By Thom Compton 03.01.2017
It's amazing how many titles gamers scoff at, calling them ridiculous but then playing them in private. Gaming is still in somewhat of a guilty pleasure phase. Many who love the likes of Assassin's Creed won't admit they have a love for Katamari, Madden fans may not admit they adore Rhythm Heaven Fever, and so on. While guilty pleasures shouldn't be hidden, as they encourage diversity in everyone's catalogue, Shu's Garden will inevitably be relegated to that category.
At first glance, one wouldn't be wrong to be confused about what exactly Shu's Garden is. Clearly inspired by the likes of Katamari, and a little bit Noby Noby Boy, Shu's Garden is all about existing in a space. The goal is to foster the environment, but the game provides no penalties for not doing this. In fact, this almost seems absent in its own presence. If nothing else, Shu's Garden gives the tools to do whatever in this confined world, and that's about it.
Instead of watching you like an omnipotent being ready to criticize all of your mistakes, this game doesn't really seem to mind. It's not a case of apathy, it's more akin to giving a child LEGO blocks, and then leaving the room. It wants you to explore, but it's not going to hover over your shoulders while you do it.
The gameplay is simple. Roll around as Shu, collect plants, plant them again, and experiment with the environment. There are multiple friends for Shu to play with, and the whole experience is about the simplicity that must come with being alone on a planet with your best friends. Occasionally, you'll also grow and shrink, but it doesn't seem to matter to much how big or small you are - you can suck up just about anything. Any other game would put a wall here, making it impossible to proceed and suck up things based on your size; not this one.
The only real objective is to combine plant types to create new hybrids. This will be done alongside several other creatures, although some of your intergalactic green thumbs are absolutely useless, at least in the grand scheme of things. The bee, for example, can move between planets with ease, but that's really it. However, it is cool for seeing your progress, but you can also just hold TAB and do that. It seems to be dressing for another feature, but it's still pleasantly silly and enjoyable.
Another useless contender is the regal giraffe, whose sole purpose seems to be to be utterly hilarious. Moving it results in rag doll movement that would make Goat Simulator occasionally jealous. The only one that appears to be completely without purpose is the tortoise. Moving it is incredibly hard, and on land it can only seem to turn in different directions. His movement stops entirely on land, and he just becomes kind of a weird lawn gnome that doesn't seem to want to work.
The art and music are both in perfect unison to the theme of simply existing in here. The art style is fantastic, with a children's book feel to it, while the music is always upbeat and exciting. It's clear that someone who is open to new experiences might find a lot to explore here in Shu's Garden, or could at least appreciate it.
A big issue this faces is its size. It doesn't appear to save, so every time it begins, it literally starts all over. This isn't the biggest issue, because the area of your garden is remarkably small. People who want to explore more than just a couple of planets are going to be very disappointed, as the game is about existing in these few locations. It's amazing watching a planet grow and shift under the weight of your planting skills, but those looking to explore the universe should search elsewhere.
Shu's Garden is a game all about making beauty. While there's a limited amount to do, what is available is absolutely stunning. Though starting over each time may seem like a nuisance, it's actually quite fun getting to experiment with new types of flora until you create an interesting combination to satiate your curiosity. It's a game about relaxing and taking in the world, and hopefully this will be a guilty pleasure gamers don't feel too guilty about.