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Hands-on with Pocket Garden - a farm-based social puzzler
By Peter Willington 14 October 2013
Game Name: Pocket Garden | Publisher: Cobra Mobile | Format: iPhone, iPad
Don't let the colourful and welcoming screens kid you otherwise: Pocket Garden gets pretty hardcore the further you progress.

The game is by Cobra Mobile, the studio behind the well-received iBomber series.

At a glance Pocket Garden looks like a freemium-builder in the vein of something like a FarmVille, but it turns out to be a fast-paced sorting game that requires great dexterity at higher levels.

The lay of the land



You have multiple channels within a plot of land, in which fruits and vegetables grow rapidly. It's your task to ensure that as few pests as possible interfere, and then to pick your squashes, tomatoes, onions, and so on at the right moments and place them in baskets. You have 60 seconds to gather as many as possible.

It sounds easy, and it is to begin with. But as your level increases, and as the range of crops you have access to expands, and as more pests come into play, the game gets increasingly hectic.

There are multiple and very specific baskets to put your plants into, and not all pests can be treated equally. You'll want to squish flies, but if you put snails to one side you can sell them to the French restaurant in town (more on this element in a few paragraphs' time).

I've got a brand new combine harvester



When you're not playing the puzzle element you're improving your farm, buying more land, and levelling up your abilities in growing certain types of fruit and veg. Buy more types of facilities for your land, and keep improving the ones you have, and you'll unlock more goodies to play with.

In turn this increases the number of rewards on offer during play, but it makes the game harder at the same time. You can also splash out on more frivolous items to beautify your land, such as bunting or flower bushes.

All of this improvement isn't just for your benefit - there's Facebook integration in Pocket Garden so that you can share your customised home with friends. Logging in with Facebook also allows for cross-platform play between devices, as it saves your progress in the cloud.

Pleasingly, if you play the puzzle game on a friend's land and she has made more progress than you, you're rewarded the higher-tier items, meaning you can complete your own objectives much faster.

The items you grow are traded in to the local town for Coins, which in turn allows you to improve your farm. This element will continually expand as you play the game, with more and more shop types opening up.

Purdy



Back to the game's looks: it really is a pretty thing to behold. There's not a lot of animation to be seen in its current state, which is disappointing as it would have added a bit more energy and life to Pocket Garden. But it's ultra sharp and detailed, and whenever I looked at it I couldn't help but think of Super Nintendo RPG Chrono Trigger.

More importantly, once you're past the title screen there are no more load screens to see, and it boots promptly. This will be handy, as you'll want to snack on the game a couple of times a day rather than gorging yourself in mammoth sessions.

I'm impressed with Pocket Garden so far. It's got the warm and friendly trappings of a casual game, but there's genuine skill involved in its puzzle action. We'll see how the final game turns out when it arrives later this year.
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