Tents and Trees | Review | Nintendo Switch

  • Developer: Frozax Games
  • Publisher: Frozax Games
  • Release Date: 14/3/2023
  • Price: £8.99 / $9.99
  • Review code provided by Frozax Games

Introducing: Tents and Trees Review

It’s no secret, if you’ve read any of my prior work on this site related to puzzlers, that I am a big fan of picross and pircross-adjacent games. My brain latched onto these during the pandemic and has refused to let go of them. So much so that I’ve played a good majority of the unique ones in the eshop in the last few years. As a result, I’m always looking for a new one that does something different than just your standard puzzle collection, be it by adding story elements, a unique theme, or unique modes.

In this case, I got myself a game that twisted the whole idea of picross around to make a new type of puzzle, which was just as exciting a prospect. So, join me as we take a deeper look at Tents and Trees for the first time.

I’m Going Camping

Tents and Trees is one of those games where it is only doing one thing new, but it’s doing that new thing vey well. In this case, the puzzle type is sort of Picross and sort of Minesweeper, which is a combination that feels a little odd, but I found myself getting interested in it pretty quickly.

You will be given a grid of varying size, starting small and growing larger as you get more adept with the puzzles, that has a few trees dotted on it like a little sparse forest. Your goal is to set up campsites properly in order to make sure that each tree has a tent by it without those tents feeling too crowded to one another. There are of course specific rules to that, though. For each tree, a tent can only be placed in one of the four cardinal directions around it, however none of the tents can have another tent in any of the nine squares those directions become when you add a diagonal. I admit that the tents and trees had different rules was the one thing that I think it took me a little bit to remember. Luckily for me, the game is forgiving and if you fill out the whole grid perfectly except there are two tents in each other’s space, it will remind you of this rule so you’re not left staring at the puzzle and wondering what you did wrong.

As part of figuring out just where those tents are meant to go beyond the two basic rule of proximity, each column and row of the grid you’re working on will have a number. This determines the number of tents that can be placed in the row or column. This is what makes things a little trickier, since having a limit forces you to really think about your placements. It ends up becoming a set of really fun puzzles where I could either feel very clever for figuring it out quickly, or end up staring at my switch for minutes on end trying to figure it out. 

The puzzles ramp up in difficulty, of course, but there is always room for you to be sure of just how difficult of a puzzle you are selecting when you play. Puzzles are divided by size and also split into easy and hard difficulties. On top of that there is even an alternate mode where some of the numbers around the edge of the grid will be missing, upping difficulty a little more by depriving you of valuable information but not too much that you can’t solve the puzzle at all. I admit, as someone who thrives on having information in puzzles, these ones were the most intimidating to me.

Pitching the Tent

Finishing puzzles at all will be a motivator for some, but for those who need an extra little push, Tents and Trees is happy to oblige. Finishing puzzles ups a little counter each and every time. Finish enough puzzles and you’ll unlock something. Mostly this is more sets of puzzled to play, but early on you unlock the ability to do the daily puzzles that the game offers, and you can even unlock new styles to shake up the visuals if you end up feeling like the cozy vibe of the tents and trees isn’t enough for you. This little touch of extra motivation was appreciated, and these styles were both a good addition to change things up, but also rewarding to get your hands on as well.

The hint system in the game was really nice as well, and quite robust! Many times when I did give in and use it, it ended up teaching me strategies that I hadn’t considered at first, if I had already done everything with the strategies that I already knew. There’s also little to no downside to using the hint system either. All you get is a little mark on the level that shows that you used a hint when looking at the levels for selection. In order to remove that mark, all you need to do is beat the level without using hints. Once you’ve learned the new strategies the hints have to offer that should be pretty easy. I will admit, though, that cheesing that is pretty easy to do, but that’s hardly the honorable way of doing things and you will always know.

So Many Activities

I admit freely that I have not yet finished every puzzle in this game despite having it for a full two weeks at this point. Most of that is due to the fact that there are a lot of puzzles here! This is definitely one of those games that is best enjoyed in bite sized chunks, but I’ve had longer play sessions too and there are just so many puzzles to enjoy. I’m looking forward to this keeping me entertained for a good long while.

Part of that is because there is a feature that provides you with daily puzzles to enjoy, which I greatly appreciated. These come in varying levels of difficulty and size, catering to anyone who has played long enough to unlock them. They also stack up as well, so you can keep them held and waiting for you, even if you’re not interested in doing them just that day. Some days, just playing my dallies (at least the ones I could handle at that point) was enough to keep me entertained. This is one that I’ve kept coming back to on a regular basis, not quite daily, but close to it.

Bring a Friend!

Tents and Trees does feature a co-op mode, and I did play some of it with a friend for the sake of this review. This is a game that I don’t think really needed to have a multiplayer mode, if I am being honest, since putting it on a large screen is enough of a way for you to both see and discuss the puzzle, but both players being able to have cursor to highlight things did make discussions between us a touch easier. It was even helpful that each space would be marked by the color of who selected and filled it, which let us know if we were critiquing our own work or each other’s. 

Ultimately, the two of us ended up playing more independently of each other, rather than together. However, that’s likely more because we’re both fans of figuring out puzzles of these sort for ourselves, rather than as a team. I can certainly see there being an appeal for co-op play in others!

Take in the Views

Visually, Tents and Trees is a quite simple game, but that’s not a bad thing. For what it’s doing, having a nice simple and straightforward interface with easily understandable information on screen is important! However, I think that this is something that can also be done poorly very easily. Tents and Trees pulled it off quite well, and with the additional coats of paint that you can put over the top as well, I’m quite happy with what’s on display here!

The sound isn’t anything that super notable to write home about, but that’s not something I am terribly concerned by. When you’re playing the sound effects for placing tents and grass are quite satisfying, but event he most satisfying sounds lose their lustre over time. Thankfully, they’re not vital to gameplay, so if you feel the need to play the game while listening to a podcast, your own music, or a YouTube video, you won’t be hampered in any way. Should you leave the sound on, you’ll be treated to some lovely ambient music, though.

Let’s Head Home Now

Overall, this is just an exceptionally solid concept for a puzzle game that made me feel both clever and challenged in turn, which is just what I am looking for out of a puzzle collection like this. I couldn’t really want for more in terms of the amount of puzzles on offer, either. If you’re looking for something picross-adjacent with a satisfying twist on the gameplay, you can’t go wrong here!

Pros

  • Extensive number of puzzles
  • Rewarding challenge
  • Fun puzzle concept
  • Clean visual design

Cons

  • I have a bunch of daily puzzles piled up that I had to put on hold to write this review

Verdict
Tents and Trees is an exceptionally solid puzzle game presented in a clean and simple style at a budget friendly price. Puzzle fans will eat this one up!

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