Nov 21, 2007
What happened to the original version of Puzzle de Harvest Moon? Slated for a fall release last year, the initial iteration promised a story mode, minigames and even sideways orientation of the DS for a larger vertical playing field. We ask because the feature-light final product seemingly betrays its additional year of development, delivering much less than expected despite the full price tag. What's the deal?
Puzzle de Harvest Moon takes the characters and settings of Natsume's long-running Harvest Moon farming franchise and reworks them into a fast-paced, time-management casual game. Players must duke it out against three opponents in a race to earn points from planting and harvesting crops. Each match encompasses all four seasons and weighs in at four to eight minutes in length. "Casual," indeed.
The Action bar on the right side of the touch screen determines which randomly chosen tools are at your disposal at any time; whether it's seeds, water, fertilizer, a harvesting basket or a patrol animal with special abilities. Points are earned through harvesting, either via the automatic basket or by rubbing the tip of the stylus across a completed crop, but here's the odd catch - you can harvest any available plant, not just the ones you personally planted or fertilized.
This was presumably done to add excitement to the experience or provide additional scoring opportunities for those who lack seeds to plant, but what it really does it encourage sloppy harvesting. In every match we played, we were able to scribble aimlessly across the touch screen, picking up major points from every completed crop in range. Though harvesting your own plants yields double points, we were able to win by a wide margin without planting or tending to a single crop on numerous occasions. If you can win the game without fulfilling the primary objectives, what's the point of even playing?
Equally disheartening is the complete lack of varied gameplay. Each single-player mode - Normal, 2 vs. 2, Quota and Survival - lightly alters the same drab play experience, adding little incentive to stick with the game beyond a handful of very similar matches against the computer. Single and multi-card support for up to four players is a nice addition, but only true Wi-Fi play would have earned this game a (very) limited recommendation.
Without addictive, refined gameplay in its short-lived play sessions or a worthwhile single-player experience, Puzzle de Harvest Moon comes across as a glorified minigame. It's something that might suffice in a drought, but not amongst the quality puzzlers nor the decent-to-great Harvest Moon iterations already available for the Nintendo DS.