A Hero and a Garden

Some video games serve up broad, sweeping epics, sending you on world-roaming adventures that you can sink a hundred or more hours into. I’m currently working my way through Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning (albeit slowly), which is a really great example of that exact type of video game.

A Hero and a Garden tries to do the exact opposite of that. This game is condensed, mainly taking place in a garden and a shop, and it doesn’t send you on any adventures. In fact, the whole game is about understanding the damage your actions can cause, repairing it, and growing beyond the person you used to be.

The basic premise is that a hero (the game’s protagonist) came rampaging through a town of monsters and destroyed everything while attempting to rescue a princess from a witch’s tower. Now, this hero has been imprisoned in the town, and he must grow berries, which he sells so he can raise money to repair all the damage he’s done.

A Hero and a Garden

All the while, the hero is introduced to several of the residents of this strange, monster-filled town. What he begins to realize is that he has a lot more in common with them than he initially assumed. He must humble himself, ask for forgiveness, and try to undo the vast amount of damage he’d done.

So A Hero and a Garden is about growing berries, but it’s also about growing as a person.

Perhaps the garden metaphor is a bit too on-the-nose (a story about growth, which also is about growing a garden), but it’s also apt, and the story of A Hero and a Garden is told with a saccharine sincerity that really drives home its themes.

A Hero and a Garden

The game’s simple-yet-adorable art style gives it a hefty dose of charm, and the simple piano and bell music that serves as the background has a sense of innocent sadness to it. These elements work together to pull you in, to make you feel invested in the emotional arcs of the characters.

Personally, there’s so much here that I can relate to. Like the hero, I was small for my age as a kid. And like the hero, I have instincts that cause me to want to destroy things when I am angry or frustrated. I’ve had to subdue and grow beyond those base instincts, and it took a lot of self-reflection and reparation to get there.

The thing is, we can all do vast amounts of damage to other people. Sometimes we’re aware of this, and sometimes we aren’t. Sometimes we get upset and say or do things that cause great amounts of harm, and in retrospect, reparation seems like an insurmountable task. While we might not rush through villages of monsters or do battle against witches in medieval towers, the basic situation this hero finds himself in is relatable — almost uncomfortably so.

A Hero and a Garden

A Hero and a Garden is a simple game, in which you’ll mostly just tap buttons to harvest buries and click through menus. In fact, you can finish it in two hours or less. But it’s also incredibly poignant and sweet and emotional. What it lacks in gameplay depth, it makes up for with emotional depth. And while I don’t think this is something I will play over and over again, I certainly appreciate getting to experience it during the little time I spent with it.

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