Title: Flower Shop: Winter in Fairbrook
System(s): Windows, Mac and Linux
Release Date: December , 2011
Publisher (Developer): Winter Wolves Games (Sakevisual and Winter Wolves Games)
ESRB Rating: N/A. I’d say it’s fine for players ages 10 and up.
Pros: Four dateable guys, great character art, interesting story, has a mild farming sim element, the music is pleasant and the story fits in with the holiday season! Plus, it does a good job of maintaining the same feel as the original Flower Shop. It’s also a good all-ages kind of game. There’s also a gallery to see unlocked scenes from cleared endings. You have to manage different stats to win over the guys.
Cons: The game doesn’t point out how to care for plants, like pressing the “Water Plants” button to clear, Clean Up to remove parasites and such. Farming doesn’t seem to have any effect on the actual game. Can be difficult to see text and such on the gardening screenYou have to keep the sound on, otherwise when you answer a question you won’t hear a noise saying if it’s right or wrong. (The bar isn’t animated.)
Overall Score: One thumb up and one thumb sideways, 83/100, B, * * * out of 5
In Winter Wolves’ first The Flower Shop game, we were introduced to a Steve the slacker who, after a summer working at his uncle’s farm in the small town of Fairbrook, realized he needed to get his act together and maybe even found love with one of the four young women in his life. Now, Winter Wolves has teamed with Sakevisual for the sequel, which introduces us to an entitled young woman named Natalie whose parents insisted she get a job over her winter break to learn responsibility. It’s time for Fairbrook and its residents to work their magic again.
Learn some responsibility this winter by growing some flowers!
Natalie is immature. She can apply herself, when she wants to, but for the most part, she feels like she’s entitled to do what she wants and behave however she likes. We first meet her in The Flower Shop: Winter in Fairbrook at her college. She shares a dorm room with Clara, one of the heroines from the original Flower Shop and is complaining about her parents’ demands that she obtain a job over winter break.
Fortunately, Clara has an idea. Her friend Susana had wanted her to come help out at her bustling flower shop over winter break. Clara’s too busy though, so she gets on the phone and immediately gets Natalie the gig. With not even one day’s notice, Natalie is packing up and preparing to drive to the small town to live and work among people she’s never met. It’s a great opportunity though, as her position there may just help her improve as a person and build a lasting relationship with one of Fairbrook’s residents.
For a small town, there’s really a lot going on.
The Flower Shop: Winter in Fairbrook is your typical visual novel dating sim, just like Summer in Fairbrook. Natalie is in Fairbrook for a few weeks over winter break and you help her manage from week to week. At the start of each week, you set her schedule and decide which activities she’ll engage in after doing some gardening in Susana’s flower shop. She can work more, to tend more flowers and earn more money, visit Ryan and boost her intelligence by going to the general store, hang out with Jacob and build empathy at the Flower Shop, see Trent and get cultured by going to the library or go walking with Steve to become more determined at Steve’s Uncle’s farm. Or, if Natalie’s health is getting low from too much working, just relax for a day. While each guy does require two of the four stats to be high to get his ending (for example, Ryan wants a girl who is intelligent and determined), there’s plenty of time to boost Natalie’s stats, see all of the events with the guys and get a good ending. Still, don’t get too lax as it is quite possible to unintentionally end up with an ending where Natalie winds up alone.
What’s nice about Winter in Fairbrook is that it’s a really relaxing game. You can easily spend two or three afternoons with it, finishing your first playthrough and just enjoying the cute and friendly story. It’s a very lighthearted and casual experience, and is perfect for people who are interested in the whole visual novel and otome (girl’s dating game) concept. The character art is especially nice, the foundation is solid and the story comes across as very “happy-go-lucky.” There’s very little drama and it really feel more like just enjoying a short winter break. There are a few quirks that get annoying as you play though, like the relationship progress bar that appears below decisions isn’t animated and only gives off an audio cue at times to show progress, but in all, it’s quite cute.
Winter in Fairbrook also has a farming sim aspect to it, just like Summer in Fairbrook. However, where the farm in Summer in Fairbrook had a direct result on Steve’s success, Natalie’s garden in Winter in Fairbrook just seems to be, well, there. My first playthrough, I ended the game with over $1,000 in Natalie’s pockets. The second, I had $500. Both times, it seemed like the money earned and progress in the garden had no effect on the end result of the game. Just just to note – the first time through I received the “Alone” ending and the second time I unlocked the “Ryan” ending. It’s nice that it’s there and it does give players something to do aside from reading text and making decisions, but it didn’t seem to have a big effect on the actual story.
Finally, there was one other thing that stuck with me in Winter in Fairbrook, and that’s Natalie herself. In Summer in Fairbrook, Steve actually grew as a protagonist into someone who was more personable. Natalie… doesn’t. Not really anyways. While she does make friends in Fairbrook and may even come away with a boyfriend, her basic personality doesn’t change all that much. Which means she often comes off as a bit entitled and bratty. I guess I was hoping for the same kind of growth and direction with Natalie as I saw with Steve.
An effortless way to enjoy an afternoon, or two.
The Flower Shop: Winter in Fairbrook is a well thought out follow-up to The Flower Shop: Summer in Fairbrook. Granted, it isn’t as challenging and sadly the farming aspect is more downplayed in this entry, but it maintains the same overall optimistic feel. It’s the kind of game where you come away from it with a smile on your face, after visiting a small town where people all seem to be able to get along and bond with one another. I kind of wish more of that small town charm had rubbed off on the heroine, it’s still a fun little adventure for women and girls who want a bit of effortless and cheerful fluff in their lives.