I have to start this review by giving Natsume credit where credit is due: the company didn't just throw its Harvest Moon characters into a me-too Tetris clone when it made Puzzle de Harvest Moon
. Natsume could have taken the cheap way out for the game and simply made a puzzler that featured stackable turnips, cow, sheep, and dog heads as they fell down into a pit. No, for Puzzle de Harvest Moon, the design team went against the grain and decided to create not only something original, but something that actually is connected directly to the franchise it's spinning out of.
The problem: what they created doesn't work.
Just like in Harvest Moon, your task in Puzzle de Harvest Moon is to plant seeds on a playfield, then to encourage those seeds to sprout into vegetables using water and bags of fertilizer. When they're ready, you harvest them for points and work more vegetables into the mix for maximum points. Using the stylus you simply click on one of the available actions and tap the screen where you want to apply that action: "seeds" plant the vegetable, "watering cans" hydrate the seeds, "bags" fertilize the plants, and "baskets" harvest the vegetables for points. Scribbling the stylus over any vegetable will also harvest them, but baskets do the hard work automatically, leaving you time to manage the rest of the field.
Puzzle de Harvest Moon is not so much a puzzler than it is an action game, which wouldn't be so bad if it was designed with some sort of paced strategy. A game like Meteos excels at being an action-based puzzle game with tons of strategy, so had Puzzle de Harvest Moon been constructed a bit more carefully it could have been something special.
Original yes...but very bad.
Unfortunately, it just ends up being a maniacal mess. First of all, the tutorial is nothing but a few still screens that barely scratch the surface in explaining the complicated gameplay mechanics and rulesets. Even after reading through the tutorial you're thrust into the action without a good knowledge on how Puzzle de Harvest Moon works, and since each of the different game modes are competitive, so you're always battling against three unseen characters trying to use the same playfield. This makes learning the game worse
because the computer opponents will start throwing all sorts of confusing variables on the screen. What's that giant cow doing? Why can't I take that vegetable? That chicken's just standing around but I can't do anything with it! With all that's going on in the game, Puzzle de Harvest Moon absolutely needs a real-time tutorial to walk players through the mechanics, because still screens just confuse the issue.
But then, through the magic of trial and error, when you finally get a grasp of the basics, Puzzle de Harvest Moon just isn't any fun. Yes, it's got lots of clever nods to the popular and successful Harvest Moon franchise, but this is one Harvest Moon game that never gels into a workable concept. It's a flawed puzzle game because while you're scratch-harvesting, you're too busy for the other tasks. As you're scribbling you're not planting, watering, or fertilizing. The designers attempt layers of strategy by assigning higher point values to vegetables that you were responsible for growing, but honestly the game simply boils down to scribbling over any available vegetable that any
As cute as it looks, and as original as the concept is, Puzzle de Harvest Moon is a design that never comes together as a fun puzzle game. The designers seem way over their heads in taking Harvest Moon concepts and applying them into a different genre ˇV the gameplay is confusing and the ˇ§tutorial modeˇ¨ doesnˇ¦t help players into understanding it. I definitely appreciate Natsume trying to expand the series into new territories, but this puzzle idea just isnˇ¦t ripe enough for a final product.