Review: Alice and the Magic Gardens (PC)
by Crystal Steltenpohl on April 19, 2012

Alice and the Magic Gardens (PC)
Publisher: Alawar Entertainment
Developer: Alawar Entertainment
Genre: Match 3
Release Date: 04/10/2012

Alawar Entertainment is a Russian video game developer/publisher that generally makes hidden object and puzzle games for Big Fish Games. They sent us a code for Alice and the Magic Gardens to review, and I decided I would pick up. It looked somewhat like Bejeweled, a game I regularly enjoy, and I was curious as to what they had done with the concept. After a quick download an installation, I was well on my way to figuring out what this game was about.

Let me start off by saying that this game has got to have the stupidest plot I’ve ever encountered. Basically, there’s a girl named Alice who is a maid for a castle or something, and one day this fairy (named Luna for whatever reason) comes to Alice and begs her to help the fairies. Their problem? A witch has locked up their fruit.

A witch has locked up their fruit.

So instead of, I don’t know, getting more fruit, Luna goes to Alice””who has no particular special thing about her that we can tell that would make Luna want to go to her specifically””and begs her to help the fairies get their fruit back, and in exchange, they’ll help her build the beautiful home she’s always wanted. Alice’s task is to go through one hundred levels in five different gardens and accomplish whatever tasks in order to drop fruit.

Essentially, your goal is to swap differently colored lockers in order line up three of them horizontally, vertically, or in an L-shape, in order to unlock fruit. Then, you must do the same thing with the fruit in order to drop that fruit. Essentially then, it’s like a more involved Bejeweled, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Along the way, there are different items you can pick up to help you; for instance, you can use the Hammer to knock blocks immediately adjacent to the hammer block down. You also have the ability to use a shuffle button every once in a while, to make things easier when you can’t seem to find any blocks to move, and if you don’t have any moves left, it shuffles for you automatically. One annoying aspect of the game is that lockers can only be switched with lockers, and fruit can only be switched with fruit. Hammer pieces can’t be switched around at all, which is especially frustrating. If you get stuck and still have moves, though, you can click the blue fairy flying around for a hint, and there are keys you can pick up to open a locker, in case you get a single locker stuck somewhere in your pile or something. I never used a key, but it was nice knowing that was there.

As the game goes along, it attempts to make things harder by adding in spiders and worms. Spiders crawl along the blocks and randomly pick one to put a web over, making it unmovable. If you manage to get three blocks in a row and one of those blocks is included, the other blocks will disappear, but the webbed block will remain, sans a web. You can also use a limited number of brooms to sweep away a web, if you so choose. Worms will slither among blocks, choosing a fruit piece to eat; after a while, the fruit will have been eaten, leaving along some remains (for instance, leaving behind the stems that hold grapes together), meaning that you can’t use that block in order to make a trio until a fairy flies by and restores it. You can use limited amounts of bug spray in order to remove the worm before it can devour the fruit. I actually managed to make it through the game without ever using either the broom or the bug spray, though.

What your goal is depends on the level; some levels want you to drop X amount of a particular kind of fruit, while others want you to destroy a certain amount of spiders or fill up a bar with a certain amount of fruit. Some even have these tiles that are placed around the screen that you need to destroy by dropping fruit from those blocks. You’re timed, of course, so you don’t have all day to do this. At the end of each garden lies a boss, who you have to drop fruit on. Once you’ve defeated the five bosses, you’ve beaten the game. Every once in a while, you’ll get a bonus game, where you have to click on ladybugs that are flying across the screen. Some ladybugs have letters attached to them, and if you click them, you’ll spell out BONUS. If you click those, you get extra money.

Money goes toward buying things for your own garden, including the castle that Alice has apparently always wanted. In the beginning of the game, Luna promises Alice that she can build her house any way she wants to, which made me assume that once you buy the pieces, you can place them wherever you want. This was not the case. You simply open the shop screen, click “buy” for whatever items have been unlocked by you playing the game, and they’re placed in the garden with no further interaction on your part. There’s a bar at the bottom of the screen that tells you how great your garden is, but the only real metric is how many items you’ve purchased.

All things considered, I enjoyed the gameplay. It gets a lot harder a lot faster in the last levels of the game for whatever reason, but other than that, I really didn’t have any difficulty playing. I think I beat the entire game in about six hours, all told, and I could see someone opening it up again when s/he wants to do something mindless, though I think personally a game like this might be better-suited to smart phones or as a Facebook application. The graphics are decent. The game is pretty enough, but again, on a computer screen””especially mine, as it’s a 27 inch LCD screen””it’s kind of hard to forgive how blurry it looks, though on a iPhone I imagine the game would look fine. The sound is okay for what it is as well””the tracks get a little repetitive after a while, but I also don’t think this game was made to be played for three hours straight.

The full game costs $9.95, but you can download a free one-hour trial to see if you’d like the game. I would recommend going the trial route if you’re unsure about whether you’d like the game.

The Scores
Story: BAD
Graphics: GOOD
Sound: GOOD
Control and Gameplay: CLASSIC
Replayability: GREAT
Balance: GOOD
Originality: ABOVE AVERAGE
Addictiveness: GOOD
Appeal Factor: GOOD
Miscellaneous: GOOD
FINAL SCORE: GOOD GAME

Short Attention Span Summary
Despite the horrendous plot, the game puts a nice spin on a genre that can get pretty tired out. It’s easy and fun enough to play, and for what it is, it seems like it’d be a decent deal. This game is going to be most useful for those who aren’t looking for a terribly involved game or are tired of older Match 3 games. The added level of unlocking fruit makes the game more challenging, sometimes in a frustrating way, but never so bad that it’s impossible to move forward.




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Crystal Steltenpohl

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