By Greg Giddens 14.02.2017
Does Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley have something to fear when it comes to Plantera and its take on the farming simulator genre? Probably not, but to be certain, read on for the lowdown on the Wii U release, following a previous look at the 3DS version.
Plantera is a cute and simple farming simulator, one with very little depth and structure, yet it's pleasant enough to eat up a couple of hours, initially at least. However, its shallowness does make repeat visits unlikely, and whilst the control method is excellent on the GamePad, the rest of the experience isn't designed around prolonged console-style play.
Indeed, Plantera feels like a mobile game. It's an idle game; once a task is completed - in this case, planting - there's nothing else to do beyond watching the result, and the gap between actions quickly increases to the point where engagement is compromised. Instead, it encourages small play sessions; an hour or two to kick things off, then returning sessions of a mere ten minutes or so. That's not to say Plantera isn't enjoyable, however; it's just not the kind of title that demands much focused time.
The goal here is very simple: to grow a farm of bountiful fruit, veg, berries and produce that earns gold. With this gold, you reinvest in your little farm, adding more plants, expanding the size, adding more livestock, and adding deterrents to the crows, foxes, wolves, moles and rabbits that mean to steal from you. The first hour or so, when everything is new and interesting, it's a compelling farming sim, whose charming pixel art visuals, cute aesthetic and plinky-plonky music all help to achieve a cheery, upbeat mood. However, later, things become increasingly repetitive.
The farm earns money at a slow pace. Meanwhile, the livestock, plants and deterrents that become available as your level increases are expensive to buy and stop at a disappointing variety of five or so different things for each category. Furthermore, helpers, in the form of blue blob people, come plodding along and make the farming process more automated, stripping the experience down to an even more idle one. At this point, there's not much to do. Once some money has come in then expansion is possible, but after a mere few minutes the gold is drained and the waiting kicks in again.
With interactivity becoming so unnecessary, Plantera becomes a momentary distraction from other tasks, which can work splendidly on mobile, or even PC, but less so on console. It's a shame because the adorable design makes Plantera an attractive looking farming title. The layering of crops in front of bushes and trees, with livestock and helpers running around, the fruit and berries falling from branches, and crops popping up from the ground, all looks terrific, complex and interesting. However, with only expansion and some in-game achievements driving the experience forwards, the repetition and lack of interaction kills the joy after only an hour or so of play.
As cute and appealing as Plantera's presentation is, there's very little 'game' here. Instead, this is an idle game, a click game, one meant to be played between other tasks, and therefore one not well suited to the Wii U. There's still fun to be had, but only in short play sessions that will inevitably become shorter and shorter until, very quickly, there's nothing left to entice you back.