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    Garden Life: A Cozy Simulator Review – If Touching Grass Takes This Much Effort

    Developed By: stillalive studios

    Published By: Nacon

    Platforms: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, Switch and PC

    Reviewed On: PS5

    If your gaming pals ever tease you to touch some grass or need fresh air, look no further than Garden Life: A Cozy Simulator as a perfect remedy for the eyes, ears, and even the soul. Play in the eyes of a florist who starts out pulling out the weeds and rotten plants to eventually replant new plants and water them.

    Just beware of the occasional crashes and bugs, especially when tending to your virtual plants. Yet despite its flaws, stepping into Garden Life feels like a light stroll to your watercolored garden, with some soothing sounds of ambiance and calming vibes.

    Garden Life will resemble a Harvest Moon type of game but set as a florist tending to his garden, with only two locations to explore and only a handful of NPCs to interact with. Instead, you’ll mainly receive requests via letters through the mailbox and occasional visits by NPCs after a certain number of days in-game.

    So, if you’re seeking a tranquil gardening experience with fewer locations and NPC interactions, this game is a definite yes. However, if you’re wary of bugs and occasional crashes, you might want to tread carefully. Anyway, here’s my review of Garden Life: A Cozy Simulator, or I would call it ‘Garden Life’ for short.

    Gameplay | Snip till I Go Snap

    In first-person view, after clearing out the weeds and tending the garden by keeping it simple: plant as many various types of flower seeds based on the available space and water them grow until you cut them out; completing a set of objectives set out by the NPC’s along the way.

    Fret not as although there are passing days in the game; Garden Life is designed to be cozy as it allows the tasks to be completed at any time without any expiry date. That being said, the plants grow fast in a few minutes in-game and even more so particularly with the aid of fertilizers.

    As a few minutes go by, looking through the gardens and seeing my flowers bloom alongside my decorations fills my sense with colorful euphoria and satisfaction however this is pretty much where the excitement fades to grey.

    This is because of the gameplay’s constant loop revolving around tending to your garden: removing weeds that randomly pop up, watering plants, and spraying bugs away in the first few minutes. Followed by harvesting/cutting with shears can be a painful finger-finger-straining affair via the R2 button, especially with large flowers such as roses.

    This eventually causes a lot of discomfort, prompting more breaks in between as the physical toll takes more effort compared to shooting using the same button in a Call Of Duty session. Can’t deny the satisfaction of trimming, but the lack of other better tools adds more frustrations to the gameplay as I plant more flowers in the process.

    Later on, I discovered a trick: aiming the shears at the plant’s dark base/roots allows me to remove the entire stalk with just a few snips or a button press. Doing so at times will make the shears unresponsive to button pressing and I need to do something else for a while before continuing.

    Although it’s quick, the snipping action still feels like a repetitive chore, making me feel more like a pruner rather than a gardener due to the instant rapid growth of the flowers.

    Speaking of growth, I do encounter odd discrepancies in the size of the flowers; for instance, roses tend to take more space than sunflowers, which is not only unexpected but also tends to obstruct the view of other smaller flowers caught behind or in between. It would be helpful if there were ways to preview this before planting like how I can view the placement of decorations and rotate it via the R1 or L1 button before placing it; allowing for better space management.

    After cutting up the flowers, you will start earning money by selling them on your garden stall. Earning money allows you to spend power to buy new tools, seeds, and decorations to spruce up your garden hub. Completing tasks allows you to get new stuff and more expanded garden space later on.

    Upgraded tools such as hose and sprinklers streamline the watering process, yet the tasks like cutting flowers and applying insecticide remain tedious manual work, especially as your garden grows. As you cultivate more plants, they produce new/existing seeds for replanting purposes or gaining new variants; expanding your garden with more color. The thing is so is cutting.

    UI | Everything Is Manually Done

    If roses have thorns, then navigating the game can be more on the thorny side when it comes to flower placement and remembering which plant is which. Truth be told, I’m flower blind as most flowers look the same to me.

    A clearer naming convention is needed on the fields or an overview of the flower name would be a blooming clarity as on the fields the flowers are simply named as ‘this plant is healthy’ rather than ‘This yellow roses are healthy’ as I go near them. Because again I tend to get messy with my flower placements and eventually forget which is which.

    Objectives, while present, could use a bit more handholding as more guidance is needed on how to achieve tasks that would make the gardening experience much smoother, like knowing how to get those elusive wooden sticks. It’s written in such a manner as if being handed a treasure map without the “X” marks or without pointing out that there is a follow-up action by checking out the notice board after completing the first part of the task by example.

    Performing crafting in crafting tables and purchasing village shops via the inventory decorations uncategorized/unfiltered listings can be like searching for a diamond in a rough patch of weeds, with items jumbled together and designs hard to distinguish. Hence it takes time to search through the list for the stuff that I need.

    Besides that, the plant book specifically the flower sections serves more as a riddle, telling more about the plant size and features than a helpful guide on how to make a specific plant healthier, leaving me scratching my head. Or which plants can earn more money aka florins as currency in which season?

    Keeping track of the current objective is as accessible as pressing the right directional button, but it only accounts for the items at hand and not those items that were tucked away in storage such as decor storage and seed storage. This issue of items not recognized in storage also applies to crafting and added quest Pavillion in flower arrangements.

    Due to my limited seventeen storage on hand along with items automatically moved to the stash after being full. Managing your incoming stash can feel like trying to fit a bouquet into a vase that’s too small one by one as there are no auto-sort functions in the game.

    As you garner more leaf piles over cutting so many flowers ( maximum of three hundred per slot) which will make your stash quickly becomes a jumbled up mess, leading to endless sorting sessions as the main gameplay instead as I meticulously move items one by one, like a botanist arranging flowers for logistics purposes instead of in a garden.

    Crafting is also a cumbersome process; for instance, turning a pile of leaves into wrapping paper for better sales requires a long awkward press and holding R3 analog sticks upwards of twenty-five per stack to up to three thousand which can be painstakingly slow. I do long for an option to bundle them all at once via the right analog stick instead of slow increments of twenty-five per stack( depending on the crafting requirements).

    Throwing piles of leaves/flowers offers a convenient way to turn them into fertilizers, but the continuous pressing of the X button can lead to unresponsiveness later, forcing me to retry via the exit and press the square button to move stacks of leaves instead.

    Leaf piles max out at three hundred per slot in inventory space, while most flowers take up to ninety-nine stalks a slot each; leaving leftover flowers when crafting rose bouquets which requires about fifty by example ( depending on the flower bouquet criteria). This in turn makes me redo the managed inventory sorting again in stash. Hence turning it into another sorting-out frenzy of items in stash boxes again and again- which can eventually drive me crazy.

    Hoping this can be patched out to have more flowers per slot or even unlimited to make things easier.

    Designs And Characters | Beautiful But Rough On The Edges

    The art style in Garden Life offers a blend of multiple distinct visual approaches in one. Firstly, the grasses and shrubs boast more charming smooth watercolored designs, while the flowers have a more detailed 3D design to them for added focal points.

    Buildings and decorations lean toward a more rugged wooden texture and aesthetic, giving a more rough realistic texture to it. Meanwhile, NPC characters are portrayed solely on dialogues and loading screens, drawn in vibrant marker-colored pen designs that add a touch of whimsy and striking sharp colors.

    However, the sense of mixing multiple art styles can create that sense of motion blurriness, particularly as I am moving around the environment.

    While it may initially cause discomfort, I got used to it over time. Nonetheless, I avoided playing it while experiencing headaches or discomfort, as it may exacerbate these symptoms.

    The plant book specifically is mixed with detailed flower sketches that appear like a naturalist notebook but flipping through the pages feels a bit sluggish; as there are mini loading times while flipping through its thirty-seven entries.

    During the bus ride home at the end of the day, at times the loading screen showcases what looks like the NPC character Jasmine in colored marker pen designs (per the image below), though a bit rougher, unfinished strokes compared to the rest of the NPC crowd compared to the main menu screen. Added note that the old lady’s hands appear similarly unfinished strokes as well as per the image below.

    Storyline, Writing, And Sounds | Close, But No Cuphea

    Like Harvest Moon, the story and the community are simply welcoming, by warmly embracing you and offering their greetings in charming decently voiced British accents; setting the right tone and atmosphere of a place you are in.

    For starters, you take over a neglected garden from a deceased gardener named Robin, and the narrative lacks a standout moment. It is overly welcoming or sets a superficial tone, so much so it feels less genuine, and needs a form of development to earn that trust back in the community instead and rather accepting Robin’s passing almost immediately as well.

