Gardening sounds like a fine way to manage stress. Well, what about gardening while making friends and getting positive reinforcement? That is what Garden Buddies is about, a game that simply makes you feel better. In the chaos of battle royales, RPGs, and other games that require maximum attention, Garden Buddies asks you to slow down. And so I did, and here is what I found.
Gameplay and Controls
The basics of the game take you to a garden, where you help Mutsy, an apple, find his footing. Growing plants and organizing them, you are soon surprised to find that Mutsy won’t be alone for too long. The game goes through days, each day bringing more content.
You control everything with the mouse primarily, with some mini-games that require using the ASDF keys. It is a simple system to navigate, which means more time for gardening. It is a welcome change, allowing you to focus on the presentation.
The game is divided into two (or three) sections. The first section is the garden. This is the main part of the gameplay where you plant flowers, throw seeds, and organize the scenery and housing.
The second part is the mini-games. There are different mini-games, ranging from whack-a-mole-like games to a Guitar Hero experience. The third section is Mutsy sleeping, which is a call to meditate, with breathing instructions.
This part took me by surprise and got me to focus and relax, rather surprisingly.
Garden management is the central part of the game. Flowers are used as a currency. The characters, like Mutsy and Bulby, collect flowers for you. From time to time, you can throw seeds and increase the flower count in the garden.
With enough “currency”, you can plant flowers, though specific ones, and organize them as you like. Apart from flowers, you can place tiles, rocks, and other scenic items. The last ones are the large or “story” items, such as a swing, house, pond, and a rock stacking game.
Multiple of each can be built, so the garden is highly customizable. A gardening simulator, you might be thinking, though by my experience, it is more than that. The difference is because of the mini-games, the secondary game modes.
The mini-games are there to separate the days and story sections, though they also supplement the story. Some have been rather surprising, like a Guitar Hero section where you rock out. Speaking of rocks, the rock stacking game is another notable one. It works exactly as described, stacking rocks to make the tallest possible tower.
While it was supposed to be a relaxing exercise, my competitive nature showed its head, with frustration after every collapse of the tower.
While there is nobody to compete against, you could have a minor setback. The game doesn’t allow you to fail. The dancing game comes to mind as one where making a mistake resets the sequence.
The whack-a-mole game where you collect the bugs is for those with quick fingers, though be too careless and you might whack a friend across their head. Even though the mini-games add challenge, they are by no means difficult.
Game Visuals and Art Direction
The art is colorful and happy. I would best describe it as peaceful and hopeful, at least those are the feelings invoked by the atmosphere. By nature, the garden is vivid.
The characters themselves are fruits, vegetables, and cute animals, humanized with large eyes and a cheerful appearance. Despite their vibrance, the colors are never an eyesore. Everything is put together with the goal of relaxation and fun.
Every game has a story and in Garden Buddies, you assist Mutsy in building a home for his friends, old and new. The game breaks the fourth wall, or rather, it was never present. You are always included directly in the game’s story.
As other characters are introduced, the garden gets more lovely vegetables, fungi, rocks, animals, and fruits, running around. As the days go by, the party gets larger, and more mini-games are added to the collection.
It would be next to impossible not to feel better after playing the game’s story, even after the first couple of lines of dialogue. I suggest going through it and getting into the mini-games, as well as the end of each day, where you do the breathing exercises.
Garden Buddies is a different game to the ever-growing list of popular titles. It is a combination of a farming/life simulator and a way for people to relax. As such, it doesn’t have fast gameplay or anything that should realistically frustrate anyone.
The base game mechanic has no limitations other than the currency and even that can be turned off. The mini-games are there to spice up the gameplay if you want something other than garden management.
Finally, the story sets the game apart, as we follow Mutsy on his Samaritan journey. The only possible things that are lacking in the game are more story content and perhaps more game modes. Other than that, this is a perfect experience for those in need of an anti-stress title.
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This review is based on the PC version of Garden Buddies. The key was provided by RedDeer Games.