Reach for the Sun
I don’t have what some of you folks would call a green thumb…most plants uproot themselves and scurry in the other direction when they see me approaching. Luckily, you don’t have to be a seasoned gardener to play “Reach for the Sun”, a game that teaches the basics of plant behavior and anatomy. While being designed for younger kids, I do admit that the game appeals to me in an odd way. After all, I could never say no to any type of simulator. Before we put on our gardening gloves and see what this game’s all about, I’d like to quickly thank Robin Kurzer from Filament Games for providing me with a free press copy.
The main menu could admittedly use a little work. While there are buttons for a new game, continue game, and almanac, you won’t be able to access the options menu until you move on from this screen. To make matters worse, the new game feature does NOT warn the user that all of their progress will be erased should they choose it. I picked it after two hours of playing to see if I could create a second profile and was rewarded with all of my work being flushed down the proverbial toilet…ouch! The options menu, once you have access to it, lets you adjusts volumes and graphics quality, but does not let you toggle fullscreen or change the screen resolution. You can, however, drag the window manually to resize it.
Once you’re at the game setup window, you’ll be prompted to choose between one of four different flowers in addition to an upgrade menu. However, you won’t be able to just pick and choose at will. The game itself has some replayability in the way of “seeds”, which acts as the in-game currency. You’ll start off with a few seeds to unlock the easiest plant and be tasked with playing through it a few times to earn more seeds. As you earn more seeds, you can then unlock the harder plants and purchase some of the upgrades to make your life easier.
After choosing your first plant (the sunflower), you’ll be asked if you want to participate in a tutorial…you’ll definately want to accept at least the first time around. The game itself isn’t all the complicated, but you’re only given a limited amount of time to grow the plant and make it fruitful. Rounds will begin in February and end in November of the same year. Your job will be to make the plant in question bear fruit so that it can produce seeds. As mentioned earlier, these seeds are added to your global bank of sorts to be used for unlocking new things at the setup screen.
The game can admittedly feel like a clickfest and I wish there was a way to slow down time a bit so that I can reach faster to the prompts as they come up. Before I touch on that, it’s important to note that there are three main resources in the game: water, nutrients, and starch. You’ll see how much you have of each on the lower left corner of the screen. In order to get more, your plant’s parts will flash indicating that you can harvest a resource. Roots will produce water and nutrients while leaves produce starch via photosynthesis…doing the latter will sacrifice some of your water resource, though.
Getting back to the clicking, you’ll only have a limited window in which to click these plant parts. The longer you wait, the less resources you’ll earn when you finally do click them. This forces the user to be quick with the mouse, some of us old timers may have difficulty doing. You can get by missing resources as they come available, though you simply won’t earn as many seeds at the end of the year. Every new extension to the plant, whether they be roots, leaves, pollen, fruit, and etc., require resources. The more resources you have, the more fruitful your plant can potentially become.
On the other hand, some of the latter plants require the user to slow down a bit and consider the big picture rather than click everything in sight. The more difficult plants, for example, require male flowers to pollinate the female flowers. There’s also a bit of resource management involved, since collecting starch and growing your plant as a whole requires an investment. However, you’re still encouraged to grow your plant quickly, as the more parts you have, the larger your resource pool becomes. Finally, hazards like bugs and blight come by every now and again, requiring you to click/shake them in order to remove them.
In conclusion, “Reach for the Sun” is an intriguing and engaging game at its core. There are some features that could be made to be more user-friendly, most notably a profile system that lets other folks in the house play and have their own save file. Having a fullscreen option or an in-game speed setting to slow things down couldn’t hurt either. The seed/currency system does allow for some replayability, though the upgrades and total number of plants available are somewhat limited. As such, it shouldn’t take someone more than a few hours to unlock everything. Besides these minor gripes, I admittedly had a good time with the game and look forward to spending more time with it in the future. If you’re interested in picking this up, the game is on sale for $4.99 through Steam (normally $9.99) until November 14, 2013.
Final Verdict: 7/10
You can learn more about and purchase “Reach for the Sun” by visiting the following websites: