I’m standing over a pond, which is dimly lit by the soft glow of the moon above. Aside from the constant chittering of insects it’s practically silent – a beautiful night for fishing. My tutor, a muskox dressed in knitwear, towers over me while explaining how to catch fish by whistling to the watery depths at the tip of my worn out hiking boots. It paints a cosy, surreal picture that feels totally in tune with the hand-drawn storybook aesthetic of The Garden Path.
That little glimpse of serenity stems as much from the gameplay as it does the art style. In my time with The Garden Path’s short demo, I’m free to chase after dust flies, gush over the benefits of good tea with a macaque, and plant any seeds I stumble across to start building up my garden. All of these activities are introduced to me through characters like the bejumpered muskox, who set tasks like collecting wood or planting seeds, teaching me how to play the game while giving me the tools I need to be more independent.
Tranquil life simulation games are often appealing because they offer you agency over your itinerary. While other games demand improvements to your mechanical skill to overcome challenges and progress further, The Garden Path presents you with an overgrown garden to prune and nurture at your own pace.