Japan Garden - my first thought on witnessing this iPad app was “Woah! Cool!”. So what is this app about?
As the name suggests, it’s about a Japanese style garden with streams, a waterfall, and of course koi. You can walk around the circular garden by tapping the glowing green arrows on the path, adjust your perspective in a real life manner, enjoy the virtual clean fresh air, …. and feed the fish.
That’s basically it. So where’s the ‘wow factor’? Well, the graphics are absolutely delicious. You could place them next to an oven hot pizza, and they would still win. In fact, a person I know mistook the entire scene to be composed of photographs. Especially the cottony blankets of clouds set against the dramatic azure sky, the crystalline water giving life to the different colored koi, the tree barks and the details of a few trees and bushes. The plants and trees aren’t like stiff plastic figures. You can feel them breathing and moving with the wind. Close up though, the graphics are a bit glitchy in some places. For instance, where the plant stems meet the ground, and where the tree branches join the trunk. The overall effect is, still, nothing short of amazing.
Plus, there are four Classical Japanese style soundtracks to go along with the theme, providing a treat for your ears. My favorite soundtrack reminds me of Naruto, whilst another one reminds me of Mulan. You can switch between these tracks using the ‘Previous’ and ‘Next’ buttons on the extreme bottom left of the screen. There is also a ‘Pause’ button on top of those. You can use that to pause the soundtrack anytime you want. It does NOT pause the app.
As for feeding the fish, tap the button (with a koi for an illustration) on the bottom right of the screen to throw the food. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a flying koi or two! No, I’m not making this up. I saw an orangish-pink and white striped koi flying across the stream. It had almost reached the top of the bordering trees when I managed to get it down by throwing food at it. At first, I thought this was some sort of glitch, then it occurred to me that perhaps the developer had decided to enhance the user experience by putting in some Japanese mythology regarding koi. And then I remembered that koi really do go around ‘flying’- except it’s more like leaping than flying.
Coming back to feeding the fish, you can control your aim by adjusting your perspective - similar to how you would throw something in real life. Beware though! The controls are hard to master. The entire system is extremely sensitive to touch. A slight brush of your finger to, say, have a slightly more upward oriented view could leave the screen spinning around uncontrollably as if someone had punched the virtual you really hard (or you could imagine yourself twirling around like a ballerina instead) and you were reeling around, desperately trying to regain control of your body. The entire experience is rather destabilizing. But time and practice makes everything perfect, and once that stage arrives, you’re set to indulge in this oriental style heaven to your heart’s content.
It’s a great way to kick back and relax at the end of a tiring day. Take a deep breath, and imagine yourself standing in the garden, surrounded by the peaceful sounds of chirping birds and flowing water, in the midst of nature’s bounties, with the faint music of a flute carried by the wind. Your own little private paradise. Enjoy!
I took around 90 screenshots, all of them from different angles. Here are my top nine favourite ones: