Release Date: August 11, 2021
Garden Story starts slow, and despite a lengthy tutorial section, right from the get go, I felt like I was just missing some critical thought component to make the game make sense. Initially, I stepped out of my house, and couldn’t figure out how the game expected me to get to the next objective. There didn’t seem to be a path, and I couldn’t properly interact with, well, anything at all. It seemed like an eternity before it occurred to me to go back inside my house, where I spotted a second exit leading me right to my objective.
This experience is basically a microcosm of the next hour of play for me. There is just something here that isn’t intuitive for me.
You play as Concord the very small grape, who is being moved from his cozy assignment of tending to a single plant to the main drag of the Haven, where you’ll be tasked with helping members of your community. A lot of that help is going to be combat-focused, as the main problem facing your town is The Rot, which so far seems to be little purple blobs, and the occasional goop-shooting vine.
Each day, you will check the board next to your home for requests, and then wander around trying to take care of whatever needs to be taken care of. There is some sort of day/night cycle, but it seems like it’s mainly trackable from the map, and I still haven’t been able to figure out if it’s real-time based or action based. If you manage to lose all your health, you are penalized financially, and the day ends immediately. Thankfully, you will wake up the next day with full health, ready to go back out there and help everyone all over again.
There are also some light puzzling sections, and apparently, at least three more major areas for you to go improve upon, but – as I said – the whole thing feels very slow. Even the hack & slash style combat is slow – you have very limited stamina in the early game, so I felt like combat didn’t feel that great. I would run in, poke at something with my pick once or twice, and then have to run away to give my stamina time to regen. It felt very choppy, and I was not looking forward to starting to run into enemies that were going to take more than a couple rounds of that nonsense.
By contrast, all of the menus felt busy, but also obtuse. If I forgot where my objectives were, I resorted to stopping at any job board I passed, because I couldn’t figure out how to see them on my map screen. Instead, I felt like I was getting a lot of information that wasn’t particularly relevant. When a game doesn’t give you any kind of journal or quest log, that’s a choice, even if it’s not one I love. This just felt like it was poorly designed.
While there wasn’t anything I hated about Garden Story, there just wasn’t anything that made me really want to keep playing either. I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was a fun game somewhere in there, but that it was stuck in a pool of molasses, and I just wasn’t feeling it enough to struggle through.
SteamDB estimates that Garden Story has sold between 11,800 and 32,600 copies on Steam. It seems that most folks who played it liked it a whole lot more than I did, and as such, it has a Very Positive overall rating. It is ranked 578 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.