Review: Flower Garden


Popular on iOS for years, Flower Garden - yes, yes, it's a simulation of growing flowers in plant pots - has now come to Windows Phone. Is it likely to satisfy your green fingers? Is its freemium nature likely to hit your wallet harder than an Autumn storm on your precious pots? I don my gardening gloves and investigate...

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Landscape gardening I can quite understand - creating banks and archways and meandering flower beds, through which you can stroll on a sunny day and be at peace with the world. The only catch is that it's a lot of hard work to maintain (just ask my retired father!) A lightweight alternative for those who either don't have or don't want a full garden is to have a variety of pots of soil on a balcony or patio. Many of the same flowers with a fraction of the effort. Again, sit by them on a sunny day and admire.

What I struggle to grasp is why anyone would want to do the same on a 4.5" phone screen. I mean, what, ultimately, is the point? Apparently, Flower Garden, the app, has been popular on iPhones for years, so there's clearly a demand to produce virtual pots of virtual flowers, virtually growing and paying for the privilege along the way. But forgive me if a little cynicism creeps into the review narrative - at least you know where I'm coming from...

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Colourful, simple, accessible, Flower Garden is as mature as its flowers hope to be...

The idea is then to have up to three garden areas, each of which can have up to twelve flower pots, with a wide variety of seeds at your disposal. Add water once or twice a day, add fertiliser if you're in a hurry, and sit back and watch your flowers grow. That's it. Oh, and occasionally hacking them down and putting them into emailable 'bouquets'. All on your phone.

Though this all rather sounds dismissive (and it is), Flower Garden has clearly had time to grow and mature itself - the interface, the gameplay, the finely pitched freemium elements, all work rather perfectly. The animation of the flowers growing, the ambient sound effects, the look and feel of the game are excellent throughout.

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A couple of daisies don't really make a bouquet - but hey, they're only for Rafe, so they'll do!

Each 'garden' can be swiped to at any point and a pot tapped on, to see it up close, with virtual flowers gently swaying in the virtual breeze, set against a virtually moving cloudscape. Swipe again to move between pots, tap on flowers to prune and cut (for sharing), the interface is almost full-screen, elegant and simple.

Indicators and controls, from top left, clockwise, are for adding fertiliser (to grow the plants a full day in front of your eyes, for the impatient!) and 'color dust' (to randomise the colours of your flowers from whatever default the seeds produce); a soil dampness indicator; a watering can; green thumb points (showing how far you have to go before your next in-game credit - the currency of Flower Garden); plus a control to go back from the pot to the garden overview.

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As you progress, new seeds get 'unlocked'; (right) Tiger Bells maturing nicely....

Simple and effective, as I say.

The idea is that you pop back to your garden a few times a day (the game thankfully has 'fast resume' implemented under Windows Phone - if the game's still in this state then it will pop back on-screen in under a second) and tend to any pots needing watering. With up to 36 pots, that could end up being quite a bit of work, but presumably you made that choice when you decided to install the game, so....

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The two main 'power-ups' here and the cost of topping them up in the 'Flower Shop'...

The freemium element is quite finely pitched here. You can plod along, splashing a few pots every now and then, without paying a penny (and the game is, at the outset, a free title to download). Or you can go mad in the 'Flower Shop' and stock up on fertiliser and color dust and walk out £20 or so poorer.

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I think I need some more color dust doses - buying these in the Flower Shop....

More realistically, assuming that you start off keen and then the novelty wears off after a while, '80 doses' of fertiliser should see you through most of the lifetime of Flower Garden on your smartphone. Plus perhaps a top-up of '20 doses' of color dust. Add in one extra 'garden', plus a couple of extra seed selections, and you're up to about £4.50 (in the UK Store, at least), which is reasonable and possibly about what you'd have paid if asked at the beginning what a commercial title like this should cost.

As I say, finely pitched and mature.

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'Starburst'? Hope I've got these flowers right. With all the 'color dust' I've got a little confused! (right) keeping everything growing gradually earns you credits, up to a maximum of ten.

Which means it all depends on whether you want to sit around, prodding at your phone screen every so often, pretending to water pixels, and occasionally cutting flowers down and sending them to friends or family by email. When you could be tending real flowers and sending real bouquets to real (ahem) friends and family, for not that much more work or expense. And arguably getting a lot more satisfaction and gratitude in the process.

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One nice touch is to have a 'vacation' mode, freeing you from the tedium enjoyment of tending to your gardens....; (right) One of the two extra 'gardens' that you can extend to.

Flower Garden is wonderfully implemented on Windows Phone 8, I'll acknowledge that much. Please do forgive my cynicism about the concept, let's have your comments. Is this something you'll be wanting to try, play and buy?

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