Garden Story (Switch) Review

The Sweetest Plum


The most recent Indie World showcase highlighted a charming looking game called Garden Story. It didn’t give much away, but I knew I wanted to play it. From the trailer, it was hard to tell what kind of game it would be, and it was hard to shake the thought of Golf Story every time I thought of the name. Garden Story is about a grape who’s tasked with saving the world, so let’s not delay and enjoy this game while it’s ripe.

Concord is a young grape who spends his time tending the kindergarten, a garden hidden away from a world in peril. The old guardian Plum has decided it’s time for the young Concord to join the world and learn what it means to be a guardian, so you’ve taken away from your sheltered life to fulfil your purpose. Being a guardian involves helping out the communities across the four towns and regions. Each village is struggling to contain the rot, causing them to become closed off from one another. Concord must reconnect the isolated communities and help them with their troubles, clearing out the rot and hopefully bringing peace back to the world.

Watching the trailer at the indie direct gave the impression that Garden Story would be a mix of Stardew Valley with a little more focus on combat. Whereas it’s closer to a traditional Zelda, with Stardew’s community focus. It also looks like a cute relaxed adventure; it might not always feel so relaxed, but it does have cuteness and charm for days. As the game goes on they introduce building as something Concord can do. It’s not something you really use, outside of the times you need to make or repair something to keep the story moving. It is nice to add to the different towns, whether it’s decorative or to make the busy work a little easier on yourself.

Armed with a pick and hammer initially, Concord will expand his armoury over time. They all serve different purposes, and some of the tools will only work against certain defences. Some enemies require two different weapons to defeat them, and it can be a tad annoying to switch between them in the menu screen, similar to old school Zelda games. Concord has a stamina bar, whether it’s for running or taking swings at the rot. It’s a shame the bar depletes so quickly, even the most basic rot creatures leave dangerous traces of rot behind, requiring another. While it does mean you have to try and be more deliberate with attacks, over time it does improve after a slower start.

Each day you’re given 1-3 jobs at the community board. It could be clearing rot, collecting materials for repairs or rescuing packages. It wasn’t uncommon to accidentally clear these tasks as I went around doing other things. You might find a day that becomes redoing the same jobs until you tackle the dungeon. It’s a good motivator for completing them, but if you’re having troubles beating a boss, then it becomes a chore. Now while I say that, the dungeons aren’t that hard. The puzzles involve very little solving, and after the first boss they didn’t slow me down. Just be warned the first boss may be an unexpected difficulty spike, but it’s not representative of the whole game.

Then there’s the resource collecting, it’s a fine enough mechanic, but Garden Story makes some decisions. While you’ll find enough materials from breaking rocks, stumps and bottles, amongst other things, you’ll get a lot of the materials you don’t need at that point and spend a little too much time trying to find useful materials for upgrading. While you’re collecting all of this stuff out in the world, you also have pretty limited storage space. Items don’t stack, so breaking a bottle or two and collecting the shards can take up a third of your space straight away. If you want to store it away to free up that space, you can put it in the village storage, hopefully, there’s a box nearby. Although some materials seem like they are all too common and there’s no need, I do recommend you put some in storage along the way. It’s just all of this minor busy work, and it really adds up. Garden Story is fortunate; it’s still such a delightful game, but you’ll find yourself having to forgive a few things.

Memories are unlockable moments from your adventure. They are used to give you boosts (sometimes at a cost) for as long as it’s equipped. You unlock these memories by performing tasks; it could be sitting at a certain bench or collecting materials and so on. I honestly didn’t spend long dealing with the memories because at least half of them have limited benefits. Chances are you’ll find the ones that provide the most useful boosts and stick with them. Smashing orbs found in the world can help expand the number of slots you have for memories and increase health or stamina.

Garden Story is a cute little adventure. When you get over the initial hurdle of the first boss, it becomes a more enjoyable time. Saving the world doesn’t always have to be super over the top action. Garden Story shows you can do it by helping people and helping to rebuild a community in a more relaxed setting. While there are a few frustrations, if they’re ones you can overlook, there is a charming game waiting for you.

Rating: 4/5

Paul Roberts

Lego enthusiast, Picross Master and appreciator of games.

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Paul Roberts