The Disappointments of Garden Buddies: A Shallow and Unrewarding Gaming Experience

Gardening in game worlds is often touted as a relaxing and enjoyable activity. Games like Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley offer players the chance to grow plants and reap the rewards of their hard work. In this context, Garden Buddies from Dutch developer JamPics seems like an appealing addition to the genre. However, upon closer inspection, it becomes apparent that Garden Buddies falls short of its promise. While it starts off well enough with an inviting garden to decorate and customize, the gameplay quickly becomes underwhelming and lacking in depth.

The core gameplay loop of Garden Buddies involves planting flower seeds and exchanging the resulting flowers for various items such as plants, stones, lanterns, a pond, and a house. As you play, you unlock new talking flora and fauna friends that collect flowers for you. While these characters are adorably designed with their big shiny eyes and round bodies, their presence ultimately feels inconsequential. You find yourself simply watching them amble around while waiting for flowers to accumulate. This lack of active engagement takes away the sense of satisfaction that comes from reaping what you sow in games like Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley.

Garden Buddies tries to inject some variety into its gameplay through minigames, including rhythm games, a Whac-A-Mole-like game, and a washing game. However, these minigames are disappointingly devoid of challenge or meaningful reward. They lack a sense of urgency as they are not timed, which may fit the game’s calming tone but leaves players feeling unfulfilled. Despite completing these minigames, there is little sense of accomplishment besides characters praising your efforts. The lack of depth and reward severely undermines the overall gaming experience.

A Shallow Story and Limited Playtime

Garden Buddies offers two main modes of play: Story Mode and Game Mode. Story Mode allows you to play through the main storyline, while Game Mode lets you choose specific parts of the game to play. Additionally, the ability to skip levels further diminishes any potential challenges or difficulties. While the game prompts players to take breaks, implying that it should be played in short bursts, it is possible to complete Story Mode in just a few hours. This limited playtime combined with the lack of compelling narrative leaves players wanting more substance and longevity.

The dialogue and characterization in Garden Buddies leave much to be desired. The characters squeak like dog toys and their phrasing comes across as somewhat stilted. The game’s positive tone is overwhelming, to the point of complimenting players for the simplest actions. While the game seems to aim at stressed adults with its breathing exercises, mindfulness activities, and self-care techniques, it fails to strike a balance between appealing to younger and older audiences. It lacks the depth and rewards found in other kid-friendly yet still immensely enjoyable and relaxing games like Animal Crossing and A Short Hike.

In addition to its lackluster gameplay, Garden Buddies also suffers from minor performance issues. Slow load screens, occasional stutters, and missing dialogue detract from the overall smoothness of the gaming experience. Furthermore, the slow movement of cursors on the Nintendo Switch version leaves players longing for touchscreen capability. These technical shortcomings further contribute to the game’s overall underwhelming nature.

While Garden Buddies does have some redeeming qualities, such as its solid concept and intention, it ultimately fails to deliver a satisfying gaming experience. Its lack of depth, reward for achievements, and engaging gameplay undermine its potential as a relaxing and enjoyable game. In a genre filled with other cute and calming games, Garden Buddies falls short and can be safely overlooked in favor of more fulfilling alternatives.

Nintendo

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