by Liam Edwards
reviewed on PC
What the hell is that?
The first thing you notice about Atari’s new puzzler is that it is quite pretty, but for all of about 10 seconds. You see a beautiful level with many dark tones and bright lights, and then BAM! Right there on your screen is possibly the weirdest looking character you will ever see. Do not get me wrong, The UnderGarden is a very pretty game and like other indie titles out on the market now, it is very well polished and has unique visuals. But I do not know what Atari were thinking when they created the main character; it seems to be a cross between a Mudkip and a human baby. Many of the creatures you meet in The UnderGarden have a fairy-newt look to them, resulting in a very strange collection of characters.
You are the pollination king! Well not really but you might as well be called that. Your aim in The UnderGarden is to make your way through many different garden levels while solving puzzles and pollinating every flower and plant you can see and find. A simple concept for an equally simple game. Throughout its entirety, The UnderGarden does not throw too many concepts or different gameplay mechanics at you. As you make your way through the very pretty gardens, your job is to make flowers and plants around you grow by bouncing off of pollen sacs and spreading the pollen dust that is dispersed around the garden. Watching the plants grow is really quite something; lovely animations make for some quite outstanding moments.
The UnderGarden world is quite a dark place being constructed from many blue and grey tones - but all of this changes when the plants have been pollinated. Plants range from a variety of bright yellows, oranges, greens and many other contrasting colours. As your progress you become more and more impressed with the thousands of plants expanding and illuminating around you. In the end I was spending most of my time trying to spread the pollen dust around as fast as I could to make the plants grow in sync and in big groups.
Blinded by the beauty
The UnderGarden starts off fairly easy but towards the end becomes more challenging and you may find that you end up spending a lot of your time getting lost or unable to progress further in the level. It is easy to forget that The UnderGarden is a puzzle game and not something that has emerged from the Avant-garde - experimenting with plants, seeds and colours to unveil some beautiful spectacle.
Being a game, the mechanics sometimes contradict the flowing beauty that the game aims for; at one point you could just be smoothly moving through the level growing plants and watching the colours burst with life around you. This can go on for some time, but then all of a sudden you might hit a block in the level and spend the same amount of time figuring out what to do to progress. It is a bit black and white in its gameplay; I think the developers wanted the game to flow but also wanted to make it more difficult to give the game some sense of progression. Ultimately these two desires are not combined successfully and create a clear divide in your experience when playing the game.
Beautiful. Watching the plants grow is exciting and rewarding.
Boring. Has an unsure difficulty curve and a very strange looking main character.