Available on: Nintendo Switch, PC
Garden Buddies invites players into a serene and charming world where the cultivation of a vibrant garden intertwines with heartwarming narratives and delightful characters. Mutsy, a cheerful apple, sets the stage for players to embark on a journey of friendship and mindfulness. This simulation game not only promises a small garden to cultivate but also a narrative woven with endearing characters, albeit a short one. The art style, characterized by a chibi aesthetic, adds a super cute touch to the overall experience. Notably, the game also incorporates voices reminiscent of Animal Crossing, creating a comforting atmosphere, especially for those who have found some peace and comfort there. At least, that was the case for me.
Garden Buddies centers around the player's interaction with the garden, adorable characters, and their troubles. The tutorial provides a smooth introduction, ensuring players feel guided without being overwhelmed. The core gameplay involves planting flowers selected by Mutsy and your new friends, picking those flowers, and converting them into points to unlock new decorations. The game encourages a relaxed pace, allowing players to continue gardening at their own leisure.
As the garden expands, new characters like Betty the bat and Aspen the acorn are introduced, each bringing unique stories and challenges. From aiding a displaced bat in finding food to assisting a toad in regurgitating an accidentally swallowed rock along with his ladybug wife, the game's activities offer a diverse range of problem-solving scenarios.
The game incorporates various activities, including bug catching, rock stacking, sponge cleaning, and rhythm games, providing both variety in gameplay and serving as mindfulness techniques. However, the control scheme, especially on the Nintendo Switch, felt more akin to a PC, leading to some awkwardness and reduced immersion during mini-games.
Garden Buddies weaves a narrative rich in themes of friendship, empathy, and environmental awareness. There were heartfelt interactions between Mutsy and the other characters, but the one that pulled on my heartstrings the most was between Mutsy and Betty the bat, addressing the impact of habitat destruction. Interactions such as these added more depth to the narrative.
The inclusion of mindful exercises, such as guided breathing and grounding techniques, adds a unique dimension to the game. At the end of the day, Mutsy gives a recount of the day and guides some breathing exercises, making players feel that it’s okay to take a break and come back later. These exercises can be particularly beneficial for players seeking moments of relaxation and mindfulness and can be accessed as a separate mode outside of the storyline. Positive affirmations scattered throughout the game further contribute to an overall positive atmosphere.
Garden Buddies successfully captures the essence of positivity, friendship, and mindfulness. The game's premise and concept are commendable, promoting a sense of community and appreciation, even if it does seem this was geared toward a younger audience. While the control issues on the Nintendo Switch slightly detracted from the intended experience, the uplifting nature of the game makes it a suitable choice for those seeking a calming and positive gaming experience.
Thank you to RedDeer.Games for providing the review key.