Plant Tycoon, a new computer game from Last Day of Work, gives you a green thumb without making you get dirt under your fingernails. While running a plant nursery, players learn about genetics as they crossbreed plants in hopes of discovering the six Magic Plants of Isola.
This plant business simulation has similar mechanics to Fish Tycoon, a very popular fish-breeding sim, also from Last Day of Work. If you liked Fish Tycoon, you will probably enjoy Plant Tycoon. But Plant Tycoon is more challenging and harder to win.
The game starts by providing you with four seedlings, $250, and eight seeds. Through tutorials, you learn how to tend to your seedlings and plant the seeds. You have an unlimited supply of average quality dirt and water, and 15 pots for growing plants.
After your initial plants mature, you can pollinate them to get seeds so you can grow more plants. You can then sell your plants at your own nursery. While the game names each mature plant and suggests a price, you decide how much it is worth. If your plants aren't selling, you can lower the price.
It's wise to self-pollinate a plant at first, but the key to finding the six Magic Plants is to crossbreed plants to produce hybrids. Hybrids are worth more money, but many are difficult to grow in the common soil provided. Soil upgrades are possible, as is healthier water; but you have to sell a bunch of common plants before you will have enough money to start upgrading your equipment and supplies. You can also buy additional seeds (in three categories of rarity), exotic chemicals (to speed up growth or to mutate plants), and nursery decorations to attract more customers.
While planting seeds and watching them grow doesn't sound interesting, crossbreeding to find the six Magic Plants is. The game provides trays in which to store seeds. When you scroll over any seed in the tray, you can see a seed's genetic background in terms of which two plants produced it. But the genetics can get complicated because these plants have two hereditary traits: foliage and flowers. Only through experimentation can you figure out which traits are dominant and how to combine plants to create new hybrid ones. You can discover over 500 different species of plants.
This game runs in real time, meaning your plants keep growing even when you turn off the game. You can go to the Options menu to stop time, which is a good idea if you are not going to come back for a while, because these plants need water, pruning, and an occasional dose of insecticide. You can also speed up time, which is fun if you want the plants to grow more quickly. The best way to play this game is to simply check in on it periodically.
The game can be played on three levels of difficulty. An optional aspect of play is to collect the 48 bugs that appear. The insects are kept alive in jars.
While this simulation is intriguing, it isn't very user-friendly. It does not provide any way for you to keep track of your genetic experimentation. Each seed only shows its immediate parents, not the whole genetic history. If you want to be orderly about how you crossbreed, you have to take your own notes and come up with your own system. Other players of the game have started to create Excel spreadsheets to help document experimentation, and those aides can be found by joining the forums at www.ldw.com.
You can play by just randomly combining plants to see what you get, but your success in finding the Magic Plants will be better if you come up with a systematic approach to breeding hybrids. Try the one-hour free downloadable version before you buy.
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