The seed of a good game exists in Owlbear Garden, but it still needs time to grow
Hidden deep within the rarely explored reaches of the Internet, a race composed of half-owl, half-bear humanoids tend their gardens under the cover of night. Such a scenario might be the stuff of nightmares in less family oriented games, but GCrest has managed to use it to create a promising social game mixing elements of farming, decoration, and mini-games. The only problem is that, for all of its cuteness, Owlbear Garden never distinguishes itself enough to warrant packing up and moving over from your favorite existing farming titles. While customization and social junkies might find something to love here, Owlbear Garden quickly sags under the weight of familiarity.
Even so, the customization options that Owlbear Garden allows for are hard to dismiss. Not only do you receive a wide range of options for customizing your avatar’s color, ears, and even the type of house you’ll live in at first, you’re quickly introduced to your panel, where you’ll spend your time farming and decorating your surroundings. As per usual, you’ll receive a number of quests that guide you through the first few levels, and you can use fertilizer so you don’t have to wait on the plants to grow.
One key difference from other social games is that you can use a flower dryer on your plants at any stage to preserve them, and you can then use them as decorations for your panel. If you’re not happy with what you’re receiving from quests, you can use your coins or Facebook credits to buy something from the surprisingly well-stocked shop.
Owlbear Garden even makes a valiant attempt to mask the increasingly maligned energy bar of other social games with a “hunger” bar that depletes as you harvest plants. Once the bar is too empty to continue any gameplay within your panel, your little owlbear can take a balloon ride to the treat dining area, where they can scarf up any number of food items that some mysterious entity has left on the ground to regain some energy. Players must eat at the table in the center of the field, though, which means that you can chat in real time with any other players who happen to be eating as well. If that’s not enough social interaction for you, players can also visit the panels of random players by “Going Out” and taking a tour of each panel they come across. While visiting, your owlbear can tend to another player’s crop up to five times per day for a small reward.
Owlbear Garden holds several other surprises as well–such as a “game” of Gacha that provides random prizes from a particular theme for a few coins and a version of roulette that you can play at other panels–but it never manages to shake the aforementioned aura of familiarity. If you’re new to the farming genre, that might not be a problem (aside from the fact that Owlbear Garden seems deserted at the time of writing), but if you’re a veteran, you might be better off with the games you already know and love.