App Army Assemble: Square Valley - "Is this Carcassonne-inspired city-builder a must-play?"

We ask the App Army

App Army Assemble: Square Valley - "Is this Carcassonne-inspired city-builder a must-play?"

Square Valley is a city-builder puzzler that boasts a beautiful and quaint art style. It draws inspiration from board games like Carcassone, which means you need to strategically place tiles across the board to help the titular valley thrive. Our reviewer Catherine enjoyed her time with the game, so we decided to hand the game over to our App Army to see if they agreed.

Here's what they said: 

Adam Rowe

Square Valley is a fun and well-made little puzzle game. It makes an immediate positive first impression. The music and sound effects combine to create a mood of relaxed thoughtfulness. And the map tiles pop with little touches that show the love that was put into the game. Each turn you are given a set of 2+ tiles and a few sections of the map where you can place them. The rest of the map is off-limits for that turn. I was turned off at first by the fact that you don’t pick which sections of the map you have available to place times each turn. But the longer I played the more I enjoyed it.

It creates interesting decisions each turn. You might have the tile you need, but not the area in which to place it, so you must decide if you want to use a lesser scoring tile instead. It keeps the game from getting stale. And it keeps you from using the same tactics over and over. There is a lot of reading at first as you work to parse what each tile does. But the longer you play the less you need that info. This is the type of game that encourages the “one more turn” desire. If you are looking for a city/world-building puzzler Square Valley will be an enjoyable time.

Brian Wigington

I too felt a bit of Carcasonne when I first played through the tutorial for this game. Square Valley is essentially a board game turned into a puzzle game in my opinion and that's just fine with me. I love Carcassonne even though I am not great at it since I find it relaxing and not too stressful. I found SV to have that in common but in overall shorter bursts that are fun and allowed me to use my brain. I like the simple but easily understood art style and well-designed touch controls. You basically touch one of several tiles you are given and then place it in a preselected area consisting of multiple empty tiles.

Bonuses for placing certain tiles in or near certain areas make you use your noodle to figure out how to maximize your end game points. You can also draw roads and rivers yourself at certain points once enough tiles are placed to add a unique and strategic touch to your levels. I feel that the game is deceptively simple and gets a bit deeper as you play to a certain point. If you are looking for a calming indie title to relax with and stick with then I can very much recommend Square Valley. I might also add that so far the developer has patched the game a couple of times and seems to show dedication which is a good thing.

Oksana Ryan

This is a game where you build communities using a number of tiles, roads, rivers and fences. The tiles are a variety of buildings, animals, trees for lumber and fruit trees. Each turn gives you a choice of two tiles and gives you a choice of where you can place them. Once you use all your turns and reach the required score another level opens up. There are plenty of levels to test your skills and the gameplay is easy to master from the tutorial and the graphics are cute, in the style of many games in the same genre. I turned off the sound because it was a bit monotonous. On the whole, there was enough to keep me entertained and I would recommend it.

Mark Abukoff

This is a pleasant looking game with relaxing music. Simple controls, and by tapping on different cards you get a close-up view so that you can read their details easily. The object is simple, accumulate as many points as possible by making optimal combinations of cards representing different elements. Trees and other kinds of flora along with buildings and animals make up a small settlement. So the mechanics are fairly simple, and there is some satisfaction in meeting the goal for the level.

There is now (since an update from the very responsive devs) auto-saving for all levels. There are also plenty of levels, a daily challenge and a sandbox mode that opens it up a bit to your imagination. While I found the map sort of small, that also kind of adds to the challenge and short sessions mean that you can play this in a short time, many times. Interesting tactical exercise in an unusual setting. Fans of the genre will enjoy it.

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Brandon Jones

Square Valley is a challenging and fun cross between Carcassonne and Solitaire. Rather than placing tiles (as in Carcassonne), objects (like buildings or animals or flowers) are placed. You are squared based on rules governed by each of the objects, making their placement a matter of intentional strategy. The game has a great campaign mode (which I found important for learning) but ultimately preferred to make my own challenge in the sandbox mode; this is definitely where I foresee spending most of my time. I'd definitely recommend it to those wanting to stretch their strategic muscles (think chess in the ways you have to plan your placement), those enjoying puzzles and those enjoying city-building board games like Carcassonne.

Pierpaolo Morgante

The developers might have taken inspiration from board games such as 'Carcassonne,' where you pick tiles and you build the board. In SV, the board is already there, and it is the player who places buildings, animals, trees, and other landscape elements on it to score points. Additional elements on the board have different requirements, and it is fun and honestly not frustrating at all to fulfil them. What I liked the most about the game is the wide range of tiles you have, which requires a little bit of attention but nothing that hinders a good experience.

The soundtrack is very relaxing, and super cute and well-polished graphics nicely complement the game. The developers are also very responsive, as they introduced new functionalities (mid-level saves, for example) immediately after they were requested. The addition of a sandbox mode, where the player can set everything—from game difficulty to the kind of playable tiles/scenarios—, and a daily challenge increase the re-playability of the game. As others said, the game has a little bit of a learning curve, but the whole package (graphics, game mechanics, soundtrack) makes you want to master it. For what it has to offer, it is even underpriced. Definitely recommended.

Eduard Pandele

Square Valley is a solitaire card game masquerading as a city builder. You're given a 9x9 starting grid with some randomized elements pre-placed (obstacles as well as resources). Each turn you get a few cards to place on the grid, according to the requirements (each card has different placement rules; optimizing your moves implies checking the rules on the cards quite often). After the last turn, each square on the grid is scored and you move on to the next challenge (if you beat the required score). The solo "campaign" has 3 chapters with 15 challenges each, and there's a random daily challenge for high score chasers and a sandbox mode where you can customize everything. The general mechanics are nice, and if you like tile placement/worker placement board games you'll like this, too.

Things I disliked - the interface is crammed, I think bigger tiles, bigger text sizes and a scrolling map instead of putting the whole 9x9 map onscreen would've been better. Also, the learning curve is a bit steep, I would've enjoyed it better if a single new element was added at a time (instead of several - there are a TON of new cards/buildings, fields, animals etc.). Planning ahead is required immediately after the tutorial, but you can only plan ahead once you learned the cards, so this is less casual than it looks. This leads me to another complaint - you can't save mid-challenge. All in all, though, it's a nice puzzler that's a lot more abstract and hardcore than it looks. I liked it, but get ready to work hard for your high score.

Sven Herrmann

At a first glance, it very much reminded me of a board game called ‘Carcassonne’. But it is different in many ways:

  • It has a limited space you can place your tiles
  • Many different tiles have dependencies
  • It is single player
  • Daily challenges
  • A sandbox mode
  • A learning curve (so much text to read on the go, in order to understand all tile’s effects)
  • Goals to unlock the next level is a score for the last level
  • Short ‘matches’ and with that a ‘Just one more level’ feeling

I very much enjoy playing and getting into it. It has a neat look and I am more than happy to have won it, but I’d recommend it to everyone who likes playing games like Carcassonne.

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Stephen Gregson-Wood
Stephen Gregson-Wood
Stephen brings both a love of games and a very formal-sounding journalism qualification to the Pocket Gamer team.