Review Date: January 20, 2011
The Secret Plant Society isn't the type of game that's full of grandiose plans and expectations it can't live up to. It's a gardening game, plain and simple. You plant, water, and cultivate seeds, all the while decorating your virtual greenhouse. And that's about it. But in spite of its relative simplicity, The Secret Plant Society is surprisingly compelling.
A Very Green Thumb
There's no pretense of story. You're simply given a small plot of land, a few pots and seeds, and left to your own devices. But it doesn't take much to figure out what you need to do. You plant the seeds in the pots and, depending on the type of plant, it will take a certain amount of time to grow. You'll also have to break out the watering can every so often to make sure it doesn't dry out, and once it's fully bloomed you can harvest it and get some coins in return. Sometimes you'll even get a mystery seed.
The main draw is the wide range of plants that you can grow. You're given an almanac to keep track of the various botanical goodies you've found, and the game has a really great hybridization feature that truly encourages experimentation. Depending on how you place your plants, new ones will grow. So if a red plant if placed next to a yellow one, the result may be an orange one. As you discover new types of flowers your almanac will keep track of all the different combinations, but if you don't experiment those pages will remain empty. It's surprisingly satisfying mixing different flowers and discovering new types of plants.
Every Rose Has Its Thorn
The money you earn from selling plants can be used to purchase more seeds, as well as decorations, storage, pots, and fertilizers. The decorations are entirely superficial, but the other goods have actual benefits. Storage lets you keep extra items without having to sell them, better pots can hold more water reducing the number of times you'll need to use the watering can, and fertilizers, naturally, will help your plants grow even faster. You can also spend money on expanding the space available in your green house.
While the gameplay is quite simple, part of what makes The Secret Plant Society so enjoyable is just how beautiful it looks. It's cute and colorful, with an art style reminiscent of Plants vs Zombies. It makes growing plants that much more satisfying when they're actually nice to look at. The same goes for the decorations. While they're not exactly necessary, and don't do anything to help your plants grow faster, adding some new stone tiles or a nice owl statue really goes a long way to sprucing the place up.
The Bottom Line
The appeal of The Secret Plant Society may be a bit limited; after all, how many people really want to do some virtual gardening? But for those that do, the experience is excellent. It's simple, but the hybrid system is surprisingly enjoyable and the game is one of the better looking Facebook releases to date. If you can't get outside with a trowel in hand, The Secret Plant Society is the next best thing.