Review: The Undergarden – Xbox 360, PS3, PC

In recent years, there has been a rash of games developed by smaller developers (Indie, if you will) that focus on ideas not found in the typical blockbuster games (Halo, Call of Duty). Many of them focus on puzzles, or old-school 2-D action, but one thing most of them have in common is that they try to create a visual style in order to distinguish themselves.

Don’t worry, the plants don’t sting like in the NES Ninja Turtles game.

Enter The Undergarden. In this game you play as a creature (seen in the picture above. I won’t even attempt to describe that thing) that floats around The Undergarden, and must use pollen to make flowers/plants bloom/grow. Most of the flowers are simply there for completionists to get 100% on a level, but there are a few types of special plants that are required to complete the levels. Each of the special plants grow fruit which you must use to solve (mostly) simple puzzles; the characteristics the fruits have are: heaviness, the ability to float, light, explosiveness, and the ability to conduct/hold electricity. Your character can create a bubble, and anything that gets within the bubble will be temporarily hooked onto you. You can then carry these objects around and let them go at any time. You can also tap the “A” button to cause your character to get short speed boosts, or hold it down to get a much larger one. One thing that should be mentioned is that this is a game in which you cannot die, which may be good or bad, depending on how you look at it.

This is a medium-level puzzle. You must use the heavy fruit, or floaty fruit to move the rocks up and down and create an electrical connection.

The game will be rather easy for anyone experienced with video games. Throughout the game, you will come across “puzzles” that are essentially a “door” that needs a “key”. So, if you see some heavy fruit, you pretty much to need grab it and carry it somewhere to drop it on something to weigh it down and open a path. Most of the fruits work in this similar fashion, and the game takes quite a long time to begin to get somewhat challenging. Near the end of the game is when I started to become challenged by the game’s level design. While most of the game is pretty easy to navigate, it does get a tad more difficult in the last levels, especially if you are going after some of the special collectables. One part had strong winds which required me to grab onto a spinning wheel, release from the wheel, and use a speed boost to shoot myself through a small opening to get the collectable; it took me more than a few tries.

Every visually appealing game needs sun rays!

Perhaps the game’s greatest strength is the graphical and aural appeal. I mentioned that there are flowers/plants that you can grow with the pollen that’s strewn about the levels. Well, these plants are everywhere, and they certainly add to the aesthetic appeal. They come in many colors, shapes, and they animate very beautifully. The whole world has a soft glow, and as you float about, new plants grow at an almost constant rate. In addition to this, there are musicians found in the level which you can carry, and their presence causes plants within close vicinity to change colors and repeatedly perform bloom animations, which is quite a neat effect. Any musicians on-screen also change the sound of the music. The one thing I did not like about the music, however, was the fact that after a few minutes, I could easily hear a slight pause where the music must be looping back to the beginning. Even given this, the music is good, and because of the dynamics that the musicians bring, I didn’t tire of the music during my journey through The Undergarden. The visuals are very nice, and the backgrounds and plants changed a few times, here and there, but the novelty of the visuals did wear during my playtime.

You can choose different colors and ears, and different hats add effects to your speed boosts.

The Undergarden is a relatively easy game in which you cannot die. However, this may be a good thing considering most games are out to kill you. Perhaps it has a place for even the average gamer who simply wants to relax, and not have to worry about being shot by enemies every second. However, I would mostly recommend this game to less experienced gamers, or those who would like to play with a less experienced gamer they know. The Undergarden is a visual and aural treat, but the core gameplay of moving one’s character doesn’t quite match the fun of other similar games like Flower.

The Undergarden was developed by Vitamin G Studios and was published by Atari. It retails for $9.99 and is available on Xbox Live, PSN, and PC. I played the Xbox 360 version of the game.

Grade: B

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