My Garden 3DS preview: Sowing the seeds of doubt

The 3DS has been in hiding since it caught our eyes at its big E3 debut. Unfortunately, My Garden is a poor second showing of Nintendo's novel handheld. Shown at an EA event last night in New York, the first playable build of EA's garden simulator fell flat, in more ways than one.

First announced at TGS, not much was known about the game leading up to this preview. Now, I realize it's because the game doesn't offer much to know about. The goal of the game is rather simple: Plant various flowers and garden items to attract insects and animals. You'll want to attract specific combinations of these critters and take pictures of them to complete objectives, unlocking more flowers and items to use. That's it.
While the premise should suffice for gamers looking for a simple garden playground, My Garden is a very pedestrian experience -- especially compared to the likes of Rare's excellent Viva Pinata series. I'm sure many will appreciate the slower pace of EA's offering, as there's far less micro-managing to fuss over and the challenges are structured in a way that allows you to go at your own pace. However, in spite of the adorable Tanuki mascot, My Garden is seriously lacking personality. It's lifeless: With the exception of the animals that come walking through, very few objects in the environment are animated.

The least impressive experience I've had on 3DS.

Visually, My Garden is the least impressive experience I've had on 3DS. This was an early build, but the overall lack of detail hurts a game that's primarily about making a collection of beautiful things. The jumpy framerate and unresponsive controls didn't help its cause, either -- but certainly, these are things that can be fixed before the game's release alongside the 3DS!

What might not be fixed, however, is how uncomfortable the 3D effect was for me; a first among my experiences with the handheld. While the 3D imagery was immediately noticeable and even stunning in much of Nintendo's E3 collection of demos, My Garden never appeared quite right on any of the settings allocated by the 3D slider. I had to play with the 3D turned off, which takes away much of the system's "wow" factor. I think having to use the 2D bottom screen in conjunction with the top screen is what accounted for the discomfort; my eyes couldn't properly focus on the top screen when the 3D effect was turned on.

Does this reveal a possible shortcoming of the 3DS hardware? Or, is it simply the result of poor 3D implementation on EA's part? Unfortunately for Nintendo, My Garden has opened my mind to doubts I previously hadn't considered.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.