round, then you’re more likely to win then if you waited around for the specific “quest crop.”
Graphics, controls, and music all develop a very simplistic theme. The graphics are pretty good, but you don’t really need much for a puzzle game where your main objective is to plant crops. The graphics can best be described as stoic, but I can’t imagine much movement in a game like this. Controls use the touch screen exclusively, and all you really have to do is drag and drop tools from your menu or rub your crops via the stylus. Music is very simplistic, but not abrasively so. It’s not a real pleasure to listen to, but the simplistic tunes don’t really get on your nerves either, so I consider that a win.
Puzzle de Harvest Moon has a really unique concept, but unfortunately there’s just no substance behind it. You can play through the puzzle, and then you can play through it again, and then you realize that there’s not much else this game. Sure it’s fun for a quick diversion, the same way games like Bejeweled and Jewel Quest are. But you won’t get much lasting value out of this one, which is a shame, because it could have been done so well. Puzzle de Harvest Moon could have really benefited from time trial modes, challenge modes, maybe even some sort of story mode involving the characters that the game features. But alas, there is only one Puzzle de Harvest Moon, and much like the real harvest, this one is all about repetition. Oh, well.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.0 Graphics
Pretty good anime-stylized characters. Plots of land and veggies don’t look bad either. However since there’s not much action, there’s not too much required here either. 3.3 Control
Controls are pretty easy and focus entirely on the touch screen. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Some pretty cutesy tunes that change as the seasons change. 2.0
You can vary the level your playing at, and even play in different modes, but ultimately, it’s all the same thing, so it gets old pretty fast.
2.9 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.