Gardener’s Path is a top-down puzzle game set in a fantasy version of Earth where all of the oxygen comes from vents scattered around the surface of the planet. These vents connect to gardens, which in turn produce the oxygen needed to sustain life. It is your job as a gardener to fight against giant insects that threaten to destroy the gardens.
As much as I love the premise of the world, that found in Gardener’s Path doesn’t play much of a role throughout the game. With its main contribution being the short blurbs of story and the art-style.
That being said, as a puzzle game Gardener’s Path does a great job. Each level has insects scattered around it, with varying amounts of health. Your job is to roll into them, kill them, and make your way to the exit gem on the level. There are cacti spread throughout the level that will instantly kill you if you hit them, causing you to restart the level.
The first few levels serve as a bit of a tutorial, with friendly gnomes explaining the mechanics of the game to help you start making progress. Some levels will have items that affect how the puzzles need to be solved. For example, there is a special dagger that will insta-kill the next insect you hit. There is another item that will cause you to teleport back to the last spot you were stationary in.
I like this system because you don’t spend time trying to use abilities that don’t need to be used to solve the puzzle. It also means more mechanics can be introduced in later levels, without it becoming too complicated; something which Gardener’s Path does as well.
The first mechanic you’ll come across are sunflowers and these will bounce you in the direction they are facing once you hit them. Later on you will find plants that will teleport you, beetles that can only be defeated by hitting them from behind or the side, and scorpions that will affect which directions you can move. Thankfully, the scorpions are only present for the last few levels.
These mechanics get mixed and matched throughout different levels to create unique puzzles that keep things interesting.
Overall, Gardener’s Path does a really good job of scaling the difficulty, without making things ever feel impossible. You can either sit and think things through, or you can use a bit of trial and error to narrow down the only logical solutions.
I will say, the trailer of the game makes things seem a bit more action-packed than it actually is. The insects never do damage to you, so you can sit for as long as you want – and need – to plan out your next move. And some of the levels do take a good amount of thinking to figure out. However, they aren’t so complicated that you’ll feel hopeless. As an added precaution though, if you die five times on a level, Gardener’s Path will ask you if you’d like to skip it. And it also lets you know that you always have the option to come back and play it again later.
This is pretty generous for a puzzle-solving game and it’s great news for any achievement hunters that are looking at Gardener’s Path. That’s because every achievement in the game is tied to progression, and skipping levels still counts as progressing. This means that 1000 Gamerscore awaits anyone who is willing to kill themselves 300 times. Of course, you could always do the proper thing and play the game the way it was meant to be played. But who has time for that?
Either way, completing Gardener’s Path won’t take up much of your time, but when you consider the low price point coupled with some simple but fun gameplay, it makes it a worthwhile investment.
It’s not too long either, so you can expect 1-2 hours of gameplay, maybe a bit longer, depending on your aptitude for puzzle games. There are 60 levels to play through, but every time a new mechanic is introduced, it’s done in a very basic level that takes close to no time to complete.
It’s nice that this is how the mechanics are introduced here, but this does lead to the game being a bit shorter than some may like. But on the flip-side, Gardener’s Path doesn’t ever feel repetitive; a problem that so many puzzle-games in the genre face. I didn’t experience any bugs or technical issues, and the overall experience was very clean.
If you are looking for a short puzzle-game, with a nice, classic visual-style, and some satisfying puzzles to beat, then Gardener’s Path is well worth the buy.
Gardener’s Path is available to download from the Xbox Store