Day 169: Aesop’s Garden

Posted: 2011/04/27 in Indie Games

I’m purchasing an Xbox Live Indie Game (XBLIG) every day, seeking out the quality titles that got lost in the shuffle and are not well represented in the top 50 lists on the Xbox Dashboard. Today is day #169, and today’s game is “Aesop’s Garden”.

Aesop’s Garden is a puzzle game that seems to be drawing inspirations from a bunch of classic NES-era games, like “Kickle Cubicle”, “Adventures of Lolo”, and “Mole Mania.” It borrows not only some gameplay elements but an 8-bit console look and feel as well, but it works well for the game. For 240 Microsoft Points you get 50 levels of increasingly more challenging puzzles, this game is no cakewalk on the later levels.

First, from the developer (Excalibur Studios):

“Aesop’s prize-winning garden has been sabotaged by a jealous rival, Alistair August. Help Aesop find and destroy the weeds that threaten to keep him from maintaining his winning streak!”

One of the first things you might notice is that the game runs in a 4:3 (non-widescreen) aspect ratio no matter what TV you have or what settings you select. Odd, but perhaps meant to increase the authenticity of the 8-bit graphics and the accompanying chiptunes/synth soundtrack. Excalibur Studios has joined several other XBLIG developers in creating homemade “Awardments”, achievements by another name since official Xbox achievements still haven’t been enabled by Microsoft for indie games. These awardments hint at some of the secrets you could unlock in the game, and add a great deal for the completionists who like to explore and uncover everything in a game.

The presentation may be retro, but the interface features are more modern. The game saves your progress, and offers a level select for those who want to do a speedrun, or otherwise retry, a previous level. This is a game where experimentation and retrying levels is a constant, so the ability to hit the “Back” button to immediately reset the level is appreciated.

Aesop’s Garden reminds me a lot of the first time I played Halo: Combat Evolved, where the first couple of levels were slowly teaching me things, so slowly that it didn’t feel like a training mode. In early levels of Aesop’s Garden all you’ll need to do is puzzle your way to the sprinkler, pull the weeds, and puzzle your way to the exit, but as you proceed you will learn more and more, as you make your way to the first of the game’s 5 bosses, distributed evenly throughout the game’s 50 levels. The game is kept fresh throughout, with new elements introduced over time such as areas that behave differently to the sprinkler (the molehill comes to mind).

The depth of many of the puzzles is surprisingly rich and with options designed to enhance replay, enough challenge that even the most dedicated likely won’t beat the game in their first sitting, and bosses that will require quick action and even quicker thinking to defeat, this game has a lot to offer for 240 Microsoft Points.

Click here to download “Aesop’s Garden”, and then please come back after playing to rate the game.

Know someone else who would want to read the review, or rate the game? “Share This” and invite them to.

  1. Quimdung says:

    if you like “Kickle Cubicle”, “Adventures of Lolo”, and “Mole Mania”, try my game, “Pexer’s Tower”:

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