Note: Garden Paws is not in alpha yet, and only has a playable demo, so it is not a full game. In this review, I judge Garden Paws as a full game because I want to offer feedback showing what I want the final version to fix. The demo is just a glimpse of what Garden Paws will become, and it is already looking fantastic.
It has been six years since the latest installment of Animal Crossing released, but I feel like I have finally turned a new leaf. Garden Paws is a life simulation game that has a similar tone to Animal Crossing, while also having enough differences to keep it feeling fresh and quirky. With daily progression, funny quests, and an interesting world, Garden Paws creates an experience that is very pleasant and nostalgic.
In Garden Paws, you play as an adorable anthropomorphic animal that moved into a new town of other animals, and owns a store just outside of your home. On the first day, you are tasked with finding a small amount of wood to give to the Frank, the man who runs the construction of new buildings in the town. This gives you a tutorial on the game’s mechanics, as well as introduces one of the most important characters of the game. This was a very good tutorial because it makes you feel comfortable in this new neighborhood and is a very small task that only takes a minute to complete.
After you complete this task, you are told that your shop can be opened on 12:00 everyday, and you are free to explore the town and its outskirts. From this point forward, Garden Paws provides you with daily missions that consist of fetch quests. These quests are never too difficult, and while completing them, you can easily obtain more items to sell at your shop. With these items you gather, such as wood, you can craft items which sell for a large sum of gold.
The gold you obtain is given to Frank, and is used to create improvements in the town, such as a job board, which expands the amount of daily quests you can get. With more money, more improvements are made in the town, and in the beginning the tasks to get the money needed to improve the town never felt tedious.
This lack of tediousness was due to the quirky characters and dialogue. Every mission I was given made me chuckle, and never took a long time, until late-game. Some of the missions connect you with characters, but these emotional connections never became strong enough to make me care about any of the characters. Other missions, however, made me laugh out loud, such as the time a farmer asked me to gather poop. Yep, poop. There is a mission called Poop Collector, and the absurdity of that made me love the game even more.
Due to Garden Paws being early in development, and not reaching the alpha stage yet, I assume the lack of meaningful character interaction will be fixed in later versions, and that hilarious quests will be added as well. Meaning that my critiques of the lack of character bonding will most likely diminish as Garden Paws is completely developed.
The repetition of gathering items to sell and completing quests got a little tedious during the late-game, where some quests take multiple days to complete, but during this time gathering resources was more efficient because I had tools such as axes and pickaxes. These items made it easier to receive funds from selling items at my shop. During these quests, such as gathering 50 poop, I would go to the same coops to gather the resources everyday, giving me approximately 10 poop if I was lucky, and would have to do this everyday for five days. This gave me more time to focus on my shop which had previously been something I would do last, despite Garden Paws being heavily focused on running your shop.
This is probably my biggest critique of the game. I always felt rushed, because even though most of the missions did not take a long time, the days were not very long either. I found myself desperately looking for a certain type of flower for minutes and then the game would suddenly be lit by the moon instead of the sun. This is due to one minute of real time being an hour in the game. I feel like some days of no quests would be great to give me time to set up my shop and get enough funds to improve the town.
Speaking of the town, the map of the game is quite large and each section feels unique and beautiful. There are beautiful ponds and trees in some areas, while others are full of trash. This let me know where I was compared to where my home was located, so I very rarely had to check my map to make my way back home before I passed out from exhaustion. This made me very happy, as the map was its own menu instead of being a mini-map on screen, so the locations being vastly different kept the game flowing well.
One portion of the map, however, was full of giant vines with thorns. I had no clue what this portion of the game was, and was eager to learn more about it, but none of the characters I met even mentioned it. There was a person living in the thorny part of the island, but I couldn’t reach him, and was very excited to explore the island later in the demo. When I finished it, however, nothing happened. This was very disappointing, but this mysterious part of the island piqued my interest, so now I am looking forward to exploring that place when I buy the game when it releases late 2019.
Garden Paws offers many hours of enjoyment including helping your neighbors, improving the town, running your shop, making new friends, raising animals, and collecting plenty of different resources. All of this feels great, but lacks the depth that I was hoping for in a full game. Luckily Garden Paws is only in the demo stage of development, and when its development is complete, it will keep all of the amazing features of the demo, and adds more features such as playing with friends online, fishing, exploring dungeons, and having PvE battles. I highly recommend trying the demo, and backing Garden Paws on Kickstarter if you enjoy it!