Astro Garden, a new Facebook game published by 6waves Lolapps, is a farming game with a twist. Players start with an impressive-looking farm that already has growing crops, healthy animals and a variety of curious buildings, but within a few moments a thunderstorm rolls in and destroys everything, wiping out the player character’s memories in the process. Thus begins a quest to rebuild whatever it was the player was doing prior to the game’s opening — a quest which culminates with the discovery of the elixir of eternal life.
Note that Astro Garden is actually the exact same game The Big Farm Theory, which Red Spell developed prior to signing a publishing agreement with 6waves Lolapps. A spokesperson for the publisher tells us the original game is still live as a favor to players that don’t want to restart the game from scratch. That version, however, will not be marketed.
Astro Garden sees players attempting to regain their lost memories through rebuilding their garden. For the most part, this process takes the form of fairly conventional farming gameplay — planting crops, clearing debris, feeding animals, creating meandering paths and building special structures. The game features a number of twists on the formula, however, making it a worthwhile experience to explore even for veterans of the genre.
The most obvious addition to the basic mechanics comes in the form of the “hybrids” system. Once the player has constructed a Laboratory building, they are able to research new forms of crops, resources and special items by spending combinations of components collected through exploration and debris-clearing. Rather than providing a linear research path, the “tech tree” approach taken (where later research is dependent on one or more prerequisite technologies) is strongly reminiscent of more complex strategy titles such as Sid Meier’s popular Civilization series. The eventual goal of the game is to complete the tech tree and construct the Elixir of Eternal Life, but along the way the player gains the ability to grow a wide range of mutated crops in their garden, which can subsequently be sold for considerably more profit than their naturally-occurring brethren.
Alongside this, the game incorporates a “Combo” system similar to that seen in Familiar Ville, which we reviewed last week. Collecting reward items in rapid succession adds to a meter at the top of the screen, and filling this meter provides the player with soft currency, resources and a temporary multiplier to subsequent rewards. The amount of time players have to build their combo before it expires is considerably more generous than that seen in Familiar Ville, though the timer doesn’t stop when popup windows appear on screen, meaning players can easily lose an impressive combo when dismissing quest completion dialogs. To assist with building up a combo when the on-screen action becomes hectic, however, the player has the opportunity to acquire “pet” characters who will automatically wander around and collect any dropped reward items quickly without the player having to roll the mouse over them.
Another welcome addition is the opportunity for players to use collected “food” resources to generate energy-restoring items rather than being obliged to spend hard currency on extended play sessions. The latter option is still available, of course, but this catering to non-paying players will likely be gratefully received.
Astro Garden is mostly polished with high-quality sounds, speech and music presented alongside distinctive 3D prerendered visuals. There are a few spelling and grammatical errors in the game’s text, however, and one of the music tracks used in the game persistently cuts off early. These little flaws take the “professional” edge off the game slightly, but despite this it does an eminently good job of adding some very welcome new ideas to the somewhat tired farming genre.
Astro Garden currently has 300,000 monthly active users and 60,000 daily active users. Its identical twin The Big Farm Theory currently has 140,000 monthly active users and 40,000 daily active users. You can follow their progress with AppData, our traffic tracking service for social games and developers.
Despite being a relaunch of a six-month old game, Astro Garden feels like a breath of fresh air in a tired genre.