Garden Life: A Cozy Simulator – PS5 Review

I am a terrible gardener. I’ve got a real habit of neglecting plants in my backyard. Gardening is simply something other people do and I just don’t have the time to devote to creating life. Gaming has me covered, though. There’s no shortage of farming or garden growing simulators. The latest of these comes from stillalive studios. They’re no strangers to the genre having previously worked on the Bus Simulator series. Garden Life: A Cozy Simulator is equally accessible, opting for simplicity over accuracy.

Garden Life: A Cozy Simulator does have a story. It’s not much of a narrative but the community garden has fallen into disrepair. Robin, the elected caretaker has unfortunately passed away, leaving the green-fingered duties to yourself. The rest of the village folk think it’s a fabulous idea to honour her memory and are all too happy to help out.

Helping out usually involves favours for favours. In the beginning, you’ve got a small plot of land to plant flowers and very few seeds to sow. There is a shop in the village that does sell various tools, decorations and slowly introduces more plant species. There’s no rush to it but there is an objective-based structure that does give you goals and landmarks to accomplish.

Robin has a to do list she never got finished and that lays out the major objectives. It looks small at first glance but some of these larger victories take a while to unlock. Requests come from the other villagers to deliver them specific flowers. This usually results in monetary rewards but can also unlock free tools or, with the larger ones, open up more of the garden to you.

In its initial phase, the garden can feel fairly small but I was surprised how much I could fit into it. The basics are taught to you well and it establishes an early routine of general maintenance. Flowers need to be watered every day, weeds need to be cleared and pests need to be euthanised. There are expensive instruments like sprinklers and weed patrolling robots to automate some of the busy work. Walking around the place can’t be eliminated entirely but the convenience is nice and allows gardeners to get on with other tasks.

Other such tasks include crafting which includes making bouquets, fences and decorations to raise your garden’s aesthetics. I’ve largely kept mine as a chaotic flower pile but anybody wanting to section the place out and organise it can do so. All of these wares can be sold at your garden stall. Here you can drop off any excess seeds, flower cuttings or anything else you’ve been putting together.

Once I had a foothold in the garden, the commerce and fundraising side became easy to manage. Seeds come from plants regularly so there was always an opportunity to sell. Some plants have very little value until you present them as a bouquet. Any profits can be picked up the next day and there are a couple of items on Robin’s list that requires a hefty investment. Luckily, these are usually linked with expanding the garden’s size.

The game itself takes on a daily presentation. Time is short but, as far as I know, there’s no pressing time limit on getting things done. As the days pass by, the seasons change and the weather can vary. I’ve yet to see winter but days mostly switch from sunny to rainy climates. Rain can spare you the need to water plants but the simulation itself never seems to go especially hard. I’ve not had to think about gestation periods of plants or how to try and force a particular mutation.

Weeds can drain water from an area but they’re easily cleared and a mere splash is good enough for most plants. I did make one costly misstep when it came to Jasmine. One request tasked me with getting plenty of it. Unlike the other plants, the blooms only seem to happen once during the plant’s lifespan. I spent weeks in-game trying to re-grow them before finally planting fresh ones. That instance aside, the plants all largely behave in the same manner and the game can become predictable.

It can become a bit of a time sink. The latter objectives rely on breeding plant variants and, whilst some of them have come to me organically, I’m still waiting to fill out the rest of them. I’m convinced variants arrive randomly but I do wonder if planting more of the same species can speed that process up. The village shop doesn’t stock any variants you unlock so it’s worth holding at least one of the seeds back. I’ve played for 18 hours and it’s clear now that the gains are slowing. Money starts to feel abundant when there’s so few large purchases for your funds.

At least you’re not lacking in things to do. Outside of completing Robin’s plant book, there’s a pavilion with statues to work on. These tend to require cuttings of rare plants so it encourages you to indulge in cultivating variants. When you’ve got larger goals to push for, it can hamper the usually brisk pacing. Even if you have the seeds on hand, there’s still days or a week’s process to grow them and potentially craft what other requirements. For those wanting something with a little less structure, creative mode offers something more unrestricted. This gives you the whole garden to play with a fully stocked seed cabinet.

I do find the inventory management to be a little lacking. In terms of space, there seems to be no hard limit to your storage. You have a handful of immediate slots which quickly get taken up by gardening tools. You have a larger backpack which provides more space and can be easily accessed by a quick button press. For everything else, the shed provides storage of various types. You have shelves for seeds, tools and decorations. As these fill up, I’ve been really wanting a means to sort these places. My seed storage is especially cluttered which has required some housekeeping to have them all in neat little stacks.

Presentation is where the game is at its most cosy. There’s a relaxed vibe to the soundtrack which never, at any point, implies problems or peril. Downpours do tend to overshadow the music but there’s nice touches like hearing the rain batter the roof of the shed. Seeds are plucked with a satisfying twang and new variants arrive with an unmissable, celebratory prompt.

The townsfolk all have nicely drawn portraits, although it can make them feel a little distant when that’s your own means of interacting with them. Days are bookended by bus rides and it is implied that your friends follow you there and back. Everyone carries a cheery disposition, even the ghostly Robin who’s just happy you’re picking up where she left off. It’s a very low stakes experience that settles very quickly.

What Garden Life: A Cozy Simulator offers is a simple and easy-going approach to gardening. There can be a rewarding quality to gaining new variants, crafting new furniture or streamlining the basic maintenance. There is always something new to push towards, even if some of those goals can become unwieldy and time consuming. Dealing with the inventory can devolve into a fiddle but I’ve largely enjoyed my time trying to make a patch of green earth even greener.

Garden Life: A Cozy Simulator
7 Overall
+ A relaxing effort with low stakes.
+ Charming, cheery presentation.
+ Plenty of objectives to keep you occupied.
+ Simple to grasp.
- Not exactly deep when it comes to an actual simulation of gardening.
- Inventory management can be time-consuming.
- Pacing can slow when you get into the latter stages.
- Despite a village of helpful people, it can be a solitary experience.
When it comes down to it, I think Garden Life: A Cozy Simulator does what it sets out to do. It's a comfortable game with very little strife or stakes. Growing and maintaining the garden has a simplicity to it and the brief days allow the pacing to largely stay steady. The story mode delivers a structure that does provide a tutorial whilst pushing you gently towards greater goals. I do wish the inventory management has a little smarter but it hasn't dampened my spirits too much. It is a time investment but can be rewarding when the garden really opens up to you.

About Mike

Mike gets all the racing games because he understands that stuff even though he doesn't drive.

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