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Facebook Games Beta Preview/Review of Gardens of Time and Pet Tales

Gardens of Time and Pet Tales Review

 

  Social gaming has become a huge phenomenon and this week we are going to take a look at the beta for two different games currently in that phase of development from Playdom.

 

Gardens of Time splash screen

 

  Let us take a look at Gardens of Time first. This is your basic hidden object game with a twist. It centers around a society of time travelers who not only clean up history, but also collect objects and wonders for display in their personal gardens.

 

  You are the latest recruit to the Time Society and they soon send you off on missions to clean up objects scattered throughout time that should not be there. To complicate matters a bit more, it seems using the time machines themselves scatters objects across your landing location, so you are always going to be hunting for hidden objects.

 

Venice Gondola from Gardens in Time

 

  The hidden object portion of the game has a few different scenarios, the first is pretty standard hidden object fare. The second is the paradox puzzle, where two locations exist simultaneously in space and time and you must find the differences between them. The third is a blitz style game were you have 60 seconds to find as many listed objects as possible.

 

Gardens of Time Paradox

 

  Your time machine requires energy to travel, with each trip costing ten energy units that replenish for free over time. You can visit neighboring gardens for free and if someone is in peril in the garden you can complete a blitz mission that not only requires no energy to participate, but you are rewarded with 1 energy upon completion of the blitz, along with a few coins and some experience points.

 

Gardens of Time blitz

 

  The other option to recover energy is by receiving gifts of energy from neighbors, the gift system was pretty straight forward and a lot easier to use than some other social network games that I have seen.

 

  As you complete missions for the time society you unlock new missions and areas to explore. The game uses a dual leveling system the first is experience point based, as you level you will gain access to new objects that you can place in your garden. The second leveling system is based upon reputation points, which you receive for placing objects into your personal garden.

 

Gardens of Time in the garden

Tip: Building an outer ring of sections from the Great Wall of China, not only looks good, but will gain you massive amounts of experience and reputation.

 

  The garden mode of Gardens of Time will be familiar to anyone who has played Sim City or the Sims. You have a small grid with which to fill with various items from the five following categories; artifacts, buildings, decorations, wonders, and paths. If you place an item but no longer need it you have the option to sell it or place it in storage for later use. Remember if you remove an item you will not gain the reputation it was worth while placed in your garden, however you will not lose any experience points that you gained for building the item.

 

  Like many Facebook games there are two currencies in the game the first is coins which you receive for completing any kind of hidden object game and as bonuses for completing mini quests or even for just leveling. The second is gold bars, this is an extremely limited resource that should be spent very carefully. The only way to earn gold bars is by leveling, completing "offers", or by buying them with real world money. Fortunately the amount of items that require gold bars is not to large, however a big downside to the game is that each chapter has an additional scene that delves deeper into the background of the story that requires these gold bars to unlock. You can get along just fine skipping these scenes.

 

  The size of your garden can be expanded in two different ways, the first is by recruiting friends to play Gardens of time with you. With each two friends recruited into the time society you are given the option of expanding your grid for a certain amount of normal coins. If you do not want to recruit anyone you are also given the much less desirable option of expanding the gardens size with the use of gold bars.

 

  The game is full of little mini quests and has an interesting story line that makes you want to delve deeper into the game. The time society has a very Edwardian feel to it, even though it has members from several different time periods.

 

  Building wonders is one of the few times when you will need the help of neighbors, unless once again you want to dip into the limited supply of gold that you have.

 

  Overall this is not a bad game, the two biggest draw backs that I could find were the recruitment aspect that plagues all of these social games and the fact that objects in your garden can only be displayed in two settings. It would have been nice if the objects had a full 360 degree rotational choice as this would help with the ascetics of the garden.

 

  If Playdom removed the need for neighbors to expand the size of the garden and sold the gold bar items as DLC (downloadable content), then Gardens of Time could easily be sold as a retail box game that I would be more than happy to pay for. For a F2P (free to play) title Gardens of Time is an interesting game with a few minor flaws, but well worth a try.

 

Final verdict for Gardens of Time 7/10

 

Gardens of Time is an excellent way to kill time and it even gives your brain some exercise.

