There’s a decent idea for a puzzle game here, but it’s not as developed as it needs to be to feel wholly satisfying.
Developer: Portgate Studios
Publisher: Portgate Studios
Release Date: 19 April, 2021
When first looking at the previews of Regrowth (RG), it reminded me of a game I played on Kongregate a few years ago called colorzzle. At least, from what I initially remembered, though after double-checking how that game actually works, it’s not very similar after all. Regardless, my mistaken memory was enough to catch my interest, so I wound up getting a review copy to see how green of a thumb I had and whether I could save these arid islands.
The quote, “Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink,” seems rather fitting in this puzzle game, as though each island is surrounded by water, they’re all drying out and sinking into the ocean. You have to manage the limited resources available, while keeping track of your time limit, to grow a set amount of grass to keep the island lush and intact. As the grass grows, it gives you points you’ll trade in for items to set the island up to maintain the most amount of grass possible, making the grass both a resource and objective. The tools at your disposal include grass seed, flowers, irrigation pipes, and a rain bucket. It’s up to you to decide which items available to you are placed and at what time, as location, timing, and sequence are all quite important.
While progressing in the game, new mechanics are introduced to switch up how you go about meeting your grass growing objective. Weather-based ones are helpful, as rain hydrates every tile, while the wind carries over viable grass seed to other tiles. These events are marked on the time bar, including the direction the wind will blow, giving an idea of where you’ll need to start growing the grass and where it’ll end up. An example of an obstacle is the grass-eating snail, whereas the helpful bee will travel from one ready to pollinate tile to the next.
RG is controlled with a mouse and keyboard, which is the most efficient method as opposed to what a controller could offer. The mouse is used to check the range of items such as how many tiles a pool of water effects, and is used to place all the tools you use. There’s shortcut keys available to select the next tool you’ll place, by hitting the assigned numbers shown at the bottom of the screen. Pausing and unpausing time is done by hitting the ‘space bar.’
The game opens with an introduction including an earth deity named Deimos who’s up in arms over the actions of water and fire spirits trying to resolve global warming with some kind of treaty. Deimos thinks such an arrangement is unnecessary, and with you not promptly agreeing with him, boots you far away as a traitor. No further story elements are shown as you play, and it’s not much of a story, but it serves as enough glue to give the gameplay some direction and purpose.
There’s not much variety in the game’s visuals, as it consists of the same setting and materials throughout, so you’ll always be staring at desert islands and small patches of grass desperate to survive. A few mechanics provide some novelty, such as the bee and snail, but more could have been done to keep the visuals fresh and engaging. RG uses an isometic view, which can be confusing with some games as to which way an arrow key will move. However, since the controls don’t function that way, the angle isn’t a detriment in this case.
The sound balancing seems to be out of whack in RG, as it’s very inconsistent. The opening title screen can be quite loud, as well as the overworld, but when actually in one of the puzzles, the music is hard to hear. From what I’ve noticed of it though, there’s only a single song in the entire game, and though it’s a calm string-based track, it’s not enough to carry the whole game, so muting it and playing your own background music might be a better option. I didn’t notice any issues with the sound effects, as there are audio cues when plants hit a growth cycle.
- Although it seems similar to other puzzle games, vaguely akin to something like the water management of Wetrix for the Nintendo 64, RG is its own kind of puzzle game. The unique aspect of it is enjoyable.
- The developer has been consistently responding to feedback and revising the game accordingly.
- If you get stuck on a level, you have the ability to skip it and keep playing.
- The way the puzzles are constructed in RG doesn’t seem to offer as much flexibility or creativity as other puzzle games. New mechanics are introduced often but don’t tinker with the island shapes very much, and none of them show up for very long. Second, although you have to determine the correct order of operations, with how destructive dry tiles are to your goal, you wind up not having a lot of viable moves to make. Finding the correct solution might still elude you, but many options aren’t even possible, so figuring out what to do is all the more frustrating.
- Nuances of the game’s mechanics aren’t fully explained. For instance, the snail that eats grass can clip the same patch multiple times, and it’ll remain viable and spread to connecting tiles even if it looks too short. However, if the originating patch of grass in a cluster is destroyed, its off-shoots will be obliterated by the snail.
- You don’t have direct control over the timer, which means that if you accidentally go too far, you have to restart the puzzle from the beginning. You also can’t fast forward past areas that you don’t care about. My play time would be a lot shorter otherwise.
- Timing is very important in RG, so pausing the action when grass flourishes or a flower blooms often proves necessary in order to get everything done fast enough. I’ve cleared many puzzles within the last couple of seconds, and not placing an item early enough would have led to failure.
- Knowing what your target is can help determine whether your current strategy is in the right general direction or if you’re missing the mark somehow. Honestly, knowing that I’m quite a bit off can help me try something entirely different, but when I’m just shy of the goal, I get stumped.
- Sometimes, the title of the puzzle can give some inspiration as to something you can try. You are able to place an item on top of another, replacing it, and that was necessary a couple of times.
The developer has announced that a level editor will be available in the future, but even if you could play puzzles made by others, there’s little to hold your interest in RG. There’s only 1 game mode to play and around 48 puzzles to solve, none of which provide any reason to play again unless you’re grinding for achievements. In spite of the gimmicks that were introduced, they don’t fundamentally change the core mechanics or focus of how the puzzles work, especially with regards to the size and shape of the islands you keep playing on.
For the gameplay to work as well as other puzzle games, I think it would need to change the biomes of the land masses so new puzzle mechanics could be implemented. Examples that come to mind would be a forest setting where grass grows more easily, permafrost covered land that’d resist growth, and so on. If more of the game was well polished, and there was more versatility in the puzzles’ layout and map design, I would likely recommend RG, even though I often got stumped. However, it’s not currently to the level I’d suggest playing it. At least, not until its regrown into something better.