Let me start off by being completely honest – Garden In! is a difficult game to review without putting in significant time. When you review a game, there’s often a short window that you must manoeuvre around your life in which to create a fair assessment, and there’s added pressure when it comes to reviewing something which tells you in its opening screen that it’s about waiting hours for plants to grow.
It’s an experience intended to be taken at a laid-back pace. Gentle piano music creates a calm atmosphere while you decorate your room and care for your plants. A range of colour pallets can customise the mood, contrasting with the vibrant colours of the blooms.
You start off with a small selection of seeds and growing medium, which expand over time as you complete research tasks rewarding you with content for your room and new growing options.
You’d expect after a week of having a game to review you’d have more to show for it than 3 hours in-game time. Because the options are so limited at the start and time-dependent, you have to return later. There’s little else to do other than tweak the positions of your pots and add a few more decor items otherwise. It’s not an issue for someone who is likely in and out of their PC all day for work, but I’m not a strict PC gamer or Windows user so I felt a bit frustrated that I wasn’t going to get as rounded an experience in my review window.
The concept and design of the game are without fault. I love the simple and modern cartoony vibes, and the stakes couldn’t be lower as the bin is the only natural predator these flowers have. Rehoming plants to a new and more befitting pot is as easy as dragging and dropping it in without worrying about root rot or overexposure. If you leave the flowers too long, they’ll go limp and dull, or pests set in creating a halo of flies. Neither are detrimental in the long run since you can water them back to life and spray away the pests. It’s worth it for their cute giggles and cheers but also keeping them in a poor state delays their growth.
Plants get thirsty and begin to deteriorate after only a few minutes depending on the flower, and this can make progress toward research a bit stunted as you wait longer for them to catch up in their growth cycles if you’ve been offline. So, there is a balance to be found between doing the tasks which unlock your next batch of furniture or seed options and staying to manually attend to the plants as they need it. You can speed up time by using the clock, but it has a hefty recharge putting the brakes on any notions to speed run plant growing.
As you grow new flowers, you unlock more seeds, rooms, and areas to keep growing and customising. Hybrid flowers are an option when you plant two compatible seeds next to each other and hope they make sweet pollination.
Once the areas begin opening and there are more plants growing and craving attendance, I began slipping into a more zen attitude. My frustrations with the lack of instant gratification melted. My anxiety over the review faded a few shades. I metaphorically pottered between rooms, poking each needy nodule until it chuckled with delight, ensuring they were all watered fullest and didn’t have any pests. I angled trays for my air plants to look the best, and tried to carefully arrange the pots to look in some way appealing though I have no eye for these things. I carefully studied the herbarium to make sure the right flowers were breeding. I think I only encountered one bug (the game kind – not the invertebrate) which stopped one of my plants from growing beyond its second to last stage for more than a few days but I just threw it in the bin.
Garden In! stopped me in my tracks in a way I didn’t think I needed, and it won’t be leaving my library anytime soon. It’s a nice little refresher to dip into and out of any time you need a moment to stop thinking and move into a more mindful mindset.
Dramatic Iceberg’s Garden In! is out now on PC. Console versions due to be announced. Published by Bonus Stage.