Garden Story | Review | Nintendo Switch

  • Developer: Picogram
  • Publisher: Rose City Games
  • Release Date: 11/08/2021
  • Price: £17.99 / $19.99
  • Review code provided by Rose City Games

Introduction to the Garden Story Review

No one can downplay the influence that Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley have had on the gaming market. Those are games that have influenced the future of games themselves. Creating a whole range of inspired Farming/Adventure games. In comes the focus of this game review, Garden Story. Can Garden Story fight its way out of the shadow of these two genre giants? Well, join me and our protagonist Concord as we solve the problems of The Grove in this Garden Story review.

The Grape and The Grove

In Garden Story, you play as a youngling of The Grove, Concord the Grape. Upon starting the game, Concord is originally taking care of the Kindervine, a vine that gives birth to new members of The Grove. Though the vine has not given birth to new children in quite awhile. This compounds with the growing threat of The Rot, which is encroaching ever more upon the lives of the citizens of The Grove.

You are visited shortly by one of the current guardians of The Grove, Plum. He takes you and gets you geared up in order to become the newest guardian. As the guardian, you are tasked with daily objectives, which we will touch on more later, to protect The Grove. As Concord, unify The various sections of The Grove and uncover the mysteries of The Rot and the very nature of the guardians.

Assist The Grove

One of the main gameplay aspects of Garden Story is daily tasks. Honestly, I found this to either be enjoyable or mind numbing filler depending on my primary objectives. Tasks are split into three different categories and completing tasks fills one of these three categories. By completing tasks, you will level up various aspects of the individual town you are currently in, such as increasing gathering spots for supplies, or the various stores having better upgrades for your equipment. 

The reason I say that these tasks can be mind numbing is because they are repetitive in nature. It is not until like 3 towns into the game that you start getting variation. At the start of your day, you might have the following tasks: Go fix a bridge, gather these specific resources, and kill some Rot. This is your average daily objectives to do on top of the story objectives, which some of the story ones require you to increase certain town levels to progress. While completing these tasks can be just relaxing and charming, as you watch things get better with each level. It just seemed at times that a little more task variation would have been nice. You have these dungeons in the game and before the third town I was not even required to go back to them.

Puzzle Your Way Through

One aspect I really enjoyed of Garden Story were the puzzles throughout the game. I am not sure what it is about them exactly, but perhaps it was that they would break up the murder rot/gather resources gameplay loop. The first set of puzzle solving we are shown is simple light puzzles to reactive bridges, but soon the game just throws more unique types of puzzles at you, such as catching moving levels with a fishing pole, or pushing crates around to activate certain switches. I thought most of these puzzles weren’t too hard and there were some good quality of life bits mixed into this part, such as levers to reset the sliding crate puzzles within the room. 

Dungeon Crawling Grape

Not only is Concord tasked with minor objectives, but each town has a dungeon with a boss fight in them. The main story will have Concord go through each of these dungeons at least once. While some of your daily objectives will have you go back through them. I loved these dungeon crawls. I feel like Garden Story really shines through in these parts of the game. These areas usually contain unique items or mechanics, such as the aforementioned puzzles. Plus the boss encounters are pretty fun, though not too hard as to be challenging. Though as the game demands more out of Concord, how does he keep up?

Concord Memories and Stat Boosts

There are a few different systems within Garden Story that you can do in order to get Concord up to the current challenge. Scattered throughout the world are these pedestals with different coloured orbs on them. These require you to use a specific tool, and have that tool upgraded to a certain level at times, to get a stat boost to one of your stats.  These orbs also exist in the rooms after each boss fight, and typically reward greater stat boosts to Concord as well as progress the story. 
There is a unique system within Garden Story. By doing specific actions throughout the world, such as killing so much Rot or gathering materials, as well as simply sitting on a specific bench. These actions unlock memories for Concord, that he can put into slots in a journal in order to gain various effects. Some of these could simply be stat boosts, while there are others such as increased healing from your dew jars (health potions). While I get this boils down to a perks system, I really enjoyed the way it was done. Just got me out exploring more of the game’s world to see what other upgrades I could get for Concord.

Time to Rest

I don’t want you to get the wrong idea from the grips I have listed. Overall, I would say I had a really fun time with this Garden Story review. The setting and story were engaging, and I loved most of the characters within the game. I just felt like it could have a little less repetition in the gameplay loop to make Garden Story a fantastic game. Though, despite everything, I cannot recommend Garden Story enough if you want a cute and chill game to play for short bursts of time.

Pros:

  • Pick up and play
  • Memories system for perks
  • Fun map design

Cons:

  • Repetitive task system, not ideal for long play sessions
  • Felt a little padded

Verdict

Garden Story is a charming adventure with a colourful cast of characters and great mechanics to stand on its own

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