First off, what is Livly Garden all about? A livly, according to this game, is a special mini-creature developed by a mysterious bearded Professor. They come in many different types, live in tiny gardens, eat bugs and poop tiny jewels called “doo doo”, which also function as money in this game.
The whole point of this game is to adopt a livly, plop him down in a barren garden and then try to turn this garden into a lush, blooming paradise. Livlies have special powers, one of which is fertility, so that just letting the livly walks around makes the garden healthier. The player buys seeds from a shop (paying with doo doo) and plants all kinds of flowers and trees to raise the “greenness” of the garden.
Every kind of plant you grow attracts a kind of bug: beetles, caterpillars, grasshoppers, butterflies, etc. By catching and feeding these bugs to your livly, you can teach it new and useful abilities. For example you can make it water the whole garden in one go, or give your plants extra sun so they grow faster, or drive the occasional monster away with rocks, etc.
The first objective you get in the game is to grow a golden beanstalk in the corner of your garden, so if you see any promotional material with a beanstalk in it (it’s right there on the front cover, in fact), that’s what it’s about. Once you do that, the game opens up and you get to adopt more livlies and get more gardens. By eating the right kind of bugs, your livlies learn to transform the terrain of your garden so you can have jungle terrain, for example, to grow coconuts and corn on, or a pond for waterlilies and mangroves, or a swamp for bamboo, etc. I quit after my third garden and third livly, but apparently there are about 12 different kinds of terrain you can get and over a hundred bugs to catch and crops to grow.
The other thing you can do, and this wasn’t very interesting to me because I’m not a collection-freak, is to harvest items from your garden and turn them into items. You could make lavender flowers into potpourri, for starters, but that’s just the beginning. Before too long you’ll be able to make a stunning array of items from the things you grow: plushies, cakes, gates, furniture, etc. As you can see in the picture, you can use them (along with buyable decorations) to give your garden a nice, homey feel. …Or that’s the theory anyway, but I found that the gardens looked busy and colorful enough on their own so I restricted myself to a few tasteful items per garden. As a side note, I hear your livly can interact with certain items, and react to them with fright or delight, etc. Mine just ignored them and ran around, though.
So anyway… all this stuff I’ve talked about: feeding your livly, catching bugs, harvesting crops, etc, all only takes a few minutes of time each day. The game works with the real-world clock just like Animal Crossing does, so when it’s night-time here, it’s night-time in game. This affects the bugs that show up, but not much else. So what I did was turn the DS on in the mornings, feed my livly and do whatever there was to do, then turn it off. Same thing at night before I went to bed.
Livly Garden is a low-commitment, low-guilt (your livlies are very hardy) kind of game that anyone can play without feeling the same pressure you’d get from, say, a Tamagotchi. That lack of pressure makes it possible to play for months on inertia alone. But on the other hand, it also makes the game very slow and dull once you achieve your first few objectives. After a while, new crops stop showing up unless you play the scratchcard mini-game, new bugs stop appearing and the whole game just sloooows down to an unbearable crawl, which is your sign that it’s time to get out. But I can see someone keeping this game for years and just playing for a few minutes every day, it’s that kind of game.
Since some of the livlies are pretty cute, if I had a younger sister or cousin or something under 12, this is the kind of game I’d get for them in front of their parents (while slipping Tokimeki Memorial or something cooler under the table, heheh).