Stop me if you’ve heard this one, it’s a PSN game where you float around and make flowers bloom. Oh, sorry, you know that one? Ok what if he floats around in water on a 2D plane and tethers objects and little men to himself to open pathways? Oh they have that too. Well what if you play as a terrifying little monster that looks like he walked out of a Guillermo Del Toro film and has way less polished physics and visuals than those games? Ok, then you have The Undergarden.
After collecting pollen, your hideous little monster swims around underwater caves and rubs himself all over the walls like an 8-year-old who just discovered his peepee and still isn’t sure what it does yet, he just knows the fridge door is cold and it feels good. While traversing through what feels like a thousand levels that all look exactly the same, he will pick up items like fruit, bombs and tinier horrifying creatures that play instruments. Sometimes these items serve a purpose, but they usually don’t.
The Undergarden is a “puzzle” game. I put puzzle in quotes because it doesn’t actually have any puzzles in it. The deepest a “puzzle” gets is “drop a thing onto another thing.” Usually this involves a heavy fruit to weigh down a button or a floating fruit to lift a button. Later on, new types of fruit are introduced but they all essentially serve the same purpose, to be dropped onto something. Many of the puzzles involving physics can be forced through. Your little monster’s boost is strong enough to push buttons down or move doors that should require other fruit.
In fact, many of the “puzzles” in the game can be completely ignored. “Puzzles” can be manipulated by force and sometimes the game will actually provide an alternate path that completely bypasses the “puzzle” altogether. Once the game started to really bore and annoy me, I decided to try an experiment. I wanted to see how far I could get while exerting as little effort as possible. I was actually able to fly through a good portion of the stages in under 3-4 minutes. You don’t even really need to pay attention. When given the choice of multiple paths they’ll all lead to the same place, and if they don’t, a current running through the water will push you through to the end. The MOST thought I had to put into a puzzle was, “Oh there’s a wall I need to explode/fog I need to move. There must have been a bomb/lamp five feet behind me.” And there was. EVERY. TIME.
Sometimes you’ll need to do one of the unnecessary “puzzles” to get an item, but it’s just to get 100% completion. Very little of the “puzzles” are required to advance. The game is a complete collect-a-thon in the worst way. I was actually trying to 100% the levels for quite some time. I’d pick up all the right fruit and the musician creatures, but it got too annoying. They tether to your body like in PixelJunk Shooter and swing about you like a quadriplegic octopus (octoplegic?). Items will get in your way as you try and squeeze through tunnels and get stuck around corners and rocks, flinging you backward like a bungie cord. More than a few times a necessary item would get stuck under a rock and I’d have to restart the level because I couldn’t wedge myself under the object. I even got myself stuck in a few places that I shouldn’t have been able to reach. The game just completely lacks polish, especially the physics. Some objects that should float would drop like a rock and vice versa.
There is a checkpoint system in the levels, but the risk is so low that it’s nearly unnecessary, your character doesn’t even die. There is absolutely no risk in this game as you just tool along accomplishing nothing and solving simplistic “puzzles.” The only time it does come in handy is when you get stuck, but the checkpoint doesn’t rewind time. It just teleports you back to where it is, leaving all your items where you were. Retrieving lost items can be very frustrating because the camera is so pulled out that all the neon colors and generic level design kind of blend together. I hope you’re playing this on a 50-inch HDTV or you’ll be doing a lot of squinting.
When trying to focus on the good things about this game I could only come up with two. There is an achievement called “Someone Set Us Up the Bomb” (thought that’s a misquote, derp) and one of the unlockable costumes is a top hat and mustache. It also changes your boost stream into a cloud of money. There’s no monocle, though. What the f*ck?
When many people think of download games they imagine uninspired, soulless, effortless shovelware that was pooped out to make a buck. Games like The Undergarden are why. It’s not worth playing and most certainly not worth ten dollars. If this game looks even remotely interesting to you, there are plenty of games on the PSN that do everything this game tries but way better. Check out PixelJunk Shooter, PixelJunk Eden and Flower. Give those a try, but skip The Undergarden.