Try Your Thumb at Hybridizing Plants with GameHouse’s Secret Plant Society

Gamehouse, a developer best known for bringing UNO and Scrabble to Facebook, recently released The Secret Plant Society, a new take on plant growing/farming games.  Though similar in many ways to earlier farm games, Secret Plant Society introduces a few new mechanics, including hybridizing plants to create newer and more profitable strains.

Secret Plant Society is based around plants and pots.  The game starts you off with a small greenhouse, a couple ornaments, nine “starter pots” and some seeds.  Unlike most other farming games, you have no avatar present on screen, so all interaction is based on clicking your plants and tools.

You start by learning how to plant the most basic plant, the Common Clover, which takes 15 minutes to mature.  After 15 minutes, you click the harvest button to harvest, and receive a new Common Clover seed to plant, experience, coins, and an empty plot to plant in again.  The interesting mechanic is that sometimes side-by-side plants will hybridize and create a seed for a new strain of plant.  For instance, a Common Clover planted next to another Common Clover will sprout a Vigorous Clover seed.  All plants and their hybrids are recorded in your Almanac, allowing you to see which combinations have been tried and what combinations might still be undiscovered.

For plants like the Common Clover that mature in 15 minutes, and the Vigorous Clover which matures in 3 hours, the starter pots are just fine as they hold up to 3 hours of water.  However, more advanced plants such as the Scarlet Spiral Begonia take 10 hours to mature.  Plants will only mature as long as there is water in the pot. So, if you logged in only once a day, on the second day your Scarlet Spiral Begonia would have matured only 3 of the necessary 10 hours.  Higher level pots hold more water, allowing plants to grow longer without your help. These are especially helpful as you reach higher levels, where plants can require up to 2 days to mature.

Other familiar mechanics and concepts find their way into Secret Plant Society, providing recognizable incentives for players.  Quests give players goals to work towards and introduce new concepts.  Plant Society also gives you the option to unlock or purchase items using a virtual currency called “Green Bucks.” Some items are merely decorative, but you can also purchase fertilizer which reduces the amount of time required for plants to mature.  As mentioned above, players gain experience points and levels from raising and breeding plants, which unlock more plants and tools from the shop.

Though you can invite friends to play Secret Plant Society with you, there aren’t many social aspects so far.  You can add friends to your Members list, visit the greenhouses of people on your Members list and vice versa.  Upon visiting, you can help them to water their plants, and they can help you water yours, but apart from that there doesn’t seem to be anything else you can do for your friends.

Overall, Secret Plant Society is a fun game that almost feels like a real foray into growing, harvesting, and breeding plants.  The mechanics of the game mesh very well with the overall design, making the overall experience quite fluid.

One issue that might dissuade some players is that gameplay can become slow and stale when you grow higher-level plants, which take 18-48 hours to mature.  Furthermore, the lack of any real social aspects doesn’t encourage inviting friends. Likely because of these two problems, The Secret Plant Society is struggling to retain users, with about 140,000 monthly actives but only 6,500 daily actives.  Still, at its base, the game is a new and enjoyable experience with some real potential.