HomeReviews2.5/5 ReviewFlower Shop: Summer in Fairbrook Review

Flower Shop: Summer in Fairbrook Review


If you’ve played a Harvest Moon or Stardew Valley, you will know that romance and farming aren’t as odd a mix as they might first seem. Starting your own family seems like the natural next step after nurturing families of pigs, sheep and cows. Both plants and love can ‘blossom’.

Flower Shop: Summer in Fairbrook knows this and moves the slider so it is roughly halfway between farming and dating. By day, you’re a rookie farmer, tending a field that’s been loaned to you by a benevolent uncle. By night, you’re a lothario, making ladies swoon with your cunning choice of dialogue options in a visual novel.

This hasn’t always been your life. You are Steve, an entitled little runt who believes they should get everything in life for free. He does a frowny face as soon as his long-term girlfriend dumps them, and his Dad soon stops putting up with the back talk. You are sent to your Uncle Sam’s farm in a rural town to learn humility from the handle of a spade, which goes down with Steve as well as you’d probably expect.

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Fair play to Steve, he does eventually give in and start working. This becomes the first half of each in-game day, and it is dirt simple. It’s all displayed on a single interface, which makes the field look slightly less expansive than Steve’s ego. You get given a set number of hours to spend in the field, and actions cost a different number of those hours. The field starts overgrown, so that’s your first task: grabbing the rake and clearing out weeds so there is room for your crops. 

Once a patch is cleared, then you’re playing a game of ‘which action is most important’. Our priority order was removing parasites from plants so that they didn’t die; harvesting crops for sale; filling empty plots with seeds; and last of all, clearing any weeds that pop up.

The fact we could reduce our farming to an order is half the problem. There isn’t much strategy in the farming: it’s more a process. And it’s not fun enough, as processes go, to make it worthwhile.

If you’re like us, Steve will end up with more money than he could possibly use, so the farming doesn’t mean much either. And it’s all a bit painful to interact with. The interface is clumsy and inaccurate, as the rows of fruit and veg are offset from each other. Getting the right sodding plot to highlight is surprisingly difficult, and Flower Shop: Summer in Fairbrook makes it doubly painful by asking you to subsequently  navigate to the action you want to make, rather than giving you a single button press once you’re there. It’s like gardening with boxing gloves on.

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Make your way to the afternoon of each day, however, and the visual novel kicks in. This is when you’re left to your own devices, which invariably means doing a spot of wooing. The suitors are Jill, your ex who you can chat to on the phone; Clara, a fitness enthusiast; Marian, a librarian and older woman; and Susana, a prim florist.

We need to get something off our chest here. Flower Shop: Summer in Fairbrook is an odd name for this game. It gives the impression that you will get to scratch a florist itch, when you absolutely do not. The only flower shop is owned by Susana (admittedly, it’s also where you purchase seeds), and she’s a minor cast member. We guess “Allotment: Summer in Fairbrook” wouldn’t quite have cut it.

You choose where to spend your time through a timetable, something that’s relatively common in Ratalaika titles like Roommates, A Little Lily Princess and C14 Dating. Dedicate enough time to one of the relationships and plots start developing, as you find out character flaws or needs, which is a path that leads them to Steve.

We’d love to say that there’s the thrill of a new relationship, but it’s all rather unimpressive. The majority of interactions are filler: stock dialogue that you will see ninety percent of the time. Flower Shop: Summer in Fairbrook will occasionally decide, on a whim (it’s never completely clear what triggers it), to give you some plot-progressing interactions, but they’re nowhere near frequent enough. You can complete a romance subplot by only having four of these interactions. It really is thin.

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When they do happen, they’re pretty good. The writing finally gets let off its leash, and the characterisation starts to shine through. There’s some writing talent here, but there’s precious little of it, and it’s buffeted by the same, repeated dialogue.

There’s not a lot of Flower Shop: Summer in Fairbrook. The end’s in sight after an hour. The good news is that the endings are varied and significant enough to give you the push to play again. The bad news is that you’ll have to do all the clumsy, unimportant farming each time through, as well as planning your week with the timetable. We’d have paid a quid or so extra to be able to skip these moments.

Flower Shop: Summer in Fairbrook isn’t one of Ratalaika’s finest visual novels. It tries to marry a farming sim to a dating sim, and leaves both sides half-grown. There are good moments, but you have to root around for them, and they don’t bear enough fruit to make that worthwhile.

You can buy Flower Shop: Summer in Fairbrook from the Xbox Store

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