Game: Garden In!
Genre: Simulation, Sandbox, Casual
System: Steam (Windows, SteamDeck)
Developer|Publisher: Dramatic Iceberg | Bonus Stage Publishing
Controller Support: Desktop: Mouse & Keyboard | Not verified for Steam Deck
Age Rating: EU 3+| US Everyone
Price: US $9.99 | UK £7.99 | EU € 9,99
Release Date: January 26th, 2023
Review code used, with many thanks to Games Branding.
Ever since I found video games as my passion, I have been trying to combine my former hobby of gardening with gaming. Ones that would allow me to do all the things I loved in my garden without the dirty hands and the constant battle against weeds. They weren’t really easy to find; most games that involved plants were farming sims. But what I wanted in a gardening game was to grow seeds, nurture a plant when it was grown, create a lush garden, find new hybrids and more.
Lately, more games are being released that scratch that gardening itch. So when Garden In! was announced, I couldn’t wait to try it!
Decorate your studio
You start out small: with a diorama of one room called a Studio, with some furniture in there like a desk and chair and some moving boxes. You have seeds, the ground or water to grow them in and vases and pots of varying sizes. I like how each room has a thick book that you can leaf through, showing the herbarium of plants. A computer shows all the tutorials so you can check back, a trophy standing there has the information about your goals and achievements, and a pallet and brush are the means to change the colour scheme of your room and the surroundings.
Of course, you start out with a small selection, and it’s up to you to unlock more by growing plants. Garden In! goes for a nice balance of not being too overwhelming and at the same time, not taking it too slow. In the achievements, you see what they call Researches, things to strive for to get beans. Every time a level is reached, you get new things, like new colour schemes for the room, new furniture items or new kinds of pots and vases. It means the gameplay stays relaxed, yet there is still something to go for. And eventually, more rooms are added for you to play in.
Give Seeds Water and TLC
You can sow three kinds of seeds: ones that need soil, those that grow on rocky ground and water plants. And in these three categories, there’s some additional variety. Like there’s regular soil, but also clay and sandy soil. Some seeds do well in clay, others in the sand. The seeds have a colour coding that indicates what their needs are.
Aside from the right soil, plants also need watering and an occasional spritz to keep the bugs under control. Both lack water, and parasites will make the plant gradually lose colour and ultimately stop growing. But it won’t die. Just give it water, and it’ll start to grow again. The plant can also show little hearts buzzing around: which means it needs some TLC. Just click on it, and a hand appears for you to caress it. It’ll all work towards having a happy, beautiful plant.
The Thrill of Discovery
Of course, some of the thrills are in discovering new seeds. You can use special hybridization vases and put two different seeds in there. Once the plants are both fully grown, you will get a new seed. If the plants are compatible.
Unlocking new items and furniture to decorate the rooms is fun too. But there are also some items that influence or help in your gameplay. Like the ones I already mentioned, the computer and the trophy, but you can also put some others in your rooms. Like a clock, that can speed up time a little bit. Or a camera and photobook. Easily make pictures from every angle, and you can check them out in the photobook.
Not on Steam Deck….edit: also on Steam Deck!
When Garden In! was first released I wanted to play it on my Steam Deck, but at that time it didn’t work. Now, at the end of April, I can testify that it does run on the Deck, and it runs well too!
On the PC, the controls work fine, and the music is nice and laid back in the background. The visuals are good, and I love taking a closer look at the plants that I’ve grown. The in-game camera even has various filters in place, like Cartoony or Oil-Painting, to make your rooms look even more special.
Garden In! does scratch the gardening itch without getting your hands dirty. More than that, it is a casual game that will appeal to fans of the simulation genre. There is a nice collection of seeds to collect and bring into bloom; there are various rooms to work in, and things to take into account, like soil and the sort of vase or pot you use. By growing more and more plants, you can fulfil your achievements and get even more customization options.
Final Verdict: Two Thumbs Up!