I've been playing around with the wonderful Shiki-tei over the past few days. Essentially a gardening sim, Shiki-tei (Four Season Garden) is currently only available from the Japanese PlayStation 3 store and costs 1500 yen.
There are five basic gardens to choose from, from traditional Japanese to a more contemporary design. Once you've chosen your basic garden, it's time to get busy.
Objects such as trees, plants, flowers, tables, chairs, lights etc can be placed anywhere around the garden. Initially there are only a few of each to choose from. However, by placing new objects and planting trees and flowers, new items are unlocked - from gazebos and benches, to trees, flowers and water features.
Holding down the 'X' button speeds up time, allowing your plants to flourish (although they will eventually die), while holding down 'O' does the opposite and rewinds time. For best results it is best to leave the garden to do its own thing.
If you leave the game alone for two minutes (default), you'll get a gentle fly through your garden, with the camera focussing on objects of interest.
It is a beautiful looking package, and the lighting effects are gorgeous. A bright, sunny afternoon can quickly change to a blustery evening, snow can fall in an instant and gentle rain can leave your garden looking green and lush. There is also a day/night cycle in place, so stars peek out from behind the clouds, while the moon slowly arcs over the horizon.
As you plant, place and grow, animals of all shapes and sizes visit you idillic little patch. The first to arrive is a koi carp (if you have water, obviously) but he's soon followed by owls, ducks, and starlings. That's all I've encountered so far, but I'll keep you posted as more creatures come my way.
As you would expect, the music is suitably soothing, although there is the option for custom soundtracks, which is a welcome addition.
Then there's the camera mode, which allows you to save pictures of your garden to your PS3's hard drive - pefect for desktop wallpapers. There is also the option to upload your pics on to the Shiki-tei server and you can browse through other people's creations via the in-game menu screen.
There's no word of a UK release yet, however I'm confident that Shiki-tei will eventually make it to these shores sometime in the future.