Posted 2 years ago By - Michelle Gonzales
What’s admirable about the PlayStation Network is its openness to accept unproven gaming formulas into its fold. With Flower, a new sub-genre of games was created and the latest entry from Atari - called The UnderGarden - seems to fall under the same umbrella with its relaxing, non-violent approach to gameplay. Comparisons between the two are inevitable and so the question is, does Vitamin-G Studios manage to capture the same spirit as thatgamecompany did?
The UnderGarden is a unique gaming experience. It begins with a single game option that leads to a floaty hub world with a "cute" controllable creature. There is no storyline and the controls are simple, leaving the player with a sense of relaxed calmness. Gameplay becomes slightly more complex as progression is made, but it continues to sooth with an occasional hiccup rather than actually challenge gamers.
A simple tutorial introduces us to the creature’s capabilities which are a mixture of moving, grabbing, and moving while grabbing. Our cheery little buddy floats through a cool, blue world collecting pollen and bringing life to the local flora. Along the way it will encounter mysterious musicians that it can grab and tug along with its organic grapple. They don’t add much beyond changing the color of the plants and adding a tribal-esque musical track to the level, though admittedly this was engaging enough to convince me to keep them at my side. The process is visually stimulating as plants re-bloom and burst with new colors.
As you progress, levels become slightly more complex with the addition of interactive objects such as ones that float or weigh down other objects, though that’s not where the actual challenge occurs. These physics-based puzzles showcase how the simple controls prevent the game from reaching a full zen-like experience. Often enough the musicians or objects that the creature is toting become stuck on the environment and its narrow, winding paths. This becomes more bothersome when the camera zooms out in larger areas preventing players from precision navigation. Adding a way to guide the connected items or control the camera zoom during these instances with the right stick might have prevented some of these annoyances.
Believe me, leading seven musicians through a winding minefield was more dull rather than challenging since I had to rescue them individually. Although the term “rescue” makes it sound more dangerous than it actually is since there is no “death” in the game (you can reload a recent checkpoint at any time). Some puzzles require explosive seeds to create new passageways or move obstructive rocks but even this can prove unpredictable at times, leaving our navigator stuck until the physics places the rocks “just right” after countless attempts. Feeling helpless in a game is not an enjoyable experience and grinds the calming experience to a halt.
Despite all of these flaws I managed to enjoy the simple, no consequences gameplay most of the time. Ultimately, The UnderGarden lacks in both variety and excitement. Prepare to spend the entire game progressing and then backtracking through all of the similar looking and sounding levels if you want a 100% attainment score for each garden. Sometimes it felt like a chore while backtracking and that is an instant way to lose a player’s interest.
The UnderGarden is a calming albeit somewhat boring experience that is for those looking to relax and not have to worry about frustrating puzzles or killing everything that moves. Just prepare to fight drowsiness along the way or limit game time to short bursts.
+ Stimulating visuals
+ Easy to understand and suited for all ages
+ Simple controls...
- Repetitive gameplay with too much backtracking
- Lacks depth, challenge, and variety
- Calming to the point of boring... Zzzzzzz
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Release Date : 2011/02/01
System : PlayStation 3
Publisher : Atari
Developer : Virtual Programming
Category : Adventure
ESRB : E10+
7.0 / 10
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