Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Who's That Hiding Under There

A new review of mine is up at Joystiq. It's of Artech's curious new downloadable game The UnderGarden, with which I was less than impressed. It's my first review for Joystiq, and I'm excited to get to do some writing for them—thanks to Justin McElroy for the gig, as well as for his gentle, effective editation.

The UnderGarden is one of a certain kind of game, let's call them "Wanderers." Wanderers don't exude a clear purpose or designer intent; they simply are. They're usually put out by a larger publisher (in this case Atari), they're often downloadable, they work well enough and are compatible with your hardware and generally don't cost too much. And yet still the question remains—why does this game exist? Is someone out there making a profound statement with The UnderGarden and I just missed it?

It's possible. At least, it's possible that many folks won't find anything particularly offensive about The UnderGarden. In fact, it feels like inoffensiveness may be the whole point.

I certainly don't think that every game must make a deep, artistic statement in order to succeed, but as I played The UnderGarden I couldn't shake the feeling that the designers were attempting to nudge me into having a profound experience when they hadn't actually created one. And more than that, the soundtrack grates and the game just doesn't feel very good to play. It's floaty and free, sure, but it lacks a distinct touch, a joy-of-motion that is paramount for a zen-game (or "vibe-game" or whatever you want to call it) to succeed.

At any rate, read my review, if ya like. And if you've had a chance to play the game or the demo, I'd be interested to hear what you thought of it.
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