Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

The Undergarden

Review: The Undergarden

2:00 PM on 11.15.2010 // Jim Sterling

Describing The UnderGarden is a very tricky prospect, because every description you could give automatically runs the risk of turning potential customers away. It's a slow-paced game, with no narrative to speak of, and your only goal is to make flowers grow in a series of underwater caves. 

Yet The UnderGarden is an absolutely fantastic experience, one that is well worth checking out by all except those blinkered individuals who believes that games must always be about conflict and death. There's very little conflict in The UnderGarden, and no death to speak of. Only life. 

It's all rather wonderful.

The UnderGarden (PC, XBLA [reviewed])
Developer: Vitamin G
Publisher: Atari
Release date: November 10, 2010
MSRP: $10.00, 800 MS Points

The UnderGarden, like all good indie games, isn't too fond of explaining itself. You are a cute little guy who is underwater for some reason, and is charged with the task of bringing color and life back to a series of submerged caves. There are vague nods to some deeper meaning in text during loading screens, but their purpose is to fire the imagination and ask questions, rather than explain anything. 

In order to make the titular UnderGarden bloom with life, you need to hit pollen pouches liberally scattered throughout the levels to fill a pollen meter. When the mysterious aquatic gardener carries pollen, a glowing trail follows behind him, instantly bringing to life the plants that are scattered across the floors, walls and ceilings.

It's gratifying to see entire walls burst into alien shapes and pretty colors as you swim by them, and it becomes strangely addictive to try and find 100% of the plants in each level. 100% completion of each level is the most tangible goal of the game, although it's never strictly enforced. In fact, you could rush through each stage without bothering, but you'd be missing the point. The challenge of the game -- finding everything as you explore -- is self imposed, and you can take on as much work as you feel like doing. 

As well as making plants grow, there are other tasks to be had as well. Each level has one hidden crystal, and any number of secret flowers to bloom. There are also Musicians -- mysterious little creatures that play instruments and make plants change color -- to be discovered as well. Even though a level can be "finished" without finding any of these items, no stage is truly completed without them. 

Of course, the game isn't simply about swimming from A to B and playing with flora. There are a number of puzzles throughout that game that rely on using the environment to your advantage. Various trees throughout the game will spawn fruit when the surrounding plantlife has been grown, and these fruits all have special properties. Some explode when dropped, others weigh down platforms and switches, and all of them will be used in order to continue exploring. 

Puzzles are never very challenging, and exist more to keep you active than to actually try and impede progress. Nevertheless, they are all quite fun, especially as the game develops and more interesting varieties of fruit are found. Picking things up is a simple case of tapping a button to create a glowing sphere around the gardener. Anything in that sphere will then become attached to the player character by a glowing blue tendril and can be dragged around freely. 

This mechanic, and a short charge boost, are the only real controls to worry about in the game. The minimalist approach puts the focus on being relaxed and simply enjoying the game's gorgeous sights and endearing sounds. The music is incredibly beautiful, especially when you gather up some Musicians to accompany it. One of the loading screen messages is, "Sometimes it's just fun to float around" and The UnderGarden lives that statement from beginning to end. 

The game has some damn impressive physics, but those physics can also lead to a few issues. Because many of the puzzles are based on objects floating unpredictably underwater, the game doesn't always do what the developers expected it to. For instance, in one level I exploded a pillar that was propping up a trapdoor, but the pillar's shattered halves ended up stacked on top of each other, still holding the door shut. Using more bombs and a lot of luck, I improvised my way out of it, but other players may not be so fortunate or patient. Issues with the physics are rare, and you'll nearly always find a way to cope, but be warned that the rock you need to fall into a certain place may not always land where it ought to. 

To keep things spicy, The UnderGarden throws in some unlockable rewards that allow you to customize your own gardener. Different skin colors, unique horns, and a variety of hats can be won by completing levels, and playing dress up by simply swimming through each costume is fun in and of itself, not to mention some of the amusing things that happen to your sound and animation when you wear various hats. My only criticism is that I'd have loved even more costumes, since they become a compelling part of the game in their own right.

The UnderGarden's laid back pace won't appeal to everybody, and the environments sometimes take a little too much control away from the player, especially during those levels where you feel you're bouncing off the walls a bit too much, but for the most part, this is one of those games that are simply a joy to be in. Without guidance or strict structure, it's a simple, unpretentious, consistently adorable game that appears designed entirely to produce smiles from gamers. The closest comparison I can draw is the PlayStation Network's Flower, but even then, these are two very different games. 

More "experience" than "videogame", The UnderGarden is a pure delight that proves you don't have to be a super tough "hardcore" title in order to be fun. It's not action packed, it's not punishing, and it's not what you would normally turn your Xbox 360 on for. 

