Sweet little garden simulation The Garden Path currently has a demo on and if you're a member of the Stardewbut fanclub you should really go ahead and download it. From the 30 mintues I've spent with it so far, it's certainly more gardening than farming, and probably shares more with Animal Crossing, really. It's managed to unlock some dusty old memories I have of watching Beatrix Potter animated VHS tapes—partially thanks to its art style and also thanks to characters whose vocabulary includes words like "coppice" and "secateurs".
Courtesy of the Future Games Show at Gamescom, a demo for The Garden Path is currently on and I'm glad I dug into it. Like Animal Crossing, it syncs with your system clock so that the in game world follows real world time. Also like AC, I appear to be collecting occupants for my garden. The first is a friend with a tomato for a head called Otto. The Garden Path starts out as these things often do: someone hands you a tool and teaches you to plant seeds with it. Suddenly you have more tools, more seeds, and a to-do list.
The first such friendly local is a bear named Augustus, who was kind enough to gift me half a set of secateurs and then tie them together again when I found the other blade. An old man in a gnome hat is willing to trade for seeds. A yak named Larto taught me to fish.
That reminds me one of the most important bits of The Garden Path so far. I do not hate the fishing minigame. I'm not the only one who hates fishing minigames, and really I only put up with them because I like these little life sim games so much. The Garden Path's is really quite decent though. The conceit is that fish like the sound of whistling, so you'll steer the pitch of your whistle around a little grid and attempt to hover over just the right tune until a fish bites. It's rather refreshing to see something different from the Stardew-like bouncing bar.
It's been full of nice little touches so far. Selecting a stack of items to give to another character appears first as a single item, then a small stack as you increase the counter, then a little cardboard box. My backpack has a little hanging lantern on it for when the sun goes down. Errands are crossed off with a hearty pencil scratch. The dialogue is sweet but not sickly so. It's all really lovely so far.
It's all quite familiar, but in a slightly different tune than the many Stardewbuts of the past few years. I don't expect that optimisation will be particularly encouraged by The Garden Path. It strikes me as much more laid back than that.
I'll not take up more of your time with reading about it. You can snag the demo for The Garden Path and spend 30 (or more) minutes with it yourself over on Steam. Besides, I need to go find an acorn for my new resident Otto. Not for any particular reason, Otto says. They just think they're neat.
The Garden Path also recently completed a Kickstarter campaign, and is now planning a Nintendo Switch release and local multiplayer as a result.