In Takenoko the players compete to grow and harvest different kinds of bamboo. Through the game you are dealt cards which give you a secret victory condition - "harvest three green bamboo plants for 3 points," for example. Other players may be trying to grow two yellow plants next to each other, or plant a row of red bamboo plots. You lay down a plot of land by placing a tile on the table. The tile will grow a color of bamboo. You can cause more growth by moving the gardener to the spot. You can harvest the bamboo by moving the panda to the spot.
Takenoko's best feature perhaps is that there is some decent tactical depth to it's play. It can pay to chart out the panda's and gardener's likely paths of movement. There are times when it is better to grow and other times when you are better served trying to lay plots of bamboo. You can score in three different ways and there are fun and interesting choices to be made along the way.
That being said, it is also a game with a plastic panda and cute art and simple rules. This game would be completely appropriate for younger players and casual non-gamers.
I suppose my mixed feelings about the game stem from my total lack of interest in bamboo and the subtle art of its cultivation. I have the same feeling about Power Grid. Great game system but the theme leaves me cold. In the end I need some sort of narrative to feel excited about a game and Takenoko does not deliver that. However, it has ooodles of good qualities so if this is not a deal killer for you then it's a game well worth considering.