We’ve all heard of the saying “Never judge a book by its cover”. I’m sure we all try to live our lives following this advice, after all, we all want to be treated how we treat others. Unfortunately, not all of us succeed. This can be said for our protagonist in my latest review title. Our would be hero is quick to judge and reacts to each situation with little thought or planning. A HERO AND A GARDEN has been developed by npckc and is published by Ratalaika Games. Advertised as a Visual Novel clicker game, the plot unfolds in the style of a storybook. Unlike most visual novels, this one is very light on dialogue, and focuses a lot of its attention on the clicker portion of the title.
It’s a classic tale of a Princess who is trapped in a tower by a wicked witch. Everyone in the land fears her as she slays anyone who approaches. This doesn’t put off our would be hero, our young, foolish, and strong-willed knight puts his safety and life on the line to save the Princess he swore to protect. He defeats all the magical creatures that stand in his way, and he is moments from rescuing our damsel in distress. The witch has other plans, and curses him, he is no longer free, and no longer a knight. “What is he then?” you might ask, well, he’s a gardener for the witch and her townsfolk. Yep, you read that right, this story is all about gardening.
When the hero went on his rampage, he collected a magical sword in error. The creatures he attacked did not die, they were wounded because of his mistake, but the town was destroyed. You are now the witch’s servant, and you must pay for the damage you have caused before she will release you from your curse. To make matters worse, the Princess didn’t want to be saved, she had chosen to live in this new kingdom, so your rescue attempt was all in vain. Our hero Cyrus understandably dislikes his monster and witch captives, he is rude to them, and begrudgingly helps them. He doesn’t take responsibility for the damage he has caused. In his mind, he was just trying to save his Princess. As the tale evolves the moral of the story unravels. This is all about; misunderstandings, love, friendship, and new beginnings.
So, you get the idea, A HERO AND A GARDEN is a literal title that explains exactly what happens in the game. Like a good fairy tale, you go on a journey of discovery. Both parties realise that they hadn’t given each other a chance, and through misunderstandings, and miscommunication you get some genuine touching and comical moments. The plot is simple, but it’s well written, and structured so it plays out at a comfortable pace. The language used is aimed at a younger and more causal audience than your standard visual novel, and this is reflected in the game’s length. Also, unlike most VNs there are no dialogue choices to be made, the story follows a set path, and the only option comes in the last scene of the game.
This title’s main game mechanic revolves around the gardening, and harvesting of crops, and fulfilling orders for the friendly monsters of this magical town. You are given one plant to start with. Its fruit will only grow with the presence and care of a human. (Odd premise seeing as the monsters don’t want humans around, anyway, let’s overlook that small detail.) You must collect each fruit as it grows using the buttons assigned, this goes into your inventory, and once you collect enough, you will fulfil your order and send them on their way. This then puts you into a scene at the front of the shop where you talk to each specific monster about their requests, and you build relationships. This part of the game is where the novel element comes into play. You sit back and watch the friendships blossom.
As the game progresses, you are given different plants to grow, and more extravagant stories to listen to, but ultimately, they all fall back on the same mechanic, wait for the fruit to grow, harvest it, and when you have enough, deliver them. Sounds tedious, right? It was a little repetitive and felt like a strange Guitar Hero with all the random button inputs. But what made me keep playing was the interactions with each of the characters, they were genuinely intriguing. It was; stupid, far fetched, and childish, but I loved every minute.
The developers have been influenced by all things Nintendo. The game’s art style is reminiscent of Paper Mario, and its brightly coloured landscapes and crisp lines make this a vivid world to experience. All the characters have a larger-than-life appearance, and no facial animation has been used to support the dialogue between the characters. All the imagery is set in a 2D perspective, where the models fade in and out of shot to represent them entering and exiting the location. I preferred this approach. The text implied the emotion, and any visual aids would have been an overkill.
Though this magical land has been decimated by Cyrus’ actions, most of the time it’s a very calm place to live and work in. This has been reflected in the peaceful and tranquil music that has been used. This light-hearted audio sits in the background and quietly supports everything that is going on. It was pleasant and suited this game perfectly.
Usually when I review a VN, I have little to say about the control setup, but this one is the most controller intensive one I’ve played. With 5 different plants to harvest, all with their own buttons assigned, you’ll find that you constantly press the wrong button. It’s very easy to pick up and play, and any mistakes you make have little impact on the outcome. Just keep tapping away at those buttons, and eventually you’ll harvest enough fruit.
I’ll admit that I completed this in one sitting, I enjoyed it that much. It’s a short game, but it has 5 different endings. Each is worth watching, as they tie up all the loose ends nicely. I played this for just over 2 hours, and my only complaint is that it didn’t go on for longer. If you hunt achievements, then you will have to observe each different finale. This isn’t difficult to achieve as you can skip all the dialogue if you so wish, or you can save and load the game at convenient locations. Because of the alternative endings it has a degree of replay value, but not enough to say that you’ll keep playing this one forever.
If you were to tell me I’d play a visual novel about a knight who harvests his way out of a curse, I’d have laughed in disbelief. But after playing it, I’m glad that I did. All the elements of this game come together to make a fun-filled and unusual experience. The journey you take is short-lived, but it’s well worth going on it. Do I recommend this? Of course I do. With several fun and whimsical characters to encounter, an unusual story, and a casual approach, this is one for gamers of all ages and tastes. Can you help our hero save the Princess? Who says it’s her that needs saving, after all, you’re the one who ends up cursed.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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A HERO AND A GARDEN Review
Gameplay - 7/10
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 7/10
Replay Value - 4/10
User Review( votes)
A Hero, a Princess, a Witch, and a Curse. Misunderstandings, miscommunications, and new friends await you in this magical tale.
- Vibrant and colourful graphics.
- Relaxed soundtrack.
- Casual and simple story.
- An excellent mixture of characters.
- Easy Achievements.
- The main game premise can be repetitive.
- The story left me wanting more.