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, 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.
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.
- Fantastic visuals
- Accessible for gamers of all ages and skill
- 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.