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In search of the magic of maps.

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Garden Story is a game about kindness, exploration and restoration.

Grape expectations.

This weekend I fell in love with a blueberry. Then I realised it was a grape, so I guess I fell in love with a grape. In Garden Story, a sort of town-rebuilding RPG for PC and Mac, with dungeons and beautiful chunky pixel art and a sweet nature, you play as Concord, a grape with a mission of regeneration. The demo was available on Steam over the last few days, while the game itself is out sometime in Spring.

This is fairly well-travelled territory by now, but it doesn't stop Garden Story being wonderful. Your job is to restore a town to prosperity, harvesting stuff, clearing stuff up, knocking about gooey purple enemies known as the Rot. In the demo, you visit a new area that has fallen into ruin, do a few favours for a few people and then rattle through a mini-dungeon where simple combat combines with sokoban puzzles. Push those crates!

Combat and harvesting are all handled the same way: you have a weapon of some kind and you hit stuff. There's a stamina gauge to watch and enemies strike back every now and then, but the demo at least is very gentle. Alongside the stick I was hitting stuff with I also got a sickle by doing a solid for a lazy tomato, and there's a dowsing rod, which is essentially a fishing rod, that allows you to do damage too. Damaging people with a fishing rod!

The combat's great and the dungeoning is fun, and as ever with these things there is a simple pleasure to exploring the tumbledown world and thinking about how nice it will be when you fixed it. But there's more to Garden Story too. My favourite element of the demo is probably the literature stuff: you can cash in leftover resources back at the shack where you sleep and they're turned into lost books for the town library, each one telling you about this place one page at a time, with missing pages tempting you to go back out and find the resources that will fill them in.

The demo's not huge but still, I lost myself in this world a little bit. A perfect Sunday afternoon diversion, which left me intrigued and feeling slightly kinder to the world at large. Spring cannot arrive soon enough, frankly.