Plantera, for iOS and Android, is a side-scrolling farming game that has you creating and tending to an ever-increasing virtual garden full of crops, trees and animals.
It’s a classic, tried-and-tested game format with some new fun and friendly audio and visual treats thrown in that aims to cure your boredom and occupy your fleeting moments of spare time.
When you first launch Plantera, you’ll be taken through a somewhat minimal tutorial to get to grips with game’s mechanics. For anyone that has played idle clicker games before, the premise will be straightforward and you’ll be able to get going pretty swiftly.
You start by planting a few root vegetables and shrubs and build up to large fruit trees and livestock, each producing its own harvest for you to sell for coins — these coins are then reinvested in new plants and animals, and so the cycle goes. You can also extend your farm’s bounds in order to multiply your profitability.
Each item of produce, when ripe, can either be tapped to be harvested, or you can leave this to your aides which come in the form of little blue ‘Helpers’. These blob-like creatures work tirelessly to pick up and sell your items for you, and continue to do so when you leave the game — the results of which are shown to you on your return.
Now, it’s not all peaceful progress in farm town. There are pesky birds, rabbits, moles, foxes, and even wolves that prey on your plants and pets. These can be warded off by purchasable scarecrows and guard dogs, or manually if you pay enough attention.
The first pleasant aspect of note are the game’s cutesy, 16-bit graphics that encompass everything from the Helpers to the plants and animals within. These are unique to Plantera and, coupled with the music and sound effects, add up to an enjoyable experience.
The hard work soon ramps up, though, with more and more stock requiring harvesting as you progress. This provides the game with a strange balance of relaxation and addictiveness. I find the gameplay to be a fairly chilled affair but the desire to gain more coins and level up to unlock new plant and livestock types a draw to continue playing.
That said, if you want to progress quickly, don’t leave it to the Helpers to do the harvesting as they seem to have bought into the chilled-out vibe too and do not seem to be in much of a rush to help you turn a profit. This often resulted in me tapping across the screen like a mad man in order to gain a quick cash injection.
As both your plot and level grows, you'll find an increasingly busy farm to manage which becomes visually cluttered. There are toggles to switch you from one end of the farm to the other to aid usability as well as one that enables you to view only the root vegetables (as these are the most hidden and therefore hardest to see when they need some attention). This madness seems intentional, though, as it makes for a more challenging task and keeping on top of the aforementioned pests becomes much more difficult.
With a few hours of game time, I had managed to level up to a point where all of the in-game incentives had been unlocked. This was a tad disappointing as it hurts the longevity of the game — sure, I could go through the process of deleting the less profitable crops and adding those that yield more coins and make my farm generate more coins per minute but with no further plants or animals to unlock, I had little desire to continue farming and growing my empire.
To that end, Plantera feels like a game lacking in depth. It’s a light-hearted and fun mechanic yet lacks much to ensure long-term playability. I’d like to see more in-game incentives, the ability to manage your garden more effectively or some multi-player aspects to make the game feel more strategic rather than simply an endless clicker.
Plantera is free, which means there are in-app monetization strategies. In this title, they come in two forms — ads and in-app purchases. These are fairly unobtrusive, and I did not have to use either much in order to progress. In-game boosts — making your Helpers more efficient for an hour or making your plants produce good more quickly — can be acquired by watching short interstitial video ads (usually for other, similar games). This certainly helped spur you on to a more advance level. Purchases include a guard dog to fend off pests in your absence or a sack of manure that doubles your coin production indefinitely. I did not feel the need to purchase either item but I would have liked the in-app purchase items to be available to earn through gameplay, rather than just by dropping some dollars.
Overall, Plantera is an easy-to-access, simple-to-play farming title. The game employs cute graphics and an enjoyable soundtrack as well as a familiar and straightforward game mechanic that, while a tad too basic for more advanced players, is highly addictive.