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Review

Review: The UnderGarden

Is that a Teletubby?

The UnderGarden caught my eye a few months back after I got a hold of some screenshots and first read about the concept of the game.  It reminded me of Flower, which I loved. As a gamer that thoroughly enjoys digging in to colossal titles like Mass Effect and Borderlands, games like The UnderGarden are a nice break in the action to slow down and appreciate some of the smaller aspects of gaming. It’s unfortunate that my appreciation for this particular title was very short lived.

The UnderGarden puts you in the shoes of a colorful little guy that kind of reminds me of a Teletubby. The game takes place underwater, inside a maze of caves and caverns that are almost completely void of living things. The idea is to take pollen out of sacks found clinging to the floors, walls and ceilings, and cultivate new plant life to revitalize each level. Along the way, you run across a number of simple puzzles and blocked paths that require you to take very basic steps outside the normal ‘pollinate and grow’ formula to surpass each stage.

Visually, it’s a real treat

Visually, The UnderGarden is a real treat. The ambient life that you run across in each level is very bright and vibrant; that, by itself, will keep you entertained for the first few levels. I also found the audio to be enjoyable. It creates a very calm and peaceful atmosphere as you go about your business.

Unfortunately, I was quick to find that there wasn’t much else there to keep me interested. There are a solid number of levels to traverse your way through but they all stick to the exact same formula of growing plants, clearing small rock walls that block your path and finding the portal that ends each level. Don’t get me wrong, this was charming for a short while, but nowhere near engaging enough to keep me interested to the end.

Not only is there a lack of stimulating things to do, but the game doesn’t really handle that well, either.  As I stated above, it takes place underwater, so I can forgive it for being a little ‘floaty’ but there were several times during the course of the game where I was wishing the controls to be a little more responsive.

a lack of motivating objectives

The UnderGarden tries to give you reason enough to go back and play through each level again by adding several intangible tasks for every stage. The end goal for the perfectionists out there would be to spawn 100% of the plants, find a hidden crystal that’s stashed away in each level, pollinate a number of ‘special flowers’ throughout the game and achieve the highest score possible. There’s even a small list that displays how your scores compare to those of your friends but in the end, none of these things are required to finish each level and they only serve up any real replay value if you enjoyed playing the game to begin with.

If you’re like me and find yourself consistently getting bored with the lack of motivating objectives, you can bring in another player for split screen co-op. Just don’t do so hoping to see some co-op objectives or anything that actually requires two players. Granted, games are always more fun with a friend but absolutely nothing changes when you break out a second controller.

Pros

  • Fantastic visuals
  • Accessible for gamers of all ages and skill

Cons

  • Lack of entertaining objectives
  • Controls are less than stellar
  • Co-op is pretty much pointless

Overall, The UnderGarden is not a terrible game. It just failed to bring anything to the table that kept me amused for more than a few minutes at a time. At the very least, the game is accessible and easy to learn for players of any age but it seems unlikely that the majority of gamers will stick with it past a couple of sessions. In an effort to create something cute and lovable, developer Vitamin G failed to fashion objectives that inspire you to keep moving forward but at the same time, they also fell just shy of creating the kind of charm the game needed to be fun without them. For the money, there are other games out there that do exactly what The UnderGarden aspires to do, only better.

Score: 5/10

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16 Comments
  1. Dan Lee
    Common like the rest of us.
    Since: Jun 2010

    Nice first review. I had high hopes for this game, I think ill get it when it turns up on PS Plus.

    Comment posted on 11/02/2011 at 15:05.
  2. cc_star
    Team TSA: Writer
    Since: Forever

    Not too positive then?

    It still sounds like something that’s right up my street.

    Hmmm

    Comment posted on 11/02/2011 at 15:12.
    • bunimomike
      Member
      Since: Jul 2009

      The demo on the PC left me so cold I thought my brain had broken as I couldn’t help think this would charm the pants of me. Level layout was like PixelJunk Shooter (ie. multiscroll world to traverse) coupled with the tranquillity and serenity of the likes of Flower. Sadly, no, it was a bit crap. I could handle no more than five minutes before I questioned what the hell I was supposed to do or even if I was enjoying myself. Gutted really as the art style had already teased my wallet open.

      Comment posted on 11/02/2011 at 15:34.
  3. picld
    Member
    Since: Oct 2010

    Well, in the screenshots colours do look vibrant and mesmerizing. I find the textures to be awfully pale, flat and plain ugly though… I am terribly disappointed with the title, mostly because the advertised pictures do not resemble the real thing (sad face)..

    Comment posted on 11/02/2011 at 15:18.
    • colossalblue
      Team TSA: Editor
      Since: Forever

      I don’t mean to be one of /those/ people but have you fiddled with your TV settings? I’ve only got experience with the 360 version but it is pretty vibrant for me. Might be worth a look if it improves your experience?

      Comment posted on 11/02/2011 at 15:23.
      • picld
        Member
        Since: Oct 2010

        And that’s exactly how it looks – like a X360 port. X360 textures are often compressed with DX1/DX5 which causes (in my opinion) lots of contrast, blackness ad colour richness loss. I’m expecting much more from a PS3 game, even if it’s DLC.

        Comment posted on 11/02/2011 at 15:33.
  4. colossalblue
    Team TSA: Editor
    Since: Forever

    Sounds like it might be nice for those relaxed gaming sessions where I don’t want to focus and concentrate too much. I played some of the 360 version and quite liked it but I can see how it might end up being pretty average.

    Comment posted on 11/02/2011 at 15:20.
  5. KeRaSh
    Member
    Since: Nov 2009

    I didn’t really expect anything else. The trailers looked visually interesting but the gameplay seemed lacking.

    Comment posted on 11/02/2011 at 15:44.
  6. aerobes
    Member
    Since: Aug 2009

    I’ll be buying this when it turns up in the EU. I’ve played the demo a lot since it turned up on the US store and I’ll have definitely put more time into it than both Killzone demos (which are mildly entertaining) but that probably says more about me than either game.

    Anyway, I digress, interesting to read your thoughts, good review.

    Comment posted on 11/02/2011 at 15:52.
  7. kevatron400
    Drake, baby.
    Since: Dec 2008

    It’s a shame you didn’t enjoy it as much as I had hoped you might. Visually it does look gorgeous and I was hoping for as serene as flow. Hopefully they will release a demo and I can see if it’s for me any more than it was for you.

    Comment posted on 11/02/2011 at 15:55.
    • TheDeathAvenger
      Member
      Since: Forever

      As far as I’m aware there will be a demo.

      Comment posted on 12/02/2011 at 00:15.
  8. philbert8
    The Frankie Boyle Of TSA
    Since: Sep 2010

    From what I can remember, I played this ages ago on PC/Steam, the visuals even in 1080p didn’t fool me for one minute, OK maybe 10 minutes, but then I quickly realised there was little gaming to be had. A real shame.

    Comment posted on 11/02/2011 at 16:04.
    • bunimomike
      Member
      Since: Jul 2009

      Absolutely bang on. On my PC, things didn’t look quite right either. Equally, ten minutes is all my brain allowed too.

      Comment posted on 11/02/2011 at 16:19.
  9. TSBonyman
    Member
    Since: Dec 2009

    I was looking forward to this but the demo was a bit lacking in gameplay for me.

    Comment posted on 11/02/2011 at 16:40.
  10. Symposium Cacophony
    Member
    Since: Aug 2009

    For gods sake Brain…. why a “straight no”?

    I was going to buy it on steam but I was unsure… besides £6.99 to me would be a risk

    Comment posted on 12/02/2011 at 00:46.

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