It is, however, something you should turn your Xbox 360 on for. 



The Undergarden - Reviewed by Jim Sterling
Entrancing - It's like magic, guys. Time disappears when this game and I are together, and I never want it to end. I'm not sure if this is a love that will last forever, but if it is, you'll get no complaints from me.

See more reviews or the Destructoid score guide.

Jim Sterling, Former Reviews Editor
 Follow Blog + disclosure JimSterling Tips
Destructoid reviews editor, responsible for running and maintaining the cutting edge videogame critique that people ignore because all they want to see are the scores at the end. Also a regular f... more   |   staff directory

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

destructoid's previous coverage:
The Undergarden

View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:

Please contact Crave Online, thanks!

Tiny Dangerous Dungeons REVIEW - The Pocket Metroidvania

Cblogs of 11/24/15 + Big Ass Fort

Primal Carnage: Extinction Review (PS4)

Belated Spoiler-Free SOMA Review

Friday Night Fights: The Blackest Of Fridays

Super Destructoid Community Interviews Hyper Encore ##Reload

So I Got a 3DS

Negotiations are over. Rainbow Six Siege is a no buy from me as of now.

Cheat Codes Podcast - Ep. 72: Sexy Dog

Meesa Back! (or, here, or something.) Dev Log #1

 Add your impressions

Status updates from C-bloggers

Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
Robin secretly controls the boobs of Nintendo characters. She stole the Xenoblade boobs and took the Fatal Frame lingerie for herself. #DammitRobin [img][/img]
Matheus Railane avatarMatheus Railane
ikiryou avatarikiryou
I was just playing Skyrim and wondered if anyone has come up with Fallout 3/New Vegas weapon mods for Skyrim? Fighting dragons with assault weapons sounds almost necessary. [img][/img]
James Internet Ego avatarJames Internet Ego
Just bought Fallout: New Vegas. Throw me the best mods there are that AREN'T Total Conversion mods. So now Who Vegas - yet.
Parismio avatarParismio
Oh this Undertale summaration flipnote is so good:
Amna Umen avatarAmna Umen
For an early Christmas present I got my girlfriend Wooly World to go with our new Wii U. I've gotten more joy out of how adorable all the character designs are than I'd like to admit.
Jiraya avatarJiraya
Hey Dtoiders ! Steam just destroyed my wallet ! Share here what you bought in this sale !
GoofierBrute avatarGoofierBrute
And so I purchased not just Hyper Dimension Neptunia, but also its sequel and Grim Fandango Remastered in the Steam Sale, and it isn't even the end of the first day. God damnit. At least refunds are thing a now.
Samsneeze avatarSamsneeze
I'm currently writing a review for a mobile game, but only because I'm enjoying the hell out it. I'm honestly enjoying it far more than Puzzles and Dragons.
Zer0t0nin avatarZer0t0nin
Damn, I think I'm Bruce Willis from Unbreakable. Just fell of a 12-foot ladder and all I got was a little scratch on my finger.
CoilWhine avatarCoilWhine
After I finish Fallout 4 I'm thinking of 100%ing Skyrim and then installing a TON of dinosaur mods on it.
voex avatarvoex
4 hours into Hotline Miami 2 and I'm finding it just as fun as the original. So far it's a good balance between frustration and satisfaction. Still have no idea what the story is about.
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
1. Start playing Ocarina of Time again. 2. Start having fun. 3. Discover fishing area. 4. Stop having fun.
AvtrSpirit avatarAvtrSpirit
A 2-d hovercraft platforming exploration game just came out today. Have fun collecting the coins! My record so far is 140.
Occams avatarOccams
Holy shit the new David Bowie video/song is just lovely.
Barry Kelly avatarBarry Kelly
So many people angry at Play-Asia right now. Totally not exactly the kind of backlash Tecmo were trying to avoid by not releasing the game here in the first place.
FlanxLycanth avatarFlanxLycanth
If you're a UK kid there's a Wii U 32 GB Wind Waker Premium Pack on Amazon for £240. It says sale... I dunno how much of a saving that is. You tell me.
Archelon avatarArchelon
Community Question: Not strictly speaking video game-related, but screw it. Team Captain America or Team Iron Man?
ikiryou avatarikiryou
I want Just Cause 2 and Metal Gear Solid V + Peace Walker to fornicate together so we can have a beautiful big open world to blow up and/or fulton. Then I want to build an infinitely-sized base of soldiers, each with their own personalities and stats.
FlanxLycanth avatarFlanxLycanth
When SFV drops next year we gotta get some DTOID noob battles on, practice with online lag with friends, be really bad casuals together. We can call it Kanye Night Fights. #Swerve on FNF (just kidding...maybe).
more quickposts



Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -