Garden of the Sea is a hearty mix of Harvest Moon and Windwaker, but it’s only for gamers that want to watch their garden grow. Read on for our Garden of the Sea review.
I often don’t fall for games that are wholesome simply for the sake of being wholesome. I need a little grit and substance, not just sunshine and rainbows, to offset the wider industry’s fixation on death and destruction. Garden of the Sea, as you can no doubt tell, is a very wholesome game. It’s got fluffy animals that warmly welcome a pat on the head, a blinding visual palette of only the brightest greens and blues, and a soothing reactive soundtrack consisting of subtly uplifting piano chords. But there is, mercifully, some level of depth here too. The sunshine and rainbows are really only there if you put in the work to get them.
It’s sickly sweet, yes, but there’s all enough to let Garden of the Sea melt even the iciest of hearts.
This is a simple, soothing palate cleanser to start the year off – a welcome mix of steadily growing a large combination of flowers that’s taken straight from the pages of Harvest Moon with a little Zelda-lite exploration sprinkled on top. You start off on a grassy cluster of islands where you quickly learn that plant life is a form of currency. Sunflower petals are used to make storage bags, orange sugar snap pea pods help craft benches and there’s even a shop where you can trade different categories of crops for decorative items.
Within the game’s first hour you’ll also unlock a boat that will let you travel to three other islands. This part, in particular, is a direct nod to The Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker, from surfing along the cel-shaded seas in a red boat to meeting mythical, wide-eyed deities that need freeing from capture via light puzzle-solving.
Garden of the Sea is a game of two halves, then. Or rather it’s a game of three quarters with the last shard left for the adventuring. It only takes a few hours at most to rifle through the game’s story. One island presents you with an involving hunt for gemstones and pedestals to hold them, but visiting new lands is an act of diminishing returns, as the other areas hold far simpler challenges that feel a little rushed. It’s a shame that, after nearly three years in early access, the campaign component of Garden of the Sea isn’t more significant, as there’s a progressive intrigue to traveling back and forth between islands as you discover new crafting recipes to unlock new elements and obtain a new ability too, but the game feels like it’s only just getting started when the credits begin to roll.
How much you get from Garden of the Sea, then, will entirely depend on just how much you enjoy growing your own garden and improving your living space. Fortunately, this element of the game is really quite arresting, even if it’s similarly modest in scope. Your starting island features an upgradeable house that requires increasingly scarce items, and you’ll eventually be able to build new structures for your animal friends too, each of which can be befriended much in the same way you can get any animal to show some affection – by giving it food.
The act of growing plants itself is inarguably cathartic. Rake the land, sprinkle seeds, pour some water and then reap the rewards. The reactional music, which strikes up a chord to your actions, helps usher in a gentle atmosphere and it’s always a joy to upgrade your house if simply for the fact you’ll have more places to put stuff. Plus there are features the story doesn’t really touch upon, like a fun fishing mechanic and animal breeding, giving you further options to make the home your own, though you’ll find yourself accumulating a lot of stuff without much place to store it thanks to a limited inventory on your own person.
But, even then, the island itself is relatively small, there’s only a handful of animal breeds and you’ll quickly see pretty much everything that there is to ‘do’ in the game. Were Garden of the Sea to offer just a lot more of its base mechanics — more animal types to look after, more lands to discover, more things to build and upgrade, more space for gardening — it’d easily reach its full potential, but what’s here feels more like a taster.
Garden of the Sea Review – Final Impressions
Garden of the Sea is a game to let sink in more than it is to be played. Its story mode, whilst certainly pleasant, is over far too quickly to stir up much intrigue, but it’ll make up for it if you’re the kind of player that likes to sit with an experience for a while, customizing and growing out your own space if for nothing else but personal satisfaction and relaxation. Even this element of the game is a bit too modest in scope to make Garden of the Sea the definitive destination for VR meditation, but it’s an undeniably warm and effortlessly likable getaway all the same.
For more on how we arrived at this rating, read our review guidelines. What did you make of our Garden of the Sea review? Let us know in the comments below!