Preview | The UnderGarden Hands-On
Under the Sea…
Format: PC/XBLA | Genre: Delight’em’up | Publisher: Xbox Live | Developer: Atari | ETA: TBA
Jennifer Allen floats away with a hands-on preview of THE UNDERGARDEN.
CHARMING AND quirky are words often over used. In the case of my brief time with The UnderGarden, however, all I could think of was those two words. It’s a simple game, more an experience than a game in fact. It’s also rather bizarre in places. You control a teletubby type character who must travel around an underground world and plant flowers. It’s all distinctly surreal, bordering on some sort of drug induced hallucination. In saying that, it’s also wonderfully calming to play through.
To plant flowers, you must first collect pollen by brushing across the spores. Bounce along your surroundings and the pollen is distributed automatically – the previously dark tunnels are lit up by the beauty of fluorescent flowers. Wandering around the world is simple with some basic, floaty controls allowing you to glide around seamlessly. The controls are clearly aimed at the XBLA version, so an Xbox 360 controller comes in handy for the PC version. It’s worth noting that you can’t actually die in The UnderGarden as far as I can tell, it’s just more convenient to use a controller, the combination of the arrow keys/mouse and space bar can feel a little awkward.
It’s a calming experience because you never feel rushed to progress further. Each of the 14 levels are set to promise a challenge through physics based puzzles – typically something like weighing platforms down with fruit in order to get past them. In the 30 minutes I had with the game, these puzzles weren’t overly complicated but hopefully they will be in future stages of the game. According to Atari, there’s also the promise of more hidden collectibles to encourage you to keep playing. Besides the quirky visuals, the soundtrack deserves a mention. It’s just as soothing as the rest of the game. It can also be adjusted slightly by collecting musicians that are strewn around the game.
It all feels very much like Flower and PixelJunk Eden, but considering the Xbox 360 lacks a title such as these, it could do very well indeed. It’s a relaxing experience which the XBLA marketplace could do with. Local co-op has also been promised which could make The UnderGarden a perfect title for both regular and more casual players. The only real concern is that it doesn’t feel challenging in the slightest and I do wonder if it’ll be quite a brief experience to complete. It’ll be interesting to see just what the full title is like when it comes out later in the year.