Wasn’t it fun as a kid to play with your food? When your parents weren’t watching of course, your sandwich halves would have epic carrot stick sword fights while King Pudding cup watched from atop his juice box throne. It never mattered which sandwich half won, both would always be viciously eaten and King pudding disgracefully dethroned shortly thereafter. Although your mom would still undoubtedly give you the stink eye if she caught you playing with your food, for the most part as an adult we tend to cast aside our meal time tales.
In Garden Story from Picogram and Rose City Games you can revisit those legendary food tales of yore and set out on an adventure with all your favorite fruits and veggies. Concord is the youngest in the Grove and therefore not entrusted with much when it comes to the community. However, when the encroaching Rot starts to get out of hand the esteemed Guardian Plum has no choice but to call upon little Concord to become the Spring Hamlet’s newest guardian! But just how much difference can one little grape make? Well, here’s what I discovered on my Garden Story journey!
The soft color palette used with the simple pixel art was enough to get me interested when I first watched its trailer, but then the fantastic and well designed gameplay loop had me hooked and ready for the long haul. Which ended up not being too terribly long, but instead a comfortable 20ish hours. That said, even with putting that much time into it, I still needed to 100% everything, plus I definitely dawdled in a few places simply because I was just enjoying the simple daily tasks and cute environments.
Garden Story is one of the best performing games on our Steam Curator so I can’t say what took me so long to play it but I’m definitely glad I was given the opportunity to finally do so. And let me tell ya, it was worth the wait. I think it certainly says something that even before I had played it myself it wasn’t hard to tell it would be one of those games that will always stick with me and become a part of my ever-growing comfort food games list.
I’m a controller person through and through so good solid controls even for PC games are important to me. Steam likes to fight me on this quite often unfortunately and Garden Story was no exception. That’s no fault of the game of course, but the reason I bring it up is I feel that the controls on the keyboard and mouse are much more intuitive vs those on a controller. If my controller disconnected or turned off at any point during gameplay that meant I had to attempt to use the keyboard/mouse to make it to a save point without losing progress. I know you can go into the options and just change the setting back to a controller, but much like when I was playing Elden Ring, Steam just refuses to let it be that easy and will only restore maybe half my controller support. That did however lead me to notice that because of Garden Story’s many different button prompts, using the keyboard/mouse would probably be a whole lot simpler than using a controller. Especially if you’re somebody that can swing in either direction. I’m a controller girl though so I just soldiered on. It was fine but it definitely took me some time to wrap my brain around.
The core gameplay loop involves Concord visiting the four season themed sections of the Grove and helping the community reconnect with each of the other sections after having been cut off for one reason or another. You will be given lodgings and a quest board, as well as access to the local shops as well as a single dungeon in each place. Most of the small quests will have you clearing out rot or gathering resources but they are unique to each area which keeps it fresh and fun. The quests will start to repeat themselves fairly quickly and that’s usually a sign that it’s time to get on with the story and wrap things up. I really liked that there were little built in achievements where using your weapons in certain ways, killing different kinds of rot, or even just relaxing in certain ways would reward you with a page for your memory book. You can then essentially “equip” a handful of these memories for various stat boosts or extra abilities.
The overall execution of Garden Story was simple yet entertaining, and frankly I think that is half the basis of its appeal for gamers like me. It’s nice every now and then to be able to relax with a game, enjoy the scenery, and know that nothing will overtly stress you out. That was the vibe I got from what I’d seen prior to my own playthrough and it delivered on that promise with adorable gusto!
Really the only things I have to complain about are just small grievances. For instance I wish there was a way to empty your jars or at least replenish them with the same dew type without having to just use it all up. I also wish there was a bigger variety of daily quests, at least as you progress the story and have to return to the various regions. Another nice feature would be to allow items to stack in your inventory the way they do in the Storage chest. I know you can buy upgrades eventually that allow item stacking but it was fairly late game and only one stack per upgrade. So, nothing game breaking by any means, or even the type of things that would prevent me from returning to it in the future, just small quality of life complaints.
I’ll be back to replay Garden Story again one day, there’s no question in my mind about that. It’s a lovely little game I’d recommend to anyone looking for a light and breezy adventure. If there were ever to be a sequel I’d gladly take up arms with Concord again or a new produce pal.