Simplified simulation games often fail because there is a fine line between "simple" and "boring." Once you distill tasks down to a few simple mini-games and take away resource gathering, storing, and creation, there isn't much left. Not having jobs in multiple unfinished states is a great first step to making simulation gaming accessible to a broad audience, and Cooking Mama
did this well. Comparisons between Gardening Mama
and titles like Harvest Moon
are inevitable, but they are really quite different. Gardening Mama
is little more than a collection of mini-games, around the theme of gardening. Trading items and multiplayer aside, the bulk of the game involves bouncing back and forth from one crop to the next, playing fun little mini-games. Compared to the more involved dynamic of building resources (house, barn, etc.) and developing relationships that we've seen in other games, Gardening Mama
feels pretty light. Multiplayer helps create more replay value, but we predict this one won't be in rotation long after the garden is full.
There is a nice diversity in the mini-games here that is commendable. Typically, you'll see the same 10-12 activities repeated ad nauseum through games like this; Gardening Mama isn't infinitely diverse, but it does a nice job of introducing new mini-games as you open new areas and plants. The planting and harvesting processes tend to be similar, but you'll find constant variation. One planting process may involve a tilled row, compared to pushing individual seeds into the ground. Some seeds even need to be prepped before planting. Before and during the harvest, you'll find some fun games like chasing mice as they try to abscond with apples, or brushing bugs off stems with a toothbrush. There isn't a big deal made of how "real" the depictions of planting are here, but you get the sense that the overall treatment of each planting process is at least based in reality.