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Posted by drew10 on Dec 3, 2010
Review:The UnderGarden – Atari – XBLA

Review:The UnderGarden – Atari – XBLA

Every now-and-then something slightly different comes along, you know those games that leave you with a completely different feeling entirely? The UnderGarden is one of those titles.

Coming from developer Vitamin-G this platform, exploration puzzler is something quite different. Well we say different but the game takes elements seen before and moulds them into a relaxed, zen-inducing experience. If you think of this game as LocoRoco meets Flower and Cheech and Chong you will begin to get the idea.

Set in an underwater world the player floats around pollinating the levels, bringing them bursting to life in colourful flora. To do this you must bounce on a seed pod and collect the pollen it dispenses. You can then charge up your pollen meter and wherever you swim you will bring the flowers to life. The levels are also inhabited with ‘musicians’. These funny little characters each play a different instrumental part to the games music. Bring them together and the music will evolve. Whilst you have a musician with you any plants you have already pollinated will change colour dramatically. This unleashes a great swarm of colour and is a joy to behold.

As you go about pollinating the levels you will find that some of the planets bear fruit. These fruits can be used to solve puzzles and access otherwise in passable areas of the game. Some plants will release heavy fruit that will press down on switches, others have fruits that float to open doorways above. Some will have luminescent fruit to light dark areas and even exploding fruits that, well explode.

Navigating your character (Who incidentally looks a little like a  teletubby on acid, okay more acid.) is done using the left anal0gue stick. Holding down the ‘A’ button will charge up a small burst of speed (Ideal for when the currents get strong.) Holding down ‘X’ will extend a grab bubble around your character. Anything caught inside this bubble will become tethered to you. This way you can pick up fruits to use or musicians to bring them together. Once tethered you can manoeuvre through the level until you press ‘X’ again to release whatever you have. There is no limit to how many items you can collect but the more you have in one time the more tricky moving through the levels becomes.

There are certain goals to each of the 14 levels, with gems and special flowers to collect as well as the musicians. You will also need to pollinate as much of the level as you can. Each of the special goals will require some degree of puzzle solving.

Visually the game moves from bland and dreary to vibrant and colourful as you go about the levels. However each level looks very similar. The camera can also be an issue, when it zooms in you can see the finer details and for the most part the graphics are nicely drawn and the swathes of colour are truly excellent. However, when the camera mainly feels a little too far away from the action and sometimes it can be difficult to see what is going on. This can be especially frustrating when trying to navigate small passageways whilst carrying lots of items. Being able to zoom in and out of the screen as needed would have been very welcome.

Audio in The UnderGarden is pleasant with the serenity of the visuals married with subtly soft sound effects and adaptive music. As mentioned before the each musician plays a separate instrument and therefore adds a different dimension to the games music. Putting all the levels musicians together will produce the greatest musical effect.

The UnderGarden also features 2-player local co-op where you and a friend can share a nice relaxing chill-out session away from the guns and the cars.  It acts as a welcome break form the action packed fast moving games that are the norm.

Above all The UnderGarden is a lovingly crafted game that whilst not the longest or even the most challenging remains a most enjoyable experience, especially at only 800 MS points. It certainly wont be for the trigger-happy crowd but for anyone needing to chill-out it could be just the thing.

Coming soon for PSN.

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