Game Review: Lily’s Garden
September 25, 2020
Lily’s Garden is a free-to-play match-3 Android and iOS app released by Tactile Games in 2019. Unlike other match-3 games I’ve played in the past, this one has a narrative linked to it that infuses the gameplay with a true sense of progression aside from just visual level changes.
You play as Lily, a socially-awkward 30-year-old woman who inherits a rural mountain estate from her deceased Aunt Mary. Lily is saddled with a caveat of that inheritance: in order to keep the estate, she needs to repair it within 30 days. To accomplish this, Lily leans on her new neighbor, Luke, and friendly local carpenter, Regina, to renovate overgrown and crumbling areas such as a pond, greenhouse, and more.
The narrative is compelling, but each game day is progressed by enacting a multitude of actions, all of which require spending anywhere between one and three stars to unlock that piece of the story. This is where the match-3 comes in: each match-3 level completed rewards one star. Spending a lot of time on the match-3 levels will allow you to bank stars for the narrative. As you dive deeper, however, more actions seem to require two or three stars, slowing down your progression, especially as the match-3 levels become more difficult.
In earlier levels, you simply have to match X amount of colored tiles to complete the level goal. Next there are stones that you have to break to unblock parts of the puzzle screen, which are still easy to overcome. More difficult blockers pop up in higher levels: boxes of gnomes that require multiple matches of the same tile color, sunflower pots that need three matches beside them to grow, cameras that require two consecutive matches beside them to clear, and so on.
Three different boosts can aid in the more difficult levels: bombs, rockets, and colored potions (which clear the tiles of the same color). These boosts can be combined for a more powerful effect. Two rockets will clear a line both horizontally and vertically, a rocket and a bomb will clear three lines (either in a single direction for one rocket, or both directions if there’s two), and a potion plus either the bomb or rocket will change every colored tile into that type of boost and launch them.
Some of the match-3 levels get so difficult that the use of boosts are basically required. You’re limited by the number of lives you have for failing puzzles, though the game has frequent unlimited lives boosters, so it’s rare that running out of lives is a problem. Daily events reward group milestone chests containing both boosts and lives; the narrative has two or three milestones each “day” that offer the same.
Despite the plethora of boosts and unlimited life rewards, it can be discouraging when a single level can take 10 or more attempts just to complete it. This difficulty level is confounding when the introduced blocker disappears a handful of levels later, only to be replaced by simpler puzzles that segue into a new, even-more-difficult blocker. Some blockers will make a re-emergence, often in conjunction with others, so the match-3 levels seem to fluctuate wildly with how challenging they can be.
Overall, I enjoy the unique take on a match-3 game that Lily’s Garden has, especially as I’m drawn to games with interesting narratives. Though it will take a lot of effort and time to get through Lily’s first 30 days of renovation, it’s rewarding to earn my way there.