Gardening Mama Review: Electronic Martha Stewart Meets Home & Gardens
Okay, okay, okay, before we go anywhere with this “Gardening Mama” review, I want to quell some fires right off the bat. First, I’ve never watched Home and Garden (HGTV), but if it was anywhere remotely as cartoony, or cute as this game is, I’d be a fan. Especially if the humor translated to the real world; not to mention the sparkles and delightful gold medals that pretty up a room with prettiness and sparkles… wait, this doesn’t sound right. I’d better just start the review.
Majesco’s “Gardening Mama” comes courtesy of Japanese developer Cooking Mama Ltd, who has supposedly earned enough street cred from Mama’s original DS game, as well as the subsequent successors for the Wii, to build a company and branch out as a franchise. Much like the first games series, the aptly named, cooking-centric “Cooking Mama,” “Gardening Mama” includes several minigames involved with planting, germinating, and growing flowers and produce to progress through the game. The gameplay is completely controlled by the stylus as well as the DS’s microphone, and the player is asked to follow the onscreen instructions to complete tiny tasks, which are relayed by simplistic, colorful arrows within a surprisingly small time limit.
What makes this visit with Mama even more interesting is that it uses a very direct means of stylus control. For example, when the game asks you to move the stylus slowly over the screen - generally portrayed by a blue arrow with white streaming lines - you have to move the stylus in that manner, or nothing will happen. Streaking the stylus over the arrow will do little unless you have the correct speed, and, if you move too slowly, time may run out. Even points where you need force to get more done, such as shoveling dirt, require care, since Mama’s needs are mind-numbingly specific. This wouldn’t be so bad if you could take back a mistake, but as a problem with all mini-game compilations, you can’t, until you finish the game, which irritates you more if you’re going for a gold-medal run.
The game is incredibly colorful without beating you over the head with sparkles, so you’re likely not going to pass out after several hours of consistent gameplay. This is made possible mainly by limiting most texture movement to the games themselves, while stage selection uses a map with bulging animations to keep your focus. This would be a problem if there were consistently poor loading times, which only exist during the dress-up feature of the game, where you dress Mama into different colored outfits. Even then, Mama and her family barely move, except to have sparkles or fire in their eyes for congratulations, and the occasional hop of success.
Overall, the game succeeds in exactly what it set out to do; make mini-games about gardening. The real problem is that…hold on, need to get a present… just one more mini-game, and my beautiful Morning Glories…Excellent! I’m better than you, Mama! Muhahahahahaha!
Excuse me. I would say this game consumes your soul, but that wouldn’t be as appropriate as saying that it will -literally- make you a vegetable for Mama to plant. This game is very good, and it will suck you in. Tread carefully or run. Run far away from it.