Peter Rabbit’s Garden from Poppin Games is a new free-to-play iOS game based on Beatrix Potter’s series of children’s books from the early 20th century — a series which is soon to return to the small screen with a new TV show from Nickelodeon. The game is available now as a free download from the App Store, but is an iPhone-only title at this time and will be rising to $4.99 after June 14.
The setup for Peter Rabbit’s Garden sees the titular anthropomorphic rabbit hero once again drawing the ire of local farmer Mr. McGregor (misspelled as “Mr. McGreggor” in the game) by stealing his vegetables. Peter’s mother decides to move the whole family away so no more of them share her husband’s fate — he was previously baked into a pie by Mr. McGregor.
Following this initial story sequence, beautifully illustrated with images from the original books, the player’s role in Peter’s new tale begins. Unfortunately it’s a tale we’ve heard many times before — dig plots, plant crops, wait for them to mature (or hurry them along with hard currency) and build various structures to provide income. At least in this instance the basic gameplay mechanics of growing crops is thematically appropriate for the source material.
To be fair to Peter Rabbit’s Garden, the game does incorporate a few twists on the usual formula. Grown crops can be sold in various locations which gradually unlock as the game progresses. Successfully selling crops often attracts other characters from Beatrix Potter’s books, including Benjamin Bunny, Mrs. Tiggywinkle and numerous others. In order to keep these characters in Peter’s garden, the player must quickly build the respective character’s “home” structure before a timer expires, otherwise they will leave and have to be attracted again. Collectible picture-book pieces can also be found in these locations, providing incentive for players to sell their produce at a wide variety of locations over time.
Certain structures have minigames attached to them, the first of which sees Peter returning to Mr. McGregor’s garden to steal more vegetables. This takes the form of a one-button stealth game, where Peter must sneak forward by holding down on the screen when Mr. McGregor’s back is turned, and hide when he turns around by releasing. The minigame is fun enough and provides a diversion from the otherwise predictable farming gameplay — though thematically it seems rather out of place, given that the whole point of the experience is supposedly to help the Rabbit family escape from McGregor altogether.
Peter Rabbit’s Garden is beautifully presented, with art straight from the books and a lively orchestral soundtrack accompanying the action. It’s a shame the basic gameplay is so unimaginative and the same care hasn’t been taken with the in-game text as has been lavished upon the audio-visual presentation — the misspelling of a character as important to Peter Rabbit as Mr. McGregor doesn’t set a great first impression for fans of the source material.
This style of game remains popular, however. For example, Capcom’s Smurfs’ Village, which is almost identical in terms of gameplay to Peter Rabbit’s Garden, was the fastest-growing free iPhone game this week despite its age. This suggests that despite its lack of innovation, Poppin Games’ new title has the potential enjoy some success with fans of this genre, though its long-term appeal will be dependent on how frequent updates will be.
There’s an important factor to consider, however, which is price. While Peter Rabbit’s Garden is currently free to download, after June 14 it will be $4.99. This type of game is generally free to play with hard currency sales and other microtransactions taking care of monetization. Peter Rabbit’s Garden will be asking players to not only purchase what is a relatively expensive iPhone title, but one which also includes microtransactions in spades (no pun intended) in order to progress quickly. This is likely to have a significant impact on audience perception of the title — App Store reviewers are becoming more and more resistant to excessive use of in-app purchases even in free-to-download titles, so it’s unlikely they will respond positively to seeing them in a game they may have paid $4.99 for.
As a new title, Peter Rabbit’s Garden is not yet listed in our tracking service AppData. Check back shortly to follow its progress through the App Store charts.