In Garden Story, being a village guardian is a tough responsibility, but if anyone has the juice to do so it’s Concord: a fragile grape with a big heart who is determined to protect the Grove.
There’s a lot to take care of on the island that serves as your home in Garden Story. Villagers need help with various small jobs and tasks around the village, and as their guardian it’s your responsibility to fulfill them. Having a posting board in the middle of town makes managing their calls for help easier, and provides you with the opportunity to expand out and pick what you want to focus on first.
A mysterious corruption known as The Rot has also taken over the island. Possessing honest creatures and turning them hostile against villagers, The Rot serves as the main threat to the peaceful livelihood that the inhabitants of the Grove had found. Concord’s agility allows it to roll away from most attacks, but a couple smacks with the wooden pick that serves as your primary weapon will take care of them for now. Bigger creatures seem to have more nefarious purposes deep underground, however, such as a boss that you find within the sewers.
Garden Story certainly capitalizes on the cute pixel-art style, with a likening more to Earthbound than Stardew Valley. Quirky characters each have their own playful personalities and aren’t afraid to tell you what they need. The idea of frogs and produce living in harmony is both cute and convenient, as the frogs of the village mostly serve as the groundkeepers and the fruits tend to take on the role of helpless villagers. Perfect then, it seems, that the most vulnerable turns out to be the unlikely hero.
When you are tired after fighting off The Rot, you can find plenty of things to keep your mind off of adventure for the moment. Concord’s dowsing rod functions as a fishing pole, but instead of carp, you’ll be pulling in treasure after casting to the dark spots found in bodies of water throughout the game. Gardens within the village need tending to also, this requires resources that can be used to build tools and upgrade current ones. There’s also a full day and night cycle, which hasn’t been revealed to affect gameplay, but punctuates the beauty of the graphics even more.
Concord also carries their trusty scrapbook with them everywhere, and filling it will allow them to use different perks and traits. You can also take the resources you find beating baddies and cracking open crates to create a library of items, which add to the books and literature in town. There’s plenty to see and do on top of guarding your village, which lends itself to keeping even the most restless player busy with tons of content beyond the story and main quest.
With a boatload of lovable characters, cute graphics and a hero that serves as a role model for the unspoken, Garden Story has a lot to appreciate. Fun combat and puzzle-solving add to the tasks found within dungeons, where the real danger lurks. A delightfully hummable soundtrack seamlessly adds life to the world and compliments the quirky adventure-feel that Concord’s world punctuates. As my demo was relatively short, I am so ready to see what else is in store for the little grape and their fruity friends when it releases this year.
Garden Story is scheduled to release in Spring 2020, but I got a chance to play a demo at PAX South. Wishlist it on Steam and follow on Twitter for more details.