Who doesn’t want to get paid for playing video games? This series follows mobile applications, some of which are borderline games at best, that claim to reward users with cold hard cash (or gift cards). In my pursuit of extra cash to blow on games, or Steam gift cards to add to my collection, I have tried a number of these applications. I hope my experiences can help others steer clear of the more dubious of these applications.
Today I will be looking at Gardenscapes a free mobile game published by Playrix in 2010 and revamped in 2016. While this game does not pay you directly itself, you can be paid for playing it through services like Coin Pop, StormPlay, or other similar services. Originally this game was released as a hidden object finding game, but was later changed to a match-3 title.
For anyone unfamiliar with the mechanics of a match-3 game, originally popularized by Bejeweled, the objective is to swap adjacent objects on a grid to form lines of three or more identical objects. If you get 4 or more in a row, then items are created that, when swapped, will clear a larger section of the grid: a Firework that blows up a 3 row of 3 horizontally and 3 vertically; a Bomb that blow up everything in a 2 tile radius; TNT that blows up everything in a 3-tile radius; and Rainbow Orbs that will clear all of one item from the grid.
Each level has a certain goal, which typically is to clear off certain squares on the grid to reveal particular images, or to match a certain number of objects of particular types. There are hundreds of levels in Gardenscapes, which would take quite a while to get through. The idea behind completing these puzzles is to advance the plot of the game.
You are assisting Austin the Butler to renovate a garden. To advance you need to spend stars, which are earned by completing a match-3 puzzle. The puzzles also become increasingly difficult as you move further along through the game.
If you fail to complete a puzzle, you lose a heart. You have 5 at maximum, and they regenerate at a speed of one every half an hour. You can also spend coins, which you get for beating levels, to replenish them. You can also spend coins on items to help make it easier to complete levels, additional moves before failing a level, and to speed up time sinks put into the game.
The way the developers make money is by trying to sell you additional coins. As the levels become increasingly hard to complete, it becomes extremely difficult to advance them without spending coins or by making many attempts. If you are playing this to try to make money, or gift cards, through another app, then spending money on this game would not make sense.
Unlike a lot of the games that I review, this one is rated E for everyone. The plot itself isn’t too compelling to me personally, but I can see how people might enjoy the feeling of accomplishment in finishing the various challenges presented in the game. The game-play itself is also fairly casual, where you can put it down and come back later without having missed anything.
One odd thing with this title, for some reason they decided to put out a lot of advertisements that do not reflect the actual game-play. A lot of complaints on the Google Play store were about this sort of false advertising. The developers threw in a few mini-games that played like the ads, but they are very few and far between.
Apparently some people find the game very addictive and have spent hundreds, or thousands, of dollars on it. That’s a big part of why the developers market it so heavily. Seriously, if you start to think that you should put money into this game, uninstall it immediately.
The graphics are professionally done, for a mobile game. The music is upbeat and slow paced, reminding me of something that you would hear as background music for the peaceful town in a role-playing game. The sound effects are about what you might expect from a kid friendly match-3 game. A lot of dings and bells as you clear rows. They did do a nice job with the effects outside of the match-3 game, where Austin is just milling about doing chores.
While I personally find the game only mildly entertaining, it is something I wouldn’t mind being paid to play. It does currently have a 4.2/5 rating on the Google Play store. I would give it a “C/C+” rating, or 5.5/10 stars.
If you want to check out Gardenscapes, it is available on the Google Play store here. As a warning, most services that would pay you to play this get paid for referring new users. As such, you would need to install it through their app, rather than directly from the play store.