capsule review

Garden Dreams

Granny Gertrude is in financial trouble and it’s up to you to bail her out in Toybox Games’ Garden Dreams (the Mac version of which can be found at Macgamestore.com ). In this game, which the developer bills as a “fresh adventure in extreme gardening,” it’s up to you to cultivate cash crops to turn in to cabbage for Granny, otherwise it’s off to debtor’s prison.

To that end, you’ll plant seeds to grow new plants, such as watermelons, tomatoes, pumpkins, eggplants and beans. At first you’ll need to water them by hand using a small pitcher, which takes time to refill, and you can’t waste any time—because when a plant gets thirsty, and browns and withers very quickly.

Fruits and vegetables grow before your eyes and get ripe, then they’ll loosen from their plants and go rolling to one edge of the garden. You have to collect them quickly by clicking on them lest they get rotten; the longer you wait, the smaller your payoff will be. Each level has a certain money value you have to hit for poor Granny Gertrude.

Granny’s finances aren’t your only money worries, either. You can also earn access to upgrades—such as better faucets to make water run faster, sprinkler systems, insecticide, and fertilizer, which will increase your garden’s output. Seeds for new plants will set you back, too.

You’ll have friends to help you with the harvest&38212;squirrels, turtles and other beasts of the land that are only too happy to assist you with your cultivation needs. Like ball boys and girls at a tennis match, they cruise up and down the sidelines to grab the produce that’s rolled out of the garden. Sometimes it’s better to click on the plant rather than wait for the friend to help you out, but it’s still handy.

Pest control is an important part of the game. At random times as you’re growing your produce play will stop, and you’ll besieged by bugs, grubs, and other nasties that will do their darnedest to eat you out of house and home. Starting out with a flyswatter you can thwack them, and as play goes on you’ll be able to buy better and more sophisticated forms of pest control such as pump sprays, aerosol cans, and wands.

Garden Dreams is pretty fast paced—before too many levels pass you by, you’re clicking like mad to collect fruits and vegetables, water plants, smack bugs away, and plant new crops. Frankly, it gets repetitive after a while, but it is fun.

If you stop between levels, you can restart at the level where you left off before the next time you play. The game also features the ability to track different players’ progress on a single machine, so more than one gardener can tend to the crops of their dreams.

Graphics are pleasant, with abundant uses of color and tasty-looking, easily-recognizable produce and cartoonish bugs that make a satisfying splat when squished. The game features an original soundtrack that got annoying fast—I turned off the music pretty quickly.

Toybox’s use of Director MX as the engine for this game quickly becomes a minor irritant too. The game produces a menu on the screen with a Quit command that doesn’t actually do anything—you have to manually quit by clicking on the quit button in game, for example.

Options are sparse but useful. There are separate volume sliders for music and sound effects. The full screen mode is switchable if you’d like to do other things while you’re playing. An “auto pause” mode will automatically pause the game if you click in another window.

The bottom line

Garden Dreams offers fast-paced but ultimately repetitive entertainment for casual gamers with a green thumb.

How green is my valley Lively, colorful, graphics are among the high points in Toybox Games’ casual game, Garden Dreams.
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