Ahhh… the peace and serenity of a walk in the countryside. The sights and the sounds soften and soothe the stresses of the mind and body. Those gently whirling windmills surrounded by fields of wheat gently stir in the soft breeze. The delicate pinkness of nearby blossom trees and the freshness and delicate aromas of the fruits of nature tinging the nostrils and stimulating the senses. The freshness of unhindered flowers and crops all around. The freshness of the break from the pressures of city life. Freshness from the newly chewed dew-covered grass and finally mixed with the freshness of strategically placed cow deposits placed perilously near your feet..!
Welcome to Square Valley. A mindful and quaintly enchanting rural and urban environment tile puzzle builder. Developed by Ryan Becijos for Rycekube games.
After startup, the game offers the player several modes.
PLAY… is the game’s main campaign/story segment and offers plenty of challenges over its three chapters. There are a good few tutorial levels including getting players familiarised with the game’s system, tiles and placements.
SANDBOX .. For players. There are plenty of options to customise and build their own game. A mode for those who want a free and even more relaxing experience from Play Mode and away from the necessity to complete objectives.
DAILY CHALLENGE.. comes in handy if you’ve completed the hefty main modes and are looking for a further challenge. Completing this mode each day will upload your best score to an online leaderboard. Can you top the best scores?
The gameplay is relatively simple to pick up and this is down to the excellent tutorial levels included.
Each scenario is allocated a number of turns. During each turn, a number of tiles are presented to the player but you can only pick and place one tile per turn. Tiles like small houses, trees, animals and a vast variety of many other tiles have instructions and clues as to where’s best to place them on the map.
The main goal is to accumulate as many points as possible before the end of the final turn. When each tile is scored, either added or deducted and a final score is accumulated.
Beat the score for the map and you unlock the next map/level.
It’s not until you get into the gameplay that you realise a good deal of planning is needed. For example. A tile of small houses scores points if situated next to a road. Certain trees will score points if placed near a river and various tile placements like towers score only enclosed in walls and sheep enclosed by fences.
The option to “draw in” roads, rivers, walls and fences only become available after a certain number of turns have passed. This inevitably forces the player to carefully plan and visualise where certain areas like farmland and residential areas need to be and allow space to add in the roads, rivers, and fences later on to get the best score.
As missions and maps are completed. Further levels reveal brand new tiles that are relevant to the map in question. Witch huts need to be placed in seclusion and surrounded by trees. A group of bears are roaming and threatening animal safety in your region and is it possible to create a thriving community next to a church within the confines of a surrounding wall and cut off from the rest of the map?
Square Valley certainly draws you in from the start. Its artwork is beautifully captivating and graphical tweaks include working windmills on placement and a neat touch. Birds are suddenly startled by players placing trees and flying across the map!
It almost looks like a child’s illustrated book at times. Maps exude crisp and clear visuals and there’s never any confusion when maps get crowded and filled up to the brim.
Even on an iPhone. There’s never an issue with text and as regards controls. Tiles can be examined with one touch and pulled onto the map with one finger.
On the title screen. You are met with the most beautiful piece of music. A meditative piano piece with birds gently sounding in the background adding peace and ambience. This game wants you to relax. Challenged, thoughtful but overall relaxed and it greatly succeeds.
This is generally down to the gameplay structure and the many pieces that stop the frustration and also boredom from setting in.
Failed a level? Well, don’t worry because replaying a level randomly generates each map. This combined with the random deals of the tiles brings a fresh experience and different challenges each time. There’s no skipping around and not playing a tile. If the game gives you tiles you don’t want. You’ve immediately got to adjust your thought process and plan in order to play the tile and take the turn.
So to summarise. In a return to reviewing from an absence and promising myself to be stricter and more critical. Square Valley throws me a complete curveball in that it’s very hard to find any niggle or fault to report at all!
It’s a complete joy to see, hear and play and comes packaged with plenty of great challenges and replay value. And priced at just $2 of your hard-earned cash. It’s a must-own title and probably one of the finest little puzzlers on the App store.
Thanks to RyceKube for the code
Reviewed on iPhone XR
Also available on Android.