Those of you that have played any given Gnomes Garden before, will know exactly what to expect with Gnomes Garden: New Home. The release of New Home marks the fourth Gnomes Garden game to be released on the Xbox One. Oddly enough, the developer saw it fit to release these games out of numerical order; first releasing the third game, then the first, then the second, and now the fourth. That doesn’t really matter all that much, because to be fair, the story elements of the Gnomes Garden games are pretty basic and bare-bones.
That said, if you’re not interested in what little plot these games relay, you’re free to bounce to and from any title in whatever order you like. Due to the fact that, on a mechanical basis, these games don’t really alter all that much from title to title. Nevertheless, let’s take this from the top. The game centers around the Princess’ need to hunt down what’s known as the Green Recipe, in an attempt to prevent her people from running out of food and ultimately starving. This sees the Princess setting off on a journey across unknown lands in need of care.
The crux of play, as alluded to above, remains practically unchanged. Now, if you’ve enjoyed the Gnomes Garden games so far, this isn’t particularly bad news. If, however, you enjoy a gradual climb in complexity from title to title, you may be somewhat disheartened. Rather than taking control of a character, you’ll guide a cursor around the screen as you manage a selection of resources that are oftentimes needed to fulfill objectives. New Home follows a similar path to its predecessors, being that it feeds you into the experience quite well.
The UI is well laid out and remains very much accessible throughout the entirety of play. You’ll see a total of four resources along the top of the screen; food, wood, stone and vegetables. These are your necessities, and something you’ll become familiar with on a regular basis. Outside of that, you’ll have a star-chart (or a bar, to be specific) to the left of the screen. This will slowly begin to deplete from the moment that you start any given level, subsequently taking stars off you depending on how long it takes for you to complete a run.
You’ll always start with a full bar, and there’s a total of three stars that you can earn per-level. Though, with that in mind, the game pretty much plays itself out with your guidance, meaning that it’s not at all difficult to max out. Your mission objectives will be present on the lower of the screen, giving you firm knowledge of what you need to accomplish across the game’s many levels. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Gnomes Garden keeps things simple, lending it a good degree of accessibility as a result. Seriously, anyone can play this.
The aim of the game is equally as such. You’ll be given your objectives at the beginning of each level and will work to fulfilling them with the use of your primary worker. Using the cursor, you’ll maneuver this worker to and from resources and objects as you make progression. Need to take resources from a farm? Simply click on a nearby growth. Need some wood to repair a bridge? Click on some wooden logs to gather your supplies and then click on the bridge itself. This is the very concept that you will follow from the get-go.
The game’s difficulty does rise as you get further in, but I cant say that outside of being penalized via the star system, there’s not really anyway that you can fail here. The game has been developed in such a way that you’ll be rewarded with stars for swifter runs, but by not truly punishing its players outside of that, like I said above, it practically plays itself. Still, either way and with that in mind, there’s something oddly alluring about trying to complete each level as efficiently as possible to grab as many stars and achievements as you can.
Much like in the previous titles, the complexity of each level will climb as you proceed. Starting out, you’ll rely on just the one worker, but later on in the game, you’ll need more than just a single pair of hands. This is where structural upgrading comes into the view. Using your resources, you can eventually build resource mills and additional homes for useful folk. Mills will present you with a steady hand-out of specific resources, which comes in handy for when you find a level that requires a bulk of particular goods to beat. Simple stuff, really.
The additional homes, on the other hand, will grant you access to new workers of varying skills. For example, you’ll soon come up against giant sleeping golems that will block your path to something useful. Building a sorcerer’s home will allow you to then send the sorcerer to magically whisk said golem away, giving you instant access to the previously blocked off area. You can also upgrade your worker’s hut to send out more than one worker at a time, further giving you more hands on deck – so to speak – to get objectives completed faster.
There’s really not much depth to the game elsewhere. You’ll move across a decent number of distinctly designed, variously themed levels, completing tasks and the moving on to the next. That’s that. Occasionally, the game will throw fresh objectives your way, or new obstacles, but for the most part, New Home is nothing more than a self explanatory point-and-click resource management adventure. I’ll reiterate, if you’ve enjoyed the series to this point, then picking up New Home is a no brainer. Just don’t expect much evolution here.
If you’re completely new to the series, it’s fair to compare this game to something you’ll see on Facebook, such as FarmVille. I’ve no doubt that we’ll be seeing much more from Gnomes Garden in the future, but I can only hope that we at least see some more innovation in the long run. When all is said and done, if you’re in the market for a game like this, you can go much worse. There’s a solid foundation in place, but it’s a foundation that’s not really built upon. Simplicity and accessibility will only get you so far, and were four titles and counting.
Fun in short doses, yes, but that’s where the fun ends. This, at its very best, is a passable puzzle-esque game, make of that what you will. I’ve played three of them so far and I can wholeheartedly say that, simply due to the lack of mechanical growth, I’m rapidly becoming bored. The game’s visual and audio design, again, remains inline with its predecessors. Despite the well varied locations that the game takes you to, the detail is hit and miss. The same can be said about the game’s audio and its cues. That said, for its price, this is easy to overlook.
There’s no denying that for its cheap cost, you’re getting more than enough content in return, but it’s content that ultimately becomes repetitive before too long. Much like each of its three predecessors, New Home fails to truly evolve its gameplay loop throughout its entirety. That said, I’ll credit the game for its simplicity and accessibility, but this means very little when innovation has been sacrificed as a result.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.