Garden of the Sea is a farm simulator that gives you a set of islands to relax in with an environment that is as beautiful as you choose to make it.
Relaxation sims are a huge genre in VR and it’s easy to see why. Escaping from the real world into a fantasy realm where anything is possible appeals to a deep desire that nearly anyone can appreciate. Garden of the Sea literally takes you to an island paradise with very little handholding and allows you freely explore, take in the sights, and enjoy the company of its animal inhabitants.
While the islands are yours to explore, there are tasks that its inhabitants need you to fix before it really feels like home. Wooden signs posted all over the place tell you in the most basic of terms what you need to do to solve the next task. You’ll be spending a lot of time crafting materials or pulling plants to deposit at glowing bubbles near your task-giver — be it an animal or one of the unique, seemingly pottery-based creatures — and you could be rewarded with progress
One of the first chores you take on is learning how to plant new crops. Picking up your virtual hoe, you scrape the ground to make it soil ready for seeds, dump some seeds into the fresh ground, and douse it with water from your watering can. After a few moments, your crop is ready to pull from the ground, which you can take to a nearby creature that wants you to deliver three radishes.
After you deliver his required radish rations, he gives you an inventory pocket that attaches to your gloves, which makes carrying multiple items with you much easier. You also gain a crystal that when put on a pedestal nearby, a new island rises from the watery depths in the distance and a beam of light also points you to the next area you need to visit. Of course, the bridge to that area is out, and it’s on to the next task: learning to help build things for the villagers.
There are all types of flowers, rocks, seeds, branches, and crops to find around the islands, and those items can be deposited in those glowing orbs to somehow create buildings and other structures from the effort. The bridge requires you to seek out items from the limited space that served as your tutorial area, and placing them into the orb rebuilds it before your very eyes. It’s a bit magical and a little bit arbitrary, but ultimately, the basics serve enough purpose to keep you moving from one task to the next.
Past this first area, there’s plenty to do and see, but one of the first things you’ll likely notice is the obtuse animal types that take residence here. Puffer penguins and cow–manatee creatures are some of the first ones you’ll meet, and you’ll likely immediately question their purpose other than looking cute. Petting one will bring up a heart above their head, which shows what food they are looking for to fill one of four sections. Feeding them their favorite requested veggie or food item will make them happy, and you’ll eventually be able to house them and get them to lay eggs, which will add even more cute animals running around your paradise.
Beyond animal raising, you’ll be spending a lot of time managing items in Garden of the Sea with a limited inventory system that requires you to juggle a lot. With only eight slots to utilize, thankfully similar items stack, but you’ll quickly come to the realization that you just don’t have enough space for what’s important. If you want to keep your islands from being littered with items that you have no clue how to handle, you’re going to want to build some storage. This is where another orb-like machine comes into play.
Item crafting is handled almost the same way that completing assembly tasks are in the world, but instead of throwing them into an orb in front of that area, you toss your materials into what I can only describe as a fancy gumball machine. Once you have the items you need nestled inside of it, pulling a lever will create the recipe from the items you provided. This allows for the creation of furniture, packs of seeds, and all kinds of other creations that you can use to help your beautification process.
If you’re looking to take a break from gardening and spend some time boosting your real estate appeal, you can focus on building up your house, which begins as a tent and can be upgraded all the way up to a multiple-story house with plenty of space for whatever your artistic side desires. Each stage of the home will give you even more much-needed space to stash items and trinkets you’ve found throughout your adventure. Once you find the camera, you’ll also be able to take pictures of precious moments to document your travels, and you can then take the photos that pop out of it to decorate the walls of your home.
Garden of the Sea is a relaxing getaway that perhaps involves you in too many tasks to juggle but offers you the convenience of focusing on whatever you want to. If you want to spend time in your garden instead of fixing up the boat that will allow you to travel to islands beyond, there’s nothing stopping you. If you want to ignore the cute animals and instead plan on enjoying the simple pleasures of fishing the day away until the golden hues of the sunset sink into the horizon, you can do just that. It’s a convenience bordering on luxury that there are no timed tasks or nagging NPCs demanding anything of you, and that’s worth the price of admission alone.
While Garden of the Sea doesn’t do anything mind-blowing, it doesn’t need to. It excels in the simplicity of its formula and allows you to do things your way, in your time. Item management possibly could have been handled better with expandable inventory options, but most tasks require only a small handful of items anyway, so focusing on one task at a time is often the best solution.
Even with those small complaints, It’s hard to find any glaring faults in a gardening sim that feels so refreshing to play, so I can only give Garden of the Sea the highest of praises, putting it up there with Fujii as one of my favorite titles to jump into to blow off some steam. If you have a virtual headset, Garden of the Sea should absolutely be on your wishlist.