The UnderGarden is a side-scrolling 'zen' game that puts you in the shoes of what can only be described as a pixie- goat- teletubbie hybrid. Through basic puzzle platforming, the game tasks you with directing your UnderGardener and exploring a vast network of subterranean caves and tunnels. Other than floating around in dream-like trance, your goal is simple - to proceed to the end of the level while bringing dormant flora to life with your pollen. Aside from vibrant visuals, this underwater garden is filled with other life forms, obstacles and collectibles to keep things interesting, all the while being backed with soothing music. Despite receiving mostly average review scores, the general consensus describes The UnderGarden as what it was made to be - a relaxing game. This relatively cheap title was made available mainly through the main digital distribution channels, with the PSN version getting released a few months after the original release on the PC and XBLM. Although its release had little impact in the media, the UnderGarden made an appearance on Steam's promotional sales for 2010 in 'The Great Steam Treasure Hunt'.
There is not much to the gameplay in The UnderGarden and is thus introduced quickly in a short tutorial when you first enter the world. It is kept extremely simple, with your UnderGardener's abilities being swimming around, dashing, picking things up, and dropping them. After starting, you are dropped in a cave which acts as a hub world with portals that warp you to different levels, more of which unlock as you progress through the game. After entering a level, the aim is simply to navigate your way through to the end while creating as much life as you can in the initially dull environment. This is done by collecting pollen, released by green bulbs located throughout the levels after bouncing off them, and then swimming past dormant plant life. Soon enough the environment bursts to life and fills the screen with pretty colors. As you can't really die or fail, when your UnderGardener is harmed in any way, you lose pollen which is represented by a circular meter in the user interface. Despite not being able to die, checkpoints are placed throughout the levels should you and your UnderGardener get lost or stuck. There are also progress bars at the bottom of the screen showing how much of the level you've discovered and pollinated.
As you progress, the game introduces environmental puzzles that are never too challenging, but nonetheless need to be solved to proceed through the level. Along with these puzzles a new game mechanic is also introduced through a variety of fruits. These fruits have different characteristics and abilities that can be used in the environment to solve puzzles and whatnot. They are:
- Heavy fruit - can be used as a weight
- Balloon fruit - float upwards to act as a counter weight
- Lantern fruit - can be used as a light source
- Energy fruit - store an electrical charge that can be used to power certain objects
- Bomb fruit - can be used as an explosive
To pick up these fruits, and pretty much anything else, your UnderGardener creates a bubble around itself and anything within the bubble's radius attaches itself to you via glowing strings. As you continue, other obstacles start to get in your way such as doors with switches, destructible walls, pressure pads, underwater currents and other such things that when used in conjunction with the different fruits make for varied puzzle and level designs.
Throughout The UnderGarden you are also bound to come across musicians who are just sitting down making sounds that feed into the background music and get louder with closer proximity. You can pick them up and take them with you on your journey, essentially creating your own mobile band. With these musicians, who also seem pixie like in origin, any foliage you have grown moves and blossoms creating a rather pleasant aesthetic experience. Apart from this however, the musicians' purpose and what to do with them is not apparent. Also optional in the game are the collectibles scattered throughout the environment in the form of crystals and special flowers that help you unlock new skins and horns for your UnderGardener, both of which can be customized in the cave hub. There is also a local co-operative multiplayer feature in which the one screen is shared but the camera focuses only on the first player.
PC System Requirements
- OS: Windows XP/Vista/7
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo @ 1.8 Ghz / AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800
- RAM Memory: 1 GB
- Hard Drive Space: 1 GB
- Video Memory: 128 Mb
- Video Card: nVidia GeForce 7600 / ATI Radeon X1650
- Sound Card: DirectX Compatible
- DirectX: 9.0c
- Keyboard, Mouse