The UnderGarden

Year: 2010
Platform: Xbox 360
Publisher: Atari
Genre: Puzzle
Review Date: 11/27/10
Rating: ***

"The UnderGarden" is a curious and charming lyrical journey that's both fun and relaxing to play. You assume the role of a creepy looking alien that resembles a Teletubby with a sinister grin, and your job is to float around and pollinate flowers. That's all there is to it. The UnderGarden itself is a system of subterranean caves that are full of dormant flowers just waiting to bloom, and when you pass over them with pollen, they burst forth with light, color, and music. The results are enchanting and hypnotically pretty. Obstacles are overcome by using various kinds of fruit, which adds a rudimentary puzzle element to the game. There are also tiny musicians strewn about, and collecting them causes flowers to re-bloom, and change shape and color. While the goal is simply to get from point A to point B, you are encouraged to pollinate every flower, find the hidden flowers and crystals, and collect all of the musicians.

The game is simple and straight forward, but the role of the musicians is never explained and I had to go online to figure out how to get the music bonus. The bonus is awarded if you drag every musician in a level through a warp point, even though they don't warp with you. I guess it's the thought that counts. It's not intuitive at all, but once you figure out what needs to be done, it's fun to try and track down all of the little guys for an end-of-level jam session. Likewise, replaying levels to find any hidden flowers that you missed is also rewarding, as the levels are pretty short. There's no way to die and there are no time limits, so you're free to just float around at your leisure and take in the scenery. However, you can get stuck, which requires warping back to a previous checkpoint. The music is dynamic and changes as you pollinate flowers and pick up musicians. Unfortunately, the music isn't seamless and often contains disruptive breaks which spoil the Zen-like new age quality of the game. It's certainly not a game for everyone, and its slow pace, lack of difficulty, and soothing music will probably drive younger players batty. That said, it definitely offers a nice break and a relaxing distraction from the norm.