I’m back with another chill simulator, only this time, rather than fishing, it’s gardening, which is more my speed. While Garden Simulator won’t win any awards for pushing the envelope, it’s still a solid, satisfying entry in the genre. Plus, there’s a cat.
You know, there might have been something in the intro about a plot involving inheriting land that needs care, but I didn’t really pay attention to it. Now, this is where I have to confess that I’m a bit of a plant junkie. I grow orchids in the desert, which is a terrible idea, but apparently, I like my living things on hard mode.
Even beyond that, I love a good gardening sim. I did all of the cooking achievements in WoW: Mists of Pandaria. I became obsessed with flower breeding in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Clearly, I was already primed to like this game, and just as obviously, I wanted to dive into it.
Garden Simulator opens with the familiar piles of trash that you mysteriously levitate into the dumpster, and you’ll have to deal with the incredibly overgrown grass. Once you’ve cleaned up and addressed the grass, you’re off to the races. The game’s tutorial is somewhat lacking, but it’s a garden sim. A chunk of the gameplay is going to be as intuitive as you’re thinking it will be. The game does provide a leveling system, meaning that you get skill points you can invest in various skills, among them watering. Honestly, that’s where I recommend putting your early points because as in real life, the more plants you get, the more watering you have to do.
You’ll also want to leave a space to grow edible plants and other types that you may not want in your garden, but because new tools and other buffs cost money, you’ll need to generate an income. You do that by completing “quests” that you get in the form of emails from an antiquated laptop that lives on your porch. Random neighbors will ask you to grow things for them, and they’ll buy those items from you. You’ll also access the online store, where you can buy the most cutting edge of gardening tools from the same laptop.
From there, it’s pretty much what you think it is. There are daily tasks that you’ll need to do, including mowing, harvesting, and pulling weeds, but as you progress through the game’s leveling structure, you’ll unlock various types of automation, up to and including an automatic mowing machine. You’ll need to keep up with the mower, though, because it will leave bags of clippings everywhere, which you’ll need to throw away. The mower will also run over and destroy new plants, so you’ll need to erect barriers around your precious green babies in order to prevent that issue. As previously mentioned, watering is definitely a good skill in which to pump points because even though you’ll eventually unlock sprinklers, increasing the speed at which you can water plants will make your playthrough much more pleasant.
While these quest and task elements give you something to do with your time in game, the game’s all about designing your perfect garden. This is where the game really shines. You’ve got a surprising amount of control over the colors of your plants and garden elements, and the selection of decorative elements should satisfy even the most discerning of Garden Club members.
Garden Simulator is not without its issues. The UI is a bit clunky to my eye, especially given that this is a game focused on creating a beautiful image. I also found that sometimes, I just couldn’t find the weeds that needed pulling, and the daily harvesting—eggplants, I’m looking at you—gets annoying very quickly because you’ve got to stay on top of it. The soundtrack isn’t going to wow you either, as the music definitely fits in the simulator standard of “relaxing.” Depending on how closely you plant your seeds, switching to the watering can mode can become visually confusing quickly. Each plant sits in the center of its own circle, demarcating the bounds of just how far water will reach. If you have lots of plants, those circles overlap, and while I see the point, I definitely found that to be extremely cluttered, visually.
The most important part of the game is obviously your cat friend, a lovely ginger tabby. Maybe they are related to the cat from Stray? The cat in Garden Simulator has a truly unfortunate interest in throwing himself underneath the lawnmower. I’m not exactly sure what’s at play with the AI here, but it could use some improvement. You’ll also have to do a side-quest if you are actively mean to your cat, so be aware of that.
All in all, Garden Simulator is a great little game that does exactly what it says it will—allows you to plant a garden even if you’re plagued to go through life without a green thumb. There’s not really a learning curve, so you don’t have to worry about forgetting which buttons do what. I also can’t see any reason it would not be appropriate for aspiring young gardeners either. Garden Simulator represents a solid entry into the simulator genre and is reasonably priced at $14.99 on the Steam store.
Stray Thoughts From Behind the Keyboard
- Why, why, why does the grass underneath the decorative elements grow? That’s not how grass works! I shouldn’t have to mow underneath these items!
- The weeds rapidly became the bane of my in-game existence. As you develop your garden, they become harder and harder to see.
- Love the gnomes. How can you not?
- I’m glad you’re a disembodied intelligence in this game because the drone deliveries would be lethal otherwise.
Developers: PRODUKTIVKELLER Studios
Platforms: GoG, Steam