Cloud Gardens is a hard game to explain, not least because some people would say it isn’t a game at all. You see, Cloud Gardens is like a mix between gardening and creating a diorama with an added post-apocalyptic aesthetic.
Currently in Steam Early Access, Cloud Gardens offers players two different modes. These are Scenes and a sandbox mode which lets players to craft their gardens from a library of assets. Scenes present players with several empty dioramas, all with an abandoned wasteland vibe, tasking you with planting and nurturing a flourishing garden of flowers and several items within this diorama of urban decay.
If you place the items incorrectly, you’ll fail, though I don’t think the fail state is clear enough. I’ve spent a lot of my time so far progressing through trial and error, which is time-consuming to say the least.
There are currently four overarching environments which include a highway, a junkyard, rooftops and a greenhouse. Players unlock additional items for the sandbox mode as they make their way through the levels, further bolstering the library of plants and objects to create with.
While progress can be hard going in the Scenes, it’s the creativity of sandbox mode that shows what a great concept Cloud Gardens is. Take your pick of a small, medium or large space and you can get to work crafting an idyllic post-apocalyptic garden space that shows your creative prowess. I wonder what the shelf-life is of such a concept, as the team behind the game will need to add more variety to the gameplay in future updates to keep players engaged in the long-term, but it’s a lovely idea.
Cloud Gardens is an exercise in minimalism. Everything from the menu design to the stripped back synth soundtrack follows this design ethos, and it’s something I thoroughly enjoy. In an industry where video games overload us with information, it’s refreshing to play a game that takes the opposite approach. As someone who briefly had an allotment, there’s a real tranquillity to be found away from screens and notifications, and I feel Cloud Gardens captures that mood effortlessly.
If you’ve played Noio’s previous title Kingdom, you’ll know that the team can create stunning pixelated visuals. Cloud Gardens takes that style and transposes it into 3D. The colour and detail the team is known for remains, but now it’s bulked up with both the depth of 3D and animations which really breathe life into each one of the game’s scenes and custom creations.
I would also just like to mention the Discord community, which is already filled with passionate fans sharing tips and creations with one another. If you do decide to pick Cloud Gardens, I would definitely recommend checking it out as I believe it will help players get just a little bit more out of their experience. It’s also here where you can get a glimpse at how the game will grow in the coming months and years. Fundamentally, Cloud Gardens is a rather basic and straightforward experience at the moment, though a quick glance at the Discord shows a stream of regular updates.
Cloud Gardens is an interesting concept that balances minimalist design and creative flair, creating the best – and likely only – post-apocalyptic allotment simulator. It’s currently lacking in content as it starts its journey through Steam Early Access, but I think it can – and likely will – develop into something special further down the line.