While I do not doubt that missions and achievements, when done right, make a game exciting, I also feel that some games can still be rewarding without them. A case in point is Shu’s Garden, an app by Canadian developers Colin Sanders and Jason RT Bond. Aimed at little ones, it’s a charming game that focuses on pure creation and exploration.
The Rolling Alien Gathers All the Seeds
As its title suggests, Shu’s Garden is actually a game about gardening. Its heroine, Shu, is a bouncy alien who “nourishes the soil wherever she rolls”. The premise is that kids roll Shu across her barren planet, making grass sprout in her trail. They can also make her collect seeds and plant them to grow new plants.
The controls are simple enough: just tilt the device to get Shu rolling. Tap the screen to make her shrink, and release to send her flying into the air. The ability to jump is particularly useful when Shu has to collect seeds at high places, for example, on trees or on top of tall monuments that dot the planet’s surface.
Seeds automatically stick to Shu’s fur when she runs into them; to shake them off, kids must physically shake their device. Wherever the seed drops on the surface, a plant will sprout; sometimes it’s a flower, other times it’s a tree. The app listing describes that there are 30 different plants to collect.
Just like real plants, the ones in Shu’s Garden need some time to grow. Fortunately, the game runs on fast-forwarded time; one day in the game equals to roughly five minutes in real life.
Should kids feel uncertain about a plant they’ve grown, it is also possible to prune it. Simply tap on the big image of Shu on the left side of the screen, and the actual Shu will suck the plant(s) around her. The sucked plants will turn back into seeds, which kids are free to plant somewhere else.
Other than planting trees, kids can also discover various surprises on Shu’s planet. For example, Shu has a friend named Ira, who moves on her own will. Also, like Earth, Shu’s planet has ponds, a variety of animals (well, two to be exact: a giraffe and a turtle), and ancient relics. It also has a moon which Shu can visit and plant. Finally, power-ups occasionally appear to make the game more exciting.
To know what other surprises you can find in Shu’s Garden, keep on reading this review.
Parents Need to Know
Shu’s Garden is a relaxing, open-ended game with no explicit objectives to fulfil. It does not have a scoring system or timer, so kids can take their time and create the garden of their imagination. The app automatically saves their progress, so kids can leave and come back any time to continue their work.
As I’ve mentioned, the game controls are simple. A quick tutorial appears at the beginning of the game to help kids figure out what to do. The game is text-free, so reading skills are not required to play.
Other than serving entertainment purposes, the app also implicitly teaches kids to care for their own garden. By playing the game, kids can learn how plants need nutrition to grow, how mature plants produce seeds, and how planting those seeds in new places will grow new plants.
The app does not contain in-app purchases or ads. There is a child-locked section which contains information about the game (available in English, Japanese, or French), accessible by tapping on About This Game from the main menu. The section also contains links to the developer’s websites, as well as the game’s official website and Facebook page.
Secrets and Play Tips
Shu’s Garden is a game filled with little secrets, ready to be uncovered by curious minds. The list below contains some of the secrets that I have found, as well as some play tips to make the game more fun. If your kids (or you) have found something I haven’t, do let us know on Twitter or Facebook page, and I’ll add it to the list.
- Plant a Tree Underwater. On Shu’s Planet, trees can grow anywhere, even underwater. Just shake off the seeds as Shu rolls across the water’s surface.
- Dive Underwater. Did you know that Shu can dive underwater? When you reach a body water, tap and hold to shrink Shu. When she is shrunken, Shu will sink all the way to the bottom.
- Push the Turtle. There is a lone turtle that lives in one of the ponds. You can play with it. Dive underneath it, and release to push it out of the water.
- Catch the Meteor. Every once a while, a meteor will crash on Shu’s planet. Follow it quickly to get power-ups.
- Power-Ups. There are several power-ups that you can collect in the game. So far I’ve found two. The first one speeds up Shu’s movement, while the second enlarges her.
- Music at Twilight. At the bottom of the planet’s deepest pond lies a strange plant. If you wait there until twilight comes, you will find a special treat: the plant will emerge from the water and start to glow. If you go near it, you will be able to play music by tapping on the corners of the screen.
- Plant on the Moon. Did you know that you can grow a garden on the planet’s moon as well? Go to the monument that looks like a satellite dish, position Shu at its base, and jump. When she is close enough to the moon, the app will automatically transport her there. If you’re having trouble jumping that high, plant a tree very close to the monument to use as a stepping stone.
Shu’s Garden is available for iPhone/iPad.
Get it on the App Store: iPhone | iPad
App was provided for our honest review.
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