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Players take on the role of the owner of a plant nursery, who must breed and care for more than 500 of different kinds of exotic plants, all the while attempting to keep the plant store economically viable long enough to achieve the ultimate objective: breeding the six Magic Plants. Along the way, they can catch insects which are then added to a kind of "trophy" room, the duplicates of which can earn the player a significant amount of cash.
Players start with only a small selection of plants, some seeds, some money, and a seed box. Money is earned by selling plants and catching duplicate bugs. With this additional supplies, medicine, and special chemicals are available to be bought, along with the options of researching soil, water, insect nets, and pruning shears (three levels for each) for your plant shop. Although the game runs in real time, it can be paused - normally the life in the plant shop runs even when you exit the game or turn off your computer.
There are several ways in which plants in Plant Tycoon differs from real life plant raising. For example, plants in Plant Tycoon can only be pollinated once, and Magic Plants in Plant Tycoon have a unique effect on other plants or purchasers. It also assumes that all plants can be cross pollinated and make hybrids with any other plant.
Players take on the role of owning a greenhouse where they breed and sell plants. They start with $250, Common soil, Common water, Common shears, a Common net, a few Common seeds, 1 seed storage box, 1 bottle of Insta-Grow, 1 bottle of Insta-Grow Vaporbomb and 1 bottle of Plant food. Players make more money by selling plants and catching bugs. They can then buy more chemicals, tool upgrades, nursery upgrades and seeds.
There are 48 different types of bugs. Catching bugs brings in a little bit of money. There are Common, Uncommon and Rare bugs. The first bug of each type goes into a jar and all duplicates of that bug are automatically turned into cash. Duplicate bugs earn $5 for Common, $20 for Uncommon and $40 for Rare. The bug net can be upgraded from Common to Uncommon to Rare with each upgrade requiring less accuracy in catching a bug.
There are more than 400 different species of plants to be discovered. By cross pollinating Common plants, players get seeds for fragile Uncommon hybrids. These require the more expensive Uncommon supplies. Some of these plants will survive long enough for cross pollinating, but in order to live and remain healthy they need the first upgrade of soil. By cross pollinating these hybrids with other Uncommon and Common plants, players get seeds for frail Rare hybrids. These require the very expensive Isola supplies to survive. These rare hybrids will only survive in the highest soil quality. Players discover very rare Magical plants by cross pollinating Common, Uncommon and Rare plants. The Magical plants typically need Isola soil and all have unique effects that immediately and permanently affect the Greenhouse and Nursery. Plants sell from $5 for common plants, to $1000 for rare Magical plants.
A variety of chemicals affect the plants growth, how much they sell for and how fast they sell:
- Insta-Growth speeds individual plant growth.
- Insta-Growth Vaporbomb speeds the growth of all plants in the greenhouse.
- Fertilizer makes all seeds in the greenhouse grow larger and produce more flowers.
- Plant Food causes plants to grow larger.
- Bio-Organic Plant Food causes plants to produce more flowers.
- Vitamins restore a small amount of health to weakened plants.
- Plant Rescue Formula gives a large health boost to one plant, making it possible to save plants that are almost dead
- Plant Rescue Formula restores a plant that is dying but not dead.
- Mutation Liquid changes the plant's DNA, resulting in a mutation of the flowers or foliage
Using the various fertilizers at appropriate times in the plants' lives will make them healthier, larger, produce more and bigger flowers and produce more seeds. A large healthy plant with many flowers will sell for much more than a small plant with few flowers. Unhealthy and diseased plants rarely sell. Plants that have been pruned down to the point where they have no flowers or are just a stem will not sell at all.
The Nursery is where plants are sold. It has a wide variety of upgrades and improvements, all of which attract more customers. Having more customers makes plants sell faster and for higher prices. Customers that are clicked on display a speech bubble that often indicates what the customer wants such as: lower prices, specific plants and specific Nursery upgrades. Any Magic plants discovered will be planted in a gold pot in the center of the Nursery. Players can sell and breed magic plants too.
The Six Magic plants in the game, each with different "magical effects", are:
- Rose of Joy
- Flower of Knowledge
- Magic Tree of Fragrance
- Fruit of Life
- Golden Berries of Wealth
- Fabled Rose of Isola