The Undergarden is about as a confusing a game as the title implies. The actual playing part of The Undergarden experience isn’t so bizarre or confusing, it’s just how it is all presented to you. It’s a pretty game, and a relaxing game, but not an entirely rewarding game. It has a lot of interesting ideas, and can definitely be applauded for trying something new, but it won’t blow your mind.

The Undergarden quite literally drops you into the experience with no background information, narrative incentives, or motivations. You’re just there, or maybe a more appropriate phrase, in the case of this artistic gaming experiment would be to say, that you just are. You’re a colorful little floating thing, with horns that has the ability to grow flowers. The obvious connection, and the one you are expected to make, is that since you can grow flowers, then you must grow flowers.

What does it all mean?!
It’s a confusing experience getting dropped into the undergarden (I assume the game takes place in the “undergarden,” this is never officially clarified) but, it is a welcome confusion that has not been experienced since the absolutely brilliant LIMBO on the Xbox Live Arcade earlier this year. There easily could have been a back story in place to explain why these flowers must be grown, but those details are inconsequential. The details filled in by the player are likely going to be more interesting than what the developers could provide anyway.

Along with a dearth of details about the fiction of the undergarden, you also receive very little setup about how to play. Other that occasional bits of text that are written into the actual backgrounds of the game, you’re pretty much on your own. Th Undergarden is an experience of discovery, and it serves the game well. You have to figure everything out, and it adds to the limited reward of playing the game. To tell you what to do here in the review, almost counts as a spoiler, but you have been warned. Plus a little bit of initial understanding doesn’t hurt.


Spoiler alert! You have to grow flowers
As mentioned before, you have to grow flowers, and you do this by collecting pollen and putting yourself in close proximity to the budding blossoms. That’s about it. The challenge of the game, which may be too harsh a word to use, comes from opening up paths in the environment to get close to the difficult to reach flowers, and tracking down the hidden collectible items in the levels. You can find different colored and shaped horns, differnt colors for your creature and random accessories like top hats and mustaches. There are no elements of The Undergarden that are actually difficult, but it is very clear that this was an intentional choice by the developers.

The game is meant to be a simple, relaxing experience. The most difficult thing you will encounter, is figuring out the environmental puzzles. This sometimes involves placing bombs against breakable walls, or using items in your surrounding to raise and lower platforms and open doorways. There is no way to die, and really no way to fail. You can finish a level without doing anything if you want. The only thing you will miss out on is that always desirable 100% statistic detail on a level.

If looks could kill, then this game would be deadly
The game is gorgeous, has a great style, and watching flowers bloom is a mesmerizing sight to behold. The music of the game fits well into the mysterious underground world as well, and even offers players the ability to manipulate it to a small degree while playing the game. Throughout the caves you will come across musicians that will add layers to the already existing music. You can actually carry these musicians through the levels, and even couple them with other musicians to create increasingly layered tunes. It may be a product of gathering the many musicians in the game, or just the way the tracks are designed, but sometimes the music loops will shutter a bit as they restart. It’s a bit jarring to hear the music jump, especially when the sound and visuals make up such a large part of the The Undergarden experience.

Cooperative play is available in The Undergarden, and while it is a welcome feature, it isn’t one that particularly pushes the gameplay forward in any real way. Since the game was designed to be played by one player and there are no separate levels for when you have an additional player on board, so there are no specific opportunities for teamwork. It’s definitely a plus to have the second player option, but it really just creates a scenario where one of the players becomes an interactive spectator.


There is nothing to impede you from getting to the end of The Undergarden, and that really becomes the game’s biggest flaw. It’s a relaxing beautiful stroll through the under ground caves of this bizarre world, but it’s simply too relaxing. The game just comes off as boring because there is no real danger in place to reward your efforts. The Undergarden can certainly be described as an experience, and a beautiful interesting one at that, but as a game, it falls a bit short. It almost feels like a sandbox of pretty sounds and visuals that players can play around in, more than an actual game. In the end it is all just too simplistic, even if it is somewhat novel.

  • The game is beautiful
  • The somewhat interactive music is compelling
  • Cooperative play is a welcome feature, even if it is a bit unnecessary
  • There is a real sense of initial wonder when the game begins.
  • The game is boring
  • There is almost no incentive to get through the entire game
  • What the hell is an Undergarden?
Quote: "The Undergarden can certainly be described as an experience, and a beautiful interesting one at that, but as a game, it falls a bit short."
Reviewed by Kyle Hilliard | 11.17.10

Similar Games: Limbo (9.6)


The Undergarden


Vitamin G Studios


US Release
November '10


Xbox Live Arcade

Player 1
800 MS Points
220 MB