Gardening in game worlds is relaxing – more so than its real-life counterpart, where plants wither no matter what you do. Garden Buddies from Dutch developer JamPics joins the many cosy Switch games where you can grow plants without wondering if you’ve under- or over-watered them. Unfortunately, it’s not the pick of the bunch.

Garden Buddies starts out well enough. Mutsy, a good-natured apple, invites you to their garden, a space you can decorate and customise. First up, you sprinkle flower seeds. The flowers become points you can exchange for items: various plants, stones, lanterns, a pond, a house. As you play you unlock new talking flora and fauna friends. They’re adorably designed: big shiny eyes, round bodies, little smiles. And they waddle around to a soothing soundtrack.

You soon realise these characters collect flowers for you, so you take your thumbs off the controller to twiddle while you watch Mutsy and friends amble around. It’s strange, as reaping what you sow is a rewarding part of games like Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley. Sure, it’s meant to be relaxing, but even the biggest chill-seekers buy games to play.

And you do, don’t get us wrong. Your garden decorating is intertwined with minigames, including rhythm games, a Whac-A-Mole-like, and a washing game. These seem like they should be timed but they aren’t, which fits the calming tone but means there isn’t much reward for achieving them apart from the characters telling you what a good job you did. In the menu you can select Story Mode to play the main story, or Game Mode where you can cherry-pick your favourite parts. You can also skip levels, bypassing the few difficulties you might have. Even so, you could shoot through Story Mode in a few hours, though you’re supposed to play in short bursts; the game actually prompts you to take breaks.

In dialogue, the characters squeak like a dog toy. Their phrasing is somewhat stilted, save for one or two good jokes, with less-than-perfect spelling and grammar (a possible translation issue?) Everything overflows with positivity, complimenting you for simply pressing a button. It’s certainly good to know that when life sucks you could turn to cute plants who welcome you with open branches. But this game oscillates between kind gloves and kid gloves. The obvious questions and extreme expressiveness feel like a cartoon teaching the alphabet. Yet with breathing exercises, mindfulness activities, and self-care techniques, it seems it’s meant for stressed adults.

We’ve seen this in Animal Crossing, A Short Hike, and others – kid-friendly yet still immensely enjoyable and relaxing for adults. Comparatively, Garden Buddies is also in both camps, but hasn’t planted roots in either. It also lacks the narrative depth and rewards of those games. There are minor performance issues: some slow load screens, a few stutters, and what seemed like missing dialogue. The cursors are also quite slow-moving on Switch, making us long for touchscreen capability.

Garden Buddies does a sprinkling of things well, but it doesn’t excel at any one thing. At its root, the solid concept and intention is let down by its lack of depth and reward for achievements. It’s not terrible at all, but with so many other relaxing, cute games competing to calm you, we think it’s okay to give this one a miss.