    Nevertheless, the primary focus solely remains on your garden, with little to no interference from other parties and characters. Resulting in a story that falls short focusing mostly on the welcoming stage that eventually falls into a tone of generic territory without any follow-up in between to develop characters and the community dynamics.

    On that note, the plant book aka guidebook, offers a better description of the flower’s features, yet lacks the practical aspects of how to cultivate the said flowers effectively. Despite my efforts, some of the same flower species refuse to thrive, leaving me scratching my head about what I might be doing wrong.

    Despite also consistently watering all plants of the same species (Jasmine Flowers for example), some seem to struggle to grow in certain parts of the garden as well.

    As for the music, it’s pretty much a calming delightful auditory experience, serenading me with soft soothing guitar melodies which are at times accompanied by a gentle hum of drum beats and ASMR-like percussion sand and sounds. The music gradually evolves, reflecting the passage of time, weather, and seasons.

    Such as when evening approaches, the music tends to fade away as it is replaced by the sounds of the bus engine gearing up and revving back home as you end the day, transitioning to the next day along with its loading screen.

    The overall soundtrack offers a soothing comfort throughout, gracefully uplifting through the spirits of the seasons. Especially noticeable in village squares along with soft jazzy electronic melodies as well during rainy times that add another layer of ambiance to the experience to glean into.

    Besides the sounds of the bus engine gearing up and revving back home, when it comes to other sound effects; Garden Life lacks the depth needed, with less or more surface-level sounds accompanying your daily actions. For instance, watering plants with a ‘watering can’ produces a single-layer mix of water slushing and drizzling water, almost at the same time.

    Lacking the nuanced separation of sounds, from the initial can-slushing, followed by gentle drizzle and eventually water distinctly hitting the plant’s leaves, eventually lacks the separation needed to evoke the tingling sensations I crave while farming. In my opinion, it is an oversight, a missed opportunity to deliver a more immersive ASMR-like experience through unique sounds tied to gardening tool usage and sorting UI interactions.

    What I Liked About Garden Life: A Cozy Simulator

    • Art – Beautiful and cozy game in first-person view.
    • Decor placements – Placing objects is easy to understand by holding the square button and L1 and R1 for rotating objects while placing.
    • Music – Soft calm tunes to ease the mornings. Voice acting is decently voiced in a British accent.
    • Gameplay – No pressure, can be played at your own pace without pressuring you to finish certain aspects or goals.
    • Accessibility – Optional accessible color blind mode and intensity.


    What I Wished Was Better

    • UI and Stash – Cumbersome with a lot of manual sorting.
    • Flower Placement – Some flowers take up more space than expected, hence a preview and overview are needed before placing, like decor with rotation function.
    • Gameplay – Pruning can be a straining chore as there are some flowers like the roses that can get messy and hard to cut through.
    • Crash and bugs – Occasional random crashes and unresponsive UI selection in certain situations
    • Art – Multiple different art styles on screen may cause some confusion to my eyes to define the textures, creating a sense of motion blurness while moving. Some loading screen art felt unfinished.
    • Objectives and Crafting – May not recognize your stash as available stocks.
    • Sound effects – lack depth and provide the nuanced separation needed for an immersive ASMR-like satisfaction tied to gardening actions.

    Verdict | Not As Cozy As I Thought

    If roses have thorns, then Garden Life mirrors the pain of a pruner’s relentless task of manual snipping and item sorting. With the initial admiration of the game’s efforts in visuals and music despite some rough edges, my fingers protested otherwise due to the constant laborious task and constant item reorganization.

    Eventually, the tedious clicking and sorting overshadowed my eyes from appreciating the Garden’s Life-blooming beauty as I tended more to spending time in the stash and inventory sorting instead. Leaving me reluctant to continue to play in the long term.

    I wish things could be improved in the future patches, but for now, Garden’s Life’s repetitive tasks tend to evoke more strain and stress than cozy. Perhaps streamlining these processes would undoubtedly bring a more pleasant gardening experience.

    Final Score – 6.5/10

    He is actually very shy, introvert but no choice, have to go out to buy games. He likes food and food likes him. He somehow manage to find a job with the right time accommodate to gaming. He has a very short attention span, therefore has to finish a game fast or else a simple pun can distract him for the entire day. Yes a Pun, he loves puns as much as he loves games; easily distracted, whichever comes next.

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