by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Cactus plants have always enthralled me. Their ability to survive, and indeed thrive, in locations that many other plants cannot has me impressed. Their adaptability means that they are hardy plants to have. Room to Grow has you playing as a such a plant, with the limbs of your succulent moving along a grid-like path as it grows. In a way it is not dissimilar to Snake on a Nokia 5110, although in this game, the cactus is not continually moving. The aim though in Room to Grow is to grow your cactus plant in such a way along the grid that it moves other cacti into their required positions within the 2D playing field.
A prickly situation
Levels start off reasonably simple in this puzzle game, often with more than one solution available. But the difficulty quickly ramps up so that players need to think through the solution to each dilemma. Indeed, I found some of the levels in the mountain area were fiendishly difficult to complete, often requiring gamers to think outside the box – or the grid (hint, hint). Room to Grow adds mechanics into the game as you progress, with each area (Forest, Mountain and Desert) adding a couple of new functions. The gradual introduction gives gamers the chance to learn each at a steady pace.
The early Forest levels simply require gamers to push the target succulent into the desired space, but narrow corridors and multiple cacti slowly increase the difficulty factor. Pushing into specific wall will force your starting point to move and using these walls to your advantage will be required to solve the conundrum. Once you head into the Mountain levels, gamers will be Introduced to a mechanic whereby a thicker line represents a splitting path, branching our growing cactus into multiple limbs. This can both help and hinder solutions to each puzzle as the differing end can both be moved. Desert levels introduce a half move and then, later on, diagonal movement.
Each of the areas brings with it new challenges and requires different thinking to solve the puzzles. Luckily, if you find that you’re stuck on a particular level, Room to Grow does not punish you. Instead, it allows gamers to skip levels and move forward to the next. There are often multiple paths to the next area, so as long as you can solve one, you can move forward. The ability to head back to a seemingly difficult puzzles at a later point, allows gamers to look at look at the solution from a different perspective. Indeed, at times, I felt I was overthinking the solutions, trying to make the solution more difficult than it actually was.
Old school visuals
Room to Grow has cartoon-like visuals that would not have looked out of place on a 1990’s PC. As mentioned, is has a Snake-like aesthetic, albeit in colour and on a grid-like board. The game is well laid out with easy to see lines to indicate where you can move your playing cactus. Most areas contain a grid-like playing field, some of which cannot be traversed by the growing branches you control. The new mechanics that are added are well defined and enable the gamers to clearly plan their strategy. The three distinct areas provide for some variation in colour – greenery in the Forest setting, Icy white in the Mountain setting and dusty yellow and browns once you hit the Desert locale.
Room to Grow can be a frustrating game as you attempt to solve each of the one hundred or so levels, but when you finally crack the puzzle it can be highly rewarding. The new mechanics that are gradually added into the levels provide a fresh challenge, and often require a solution that is outside the box (well, the playing grid). The visuals are somewhat primitive, but the retro style enables the gameboard to remain clear and uncluttered, allowing gamers to concentrate on a solution without distractions. The lovely backing soundtrack also keeps up the relaxing tempo and has controls – both keyboard and controller can be used - that allow any gamer to pick up the gamer with ease. Room to Grow provides for some wonderfully creative puzzles that will take some time to move through and is well worth it for puzzle fans.
Elegant puzzles, new mechanics added gradually