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Jan 26, 2023

Garden In! Review

Lights Off
3 Okay
Retails for: $9.99
We Recommend: $5.99
  • Developer: Dramatic Iceberg
  • Publisher: Bonus Stage Publishing
  • Genre: Casual, Indie
  • Released: Jan 26, 2023
  • Platform: Windows
  • Reviewed: Windows

I find only enjoy a few cozy and peaceful games out in the marketplace. And when one comes across my path, I get curious. Garden In! describes itself as such so let’s take a look and see just how cozy we can get.

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Garden In! tasks you with the care of houseplants, from picking out the pot they live in, the soil to plant them in, and finally, the type of plant you’ll be growing. It’s a game about being chill and letting the plant grow on its own time. It’s own real-time. That is what stood out to me the most here: these plants take hours to grow, not in-game hours, but full-on real-world hours. There is no speed running this charming indie title, although I’m sure someone will be up to the challenge. But before I get into my thoughts on this mechanic, let’s dive into what you can expect from Garden In!.

Graphically this title is gorgeous; it’s bright and colorful with soft edges. It has a very 3D cartoon vibe that’s homey and inviting. You start with one room and can earn additional rooms to house more plants as you progress. Click on the trophy sitting on the shelf, and you can see all the tasks you can complete to earn unlocks. There are tasks per room and a global task list. The more you unlock, the more items you can use in the rooms and, as I mentioned previously, acquire more rooms. There is no currency in the game, so you’re free to buy and delete whatever you like to arrange each room to your eye’s perfection. Want a room that’s nothing but shelves with plants spilling on the floor? You can do that, you monster. Or you can make the room look livable with a place for each flower pot, one where it makes sense. From office furniture to desks and more shelving, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to make something you enjoy.

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The plants are also plentiful, with a slew of seeds to grow in three separate categories. There is a category that uses loose soil, an air variety that utilizes very zen-like rocks, and a water set that grows in water. Each type of plant has a specific kind of vase to go with it, so if you want to plant one of the soil-based plants, you’ll need to use one of the soil-based pots. Thankfully there is some variety to choose from under each category. Not at first, you only get four or so of each, but that opens up with more progression. You start with four seeds under each category, and you can unlock more varieties using hybrid pots and planters. The hybrid ones require you to plant two different types of seeds in the same container, and once fully grown, you’ll have made a new seed to plant. The game keeps track of your findings, much like a Pokédex from Pokémon. In fact, Garden In! has that same “gotta catch them all” vibe with its plant collecting.

Planting and collecting are one thing, but for them to fully grow, you must take care of them. From giving them water to spraying a natural bug repellant on them, you need to ensure they are well-kept; otherwise, their growth gets stunted. You’ll notice your plant will look withered and brown if it’s in need of water, and you’ll see bugs flying around if they have pests. If you leave them unattended for too long, they will stop growing. Now, this is where we return to the most noticeable mechanic in this game, the growth time. As I mentioned, these plants can take hours to grow, some more than others, but it’s still a long time. Once you boot up the game, you are notified that this is the case, so it’s no shocker, but I think the PC might be a bad fit for this title.

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To me, it feels like Garden In! would be more at home on a mobile device where you can swiftly load into an app and hide it after a couple of minutes. Now it could be me and how I perceive the difference between mobile games and PC games, but booting up a steam game and then shutting it down for only a few minutes of play every few hours seems the opposite of relaxing; it feels like a lot of work for little payoff. It’s not the best way to describe it, but comparing that to tapping the game icon on your phone, playing for a few minutes, then tossing it into the background while you do something else important feels naturally right. For example, you all know those games that use stamina or timers to force you into coming back to play later or those that as you to pay money to unlock more playtime. These feel acceptable, not good, but acceptable on mobile, where you’re typically looking for a few minutes to play between train stops or during a work break; I wouldn’t accept that on PC. Garden In!, in a way, uses this similar setup where you’re waiting for hours to be able to complete your next task.

To their credit, the game continues to progress even when not running, but toss in the fact that you have to water your plants and kill bugs; you’re now having to check every so often to ensure no roadblocks to their growth. This means stopping what you’re doing on your PC to boot up Steam and Garden In! to spritz some spray and give plants some water. Thankfully they have included an in-game cuckoo clock that will advance the time by a few hours, but you have to wait for it to charge back up, which takes quite a while.

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Even with the time constraints, I enjoy the relaxing atmosphere of Garden In!, and the “Gotta Plant them All” goal of getting all the seeds. Unfortunately, I would be giving the real-time growing a pass if it were on mobile versus my PC, where it’s more of a detriment. I want to spend a few hours playing a game on my PC, not a few minutes. When I boot up a game through Steam, I want to sit down and be engrossed. Relaxing or not, I’ve dedicated time to play, so let’s play; Garden In! doesn’t do that for me. With all that said, I absolutely do recommend giving this one a go if you want something calm and relaxing to entertain your fingers and stimulate the mind for a few minutes.

Steam code was provided in advance by the publisher for review purposes