The lights are on
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While the majority of the gaming world drools and/or fumes over the PS4 and XBO, I continue my quest to find smaller, cheaper experiences. This week's featured game is a side scrolling survival game called Under The Garden.
Under The Garden's strongest aspect is it's simplicity. There are no complex systems to get weighed down by, no crazy crafting, no screen full of stats or HUD packed to the brim with information. Stay away from shelter and fire for too long and it's game over. Fall in water several times and you're not going to be moving so fast anymore. There are no frills, everything is right in your face, but that's what I love about it.
Stripping away the often complex trappings of the survival genre allows focus to center back on playing the game and making progress. The stress is there, falling in water or braving the elements is legitimately dangerous, but the associated tedium is gone. The inventory is small and it's as easy to manage as dragging and dropping items. Constructing takes a similar approach, doing away with sifting through materials as in Minecraft or Terraria. The blue bar at the bottom of the screen neatly rounds out the system simplification, combining health, hunger, exposure, and pretty much every other traditionally depleting resource.
Under The Garden isn't without a few problems in spite of its bare-bones approach though. Jumping about the areas is a little finicky and inaccurate thanks to a character that rises and falls a bit too fast. I would have preferred a slightly more floaty jump, but got the impression that the quick motion was purposeful. It is still a survival game after all, being able to get around too easily would ruin a bit of the fun. The same simplicity that does wonders for presentation also makes the gameplay loop fairly small. If you don't enjoy just wandering through game worlds then Under The Garden probably isn't going to grab you, but it's still worth checking out. With all that said, it's hard to complain about little competition games that turn out this well.
Under The Garden is available for free on creator Paul Greasley's website. Just check the list of games to the right of the page and click the image to download yourself a copy. A more robust sequel, called Under The Ocean, is currently in alpha and available as an "Early Access" game through Steam.
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