Garden Story is a wholesome adventure where a grape called Concord, begrudgingly takes on the role as the Guardian of the Grove to protect the residents and defend from the mysterious rot. The pixelated aesthetic, along with its moving story and score, gives a very cozy and enjoyable 12-15 hour venture.
Garden Story, developed by Picogram and published by Rose City Games, starts off very innocently where Concord is exploring the small area around him. Quickly, things go awry and the rot begins to infiltrate and attack. The story continues to focus on the rot as the main antagonists, but also does an incredible job at weaving other stories from the large cast of characters that are met along the way. Though I felt a bit bewildered by the pacing of the adventure and where exactly to focus my attention, I never felt so aimless where I couldn’t figure it out.
Though the exact story progression is a bit ambiguous to follow, Garden Story encourages you to explore the areas and partake in other low-key activities in the meantime. Eventually, you’ll be able to fish, collect/buy/sell items, craft resources, and customize Concord with fun wearables. There’s also in-game daily challenges that can help build rapport with residents in various areas of the game and could help improve on other in-game events throughout. Balancing these quests and the overarching story is a fun balancing act that hooked me once I was able to get everything going.
The one source of frustration that sat with me was the battle mechanics. Though the basis is similar to The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past with its visuals and simple melee attacks, Garden Story has limits on itself by having a stamina meter. With some progression, you’re able to increase the meter, however, since the meter is linked with sprinting and fighting, I constantly found myself scurrying back and forth to take down larger enemies. Luckily, there are enough customizations and accessibility options to modify battles and make them much more manageable and enjoyable (thanks Picogram for this!).
Overall, if you’re looking for a charming, chill, and cute journey that can transport you into a fruitful world (pun intended), then Garden Story is worth checking out. The game deserves plenty of love and can be an ideal get-cozy-in-a-blanket-and-drink-hot-chocolate mode inducer.
Game provided by publisher.