Garden Story review for Nintendo Switch: The Grape of Wrath

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Title: Garden Story
Developer: Picogram
Publisher: Rose City Games
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (reviewed on), PC
Release date: August 11, 2021

Nintendo is pushing to bring more indie titles to its handheld Switch and Garden Story was one of multiple titles released recently. I purchased the game on a whim, not even sure why I grabbed it to be honest.  The graphics looked very plain; from the screenshots I figured it was just another Stardew Valley clone. But the more you play this game, the more it grows on you like a grapevine.

In the game, you play as Concord, a grape. You’re an adorable, perfectly round, purple grape with arms and legs, who has spent its entire life in a garden maintaining a single vine.

One day, the guardian of your town decides to unlock the garden and let you out, then trains you to be a bit of a guardian yourself. They teach you to be helpful, doing odd jobs for the people of the island like raising a bridge or repairing wells — all while talking about something called “The Rot”.

Garden Story review: The Grape of Wrath
Picogram /

As time goes on, you find out that there’s a dark force at work that’s not only threatening your island but several others as well. It’s up to you to take up arms and take the battle to it, defending your communities of fruit people, plant people, and frog people.

As you slowly work to uncover the story of the islands, their history, and what exactly The Rot is, you continue to do odd jobs for the people of your town. There are quests you can do every day that help you earn money and raise the stats of each island. When you accomplish a task it’ll raise one of three stats for the island and develop the community, allowing you to do more things like purchase better weapons from the stores.

Unlike like Stardew Valley, where the timer never stops, or Animal Crossing, which operates in real-time, the time in Garden Story actually travels at a beautiful clip with a mechanic I absolutely adore. You’ll get two to three tasks a day. Get one done in the morning and the next time you go from one screen to the next it’ll be afternoon. After the next task, it’ll be evening. After that night. Then you can go to bed and start fresh the next day. It creates a satisfying gameplay loop that moves at a comfortable pace. If you’re out on a quest and you discover something or decide you want to craft something, you don’t have to forfeit what you were going to do to do it. Just do it, have fun.

Garden Story review: The Grape of Wrath
Picogram /

As for the combat, you start out with basic tools like a pickaxe and hammer and eventually make your way up to more traditional weapons and powerful tools. Many of these can have other uses as well. The fishing rod, for example, is not only great for fishing but can also be used to snatch the shell off protected enemies and stun them for a second.

Fighting is a little rough though as your attacks rarely seem to have the amount of range an enemy does. So if you’re looking to run in and start swinging, you’re going to have a bad time. Sticking and moving is your best way to survive a lot of encounters, which is unfortunate because many of the areas you’re fighting in don’t have a lot of room.

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The story and writing has a lot of charm. It feels really sleepy at first, with a bunch of chill characters hanging out and doing whatever. One of your friends is a frog that never actually wants to work. Puns are made. The world is explored. But over time, as you learn more about The Rot, you discover many secrets of the world that definitely start clueing you into a serious problem. It really helps you feel Concord’s progression from an isolated gardener to an island exploring guardian of the people.

There’s not much to complain about aside from combat. The dodge mechanic is on the right trigger which doesn’t feel intuitive, and most of the combat requires a lot more space than I usually have available.

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The inventory system is also a bit of a mess hosting limited backpack space and a storage box for seemingly little reason. My character is a grape in a hat that just battled a vomiting, 12-foot long worm. I can pretend the backpack has infinite space.

If you’ve been looking for a game with the charm and slow world-building of Stardew Valley or My Time in Portia without the strict always time mechanic or a heavy focus on crafting, this is the game you’ve been waiting for. The combat and inventory could be improved upon, but overall this game is pretty grape… I mean great!. Picogram. . Garden Story. 8.5