Available for: Xbox 360 (XBLA), PC (Steam), PS3 (release date TBD)
Game Developer: Vitamin G Studios (Artech Digital Entertainment)
Game Publisher: Atari
Release Date: November 10, 2010
Official Website: www.atari.com
Rating: 4 out of 5
Whimsical, cute, relaxing, soothing. Four words I would use to describe The UnderGarden, developed by Vitamin G Studios. The UnderGarden is a simple puzzle-platformer that is designed more to entertain and relax, rather than cause frustration. The physics based puzzles compose 15 levels. Although it is not a ton of content, the game has some addicting challenges to complete. The UnderGarden is downright fun and easily worth your time and hard earned money. Go home, play it and forget about your day!
The UnderGarden review
Lately the puzzle platform genre has exploded in popularity and difficulty. With games like Super Meat Boy and others leading the charge, why hasn’t anyone created a puzzle-platformer that is easy to enjoy, without the bone-crushing difficulty? Atari and Vitamin G have created The UnderGarden to fill this void. Combining simple controls, game mechanics and a calm musical score, The UnderGarden is both enjoyable and relaxing to play.
Playing with headphones on the PC, I was surprised by the visual fidelity and how the gameplay integrated with the sound effects. The best way I can explain it is through one word: whimsy. The game is able to achieve this with little story explained in the beginning. As I traversed through the levels, they did become increasingly complex but not too difficult.
The UnderGarden’s biggest strength is in its vibrant visuals. They are achieved through giving life back to the bland, dead world. As you gather light orbs then move past the dead plants, they grow instantaneously and add blue and orange colors. Not only is this gorgeous to look at, but it helps you solve puzzles as well. The explosions are eye-candy and the cute character is well animated. Let’s just say the cuteness factor of everything is gargantuan. There are even goals that unlock more costumes if you “re-grow” 100% of the plants within each level.
The controls, on the PC, are minimal. A boost button and a second button allows you to grab certain objects, like bombs, weighted pollen and air-filled blossoms. These elements are used to complete various physics based puzzles. It was very intuitive and did not hamper the experience at all. The only issue that I found was that the grabbing items mechanic did not always work the first time and even glitched out a couple times. Even with the small glitches, I was able to finish the puzzles, not causing any frustration.
Minimal music is something that I have come to appreciate, especially in downloadable games that have caps to their file size. The UnderGarden delivers music with grace. Simple soothing tones are all that make up the score and it never gets old, even though it repeats quite frequently. I would have liked more, but again, file size caps can be restrictive.
As for length, The UnderGarden is short, but at the downloadable price ($9.99), the amount of content is what you would expect. If you are like me and want to relax by playing after work or school, this is a great game to do so. The UnderGarden also has local co-op, but I was not able to check it out on the PC, so I cannot comment on it. Even without taking co-op into consideration, The UnderGarden is unique in setting and fun overall. The amount of cuteness and whimsy is something that many games try to avoid these days. The UnderGarden is solid, but does contain a few glitches and could have used some more levels. But, if you are playing this with a younger player, the controls and visuals are totally appropriate. The UnderGarden is fun and easily recommended to anyone looking for a zen-like gaming experience and just wants to relax.
Thanks to Atari and Artech Digital for making this review possible!