Kotaku’s Sisi Jiang went on a nostalgic action-RPG adventure playing as a grape named Concord in Garden Story from developer Rose City Games. The young grape, Concord, protects and rebuilds a whimsical community from bosses and rot monsters in a cute pixel experience.
When I first watched the trailer for Garden Story, I was reminded of one of my favorite Game Boy Advance games from my childhood. I wasn’t given much money as a kid, so I would stand at the GameStop demo booth and play The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap for hours on end. I wanted Garden Story to be just like the forest adventures I had back then. It fulfilled that promise and offered a lot more.
I was charmed by the whimsical chiptune music, the unique interface, and the way the grass would part slightly when Concord stepped in it. Concord is the chosen guardian, but the villagers treat them gently, as if a child. There’s lots of handholding and care by most of the community.
Garden Story’s visuals are so thoughtful, yet organic. It doesn’t draw attention to the it’s best parts. The game is content to let the player to find every secret themselves. It was a complete accident that I discovered the pink flowers open and close upon being hit. Again: great for explorers and not so great for players who want to learn how to perform basic game actions immediately.
Garden Story is a cute pixel adventure that feels good and plays well. It’s also a fantasy where community welfare doesn’t exist independently from the player’s attempts to minmax Concord’s stats as quickly as possible. It still gives you an opportunity to be the prodigal son, but it never allows you to simply opt-out from the consequences of doing so. Which probably means that I’ll be playingGarden Story for much, much longer than I anticipated.