 

 

Pet Tales splash screen

 

Now over to Pet Tales

 

  When our cat Silky passed away recently, my wife had a very difficult time dealing with the grief of our loss. Silky had been part of the family for the last eighteen years. A few days after his passing my wife stumbled upon the game Pet Tales.

 

Silky in pet tales

 

  The first thing that hits you when you play Pet Tales is how spot on the interaction with your pet is in close-up mode. Whoever programmed this aspect of the game really knew what they were doing. In fact my wife said that the little kitten that she adopted in the game reminded her greatly of how Silky would act when he was a kitten.

 

  You only have a few interactions that can be done in close up mode, which include, feeding, watering, sending in a toy, petting, and picking up your pet by the scruff of the neck.

 

Silky in pet tales 2

Cute is what we aim for.

 

  Like Gardens of Time, Pet Tales uses a dual currency system. The first currency is coins just like in Gardens of Time. The second currency is bucks which act in the exact same way as gold bars. The difference here is that a tremendous amount of items and breeds can only be unlocked by the use of bucks. Once again you have to be very careful not to be wasteful as this currency is extremely limited.

 

Pet Tales bucks

 

  When you begin Pet Tales, you adopt either a kitten or puppy from a limited selection of breeds, you get to name your new found pet and the two of you work in unison to reclaim a park that has fallen into disarray.

 

  The park is again a Sim style grid that you can place objects on. As you clean up the park and expand upon the activities available to pets, other animals will begin to visit the park that your pet can interact with.

 

  Unfortunately the great experience that is had in the close up mode is severely lacking in the park mode of the game. The graphics and animations are very different between the two modes and you would almost think that each mode was developed by a different development team.

 

  The menu system is a little too complex for this title and this is coming from someone who grew up playing Japanese role playing games! The different categories available for you to chose are featured, specialty, toys, upkeep, decor, landscaping, and walkways. I found that trying to remember what was under each menu was a little hard, and moving items once placed had a very counter intuitive feel to it. Oh and movement is buried under another menu that you have to close and reopen for each type of movement.

 

Pet Tales moving objects around

The minute you chose one of these movement options the menu closes and you have to cancel the old movement and then select a new movement. Yeah I know smooth (warning sarcasm levels reaching critical threshold).

 

  A big turn off in building in your park is that you will need the constant help of your neighbors to complete even the simplest of items. You will need permits, license, building ingredients, etc. You begin to feel like you're playing a License and Inspection simulator instead of a pet simulator! The gift system is also much more awkward to use in this game compared to the way it is handled in Gardens of Time.

 

  Energy seems to go way to fast in Pet Tales and you find yourself spending most of it just trying to keep the park maintained as you have to constantly clean up all the items that you have placed in the park, not to mention all the gopher holes, leaves and weeds, you will be dealing with.

 

Pet Tales park

Welcome to your new full time job, keeping this park clean.

 

  I just wanted to spend time with my pet and play, but no dice. The park is a huge black hole that sucks in all of your energy, I hear that it's gravitational pull is so strong that even fun cannot escape it.

 

  The other strange design choice is the confidence meter that your pet uses to judge if he can go on play dates. Why not just incorporate that function into visits? When you do go on play dates all you see is a meter that waves back and forth and then an image of two random pets appears showing the end result of the activity. It would have been nice to watch them play in close up mode or at least have the random image match up to your pets avatar.

 

  In the end Pet Tales seems more like work than fun, go down to your local animal rescue and adopt a real friend into your family. Believe me it will be time better spent.

 

Final verdict 2/10 Pet Tales

 

There is just not enough content in close-up mode to save this game from the terrible park mode.

 

Social gaming the greatest pyramid scheme ever

 

Final thoughts on Facebook games,

 

  Social gaming is still a strange phenomenon to me, what other product makes you spam your friends so that you can enjoy yourself? I wonder how many friends people have on Facebook that are not truly friends, but just fellow soldiers in the social gaming war trying to have fun. Food for thought.

 

~Professor

 

  This article is dedicated to Silky and Satin, the best cats the world has ever known.

 

Silky & Satin

 

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