Sometimes it can be nice to simply relax with a peaceful, calming game, that doesn't demand great skill or dedication. That is exactly what Plantera delivers. It is centred around growing a garden and selling produce in return for money, with which more plants and animals can be bought, and so on. The gameplay isn't complicated and might become repetitive, but it is ideal for sitting down for twenty minutes in the evening to check on your garden - it'll grow from a single carrot patch to a beautiful wilderness of fruit trees, bushes and vegetable patches, populated by animals that wander around looking very pleased with themselves. To top this off, there's a great soundtrack to help with the ambience.
Plantera immediately throws you into the garden, with no instructions or tutorial, which can make the first ten minutes more of a learning curve than it should be. Although the game has a electronic manual, the help menu's writing is so small on the GamePad screen that it is illegible - with the 3DS version being much easier to read - and the lack of a basic tutorial seems slightly lazy on the developers' part. From this point your garden will grow rapidly, as one day you could earn 1000 coins in ten minutes, and the next day you could be making 1000 in a matter of seconds!
Overall progress is measured by your level, which increases at a steady rate as you earn money. This unlocks new items or increases their value, so you can earn more money to level up again - there is an excellent balance between how much you can earn and how much is required to level up, so it takes approximately the same amount of time to advance between levels. Once you have unlocked everything each item will receive a yellow "star shard", making it worth more when sold. Once five yellow star shards are gained for an item the shards create one green shard. This continues for each item until it has gained five green shards, and then finally the "ultimate star". This gives some objectives to a game which may otherwise suffer from a lack of longevity.
There isn't a lot to the gameplay, which generally consists of tapping relentlessly at the GamePad or 3DS screen to pick up your produce and scare off the occasional pests - which attack from the air, both sides of the garden and even underground - punctuated by the occasional purchase of a new plant or animal.
There are five types of items to buy: vegetable patches, bushes, trees, animals and specials, the former three being used to grow crops, while animals will supply other commodities such as eggs, milk, wool and… socks? The specials are items which can be used to improve the efficiency of the garden. For example, a dog can be used to scare away the odd antagonistic bunny, and alarm clocks can be bought to keep helpers awake. With enough money, the garden can be expanded to increase the number of helpers and space for items up to 36 times. The cycle continues, creating an ever-growing garden.
At the same time, there will be the continuous music playing, which adds to the calming effect of the game in general. Although the original soundtrack consists of just three pieces, the music is so well written that this doesn't matter: the same piece might play for twenty minutes straight, but it never seems to become repetitive - in fact, it is probably a reason to keep playing for longer.
There are a few differences between the 3DS and Wii U version of the game. Firstly, there is the setup of the screens: the Wii U version can be played entirely on the GamePad, since the TV screen only shows the garden, but cannot be used to interact with the game - touch controls are required. On the GamePad, the garden is shown, and at the press of a button the shop shows, where you can select from a variety of items to buy. The 3DS version can swap the view of the garden and shop/stats screen between the top and bottom, allowing access to each on the latter.
Each version has an advantage, the Wii U's being that more of the garden is shown due to the bigger screen on the GamePad, meaning that management is easier, while the 3DS version is portable. However, you won't need to decide between the two, as they make use of a cross-buy feature. While the price might seem slightly steep for such a basic game, you have the benefit of being able to take it on the go with the 3DS and play it more easily on the Wii U.
While Plantera doesn't boast an impressive physics engine or an exhilarating, fast-paced experience, it has a certain charm that makes it worth playing, even if only for a few minutes each evening. However, it doesn't offer much else that similar games will, and if you only intend on playing it on one platform it is a fairly high price for a title that is free on mobile devices, albeit with ads and microtransactions, and costs more than twice its PC counterpart. To sum up, if you are into relaxing farming games and want a peaceful experience, you should look into buying Plantera, but for some it may a little too simplistic and shallow to hold attention.