Cloud Garden is a puzzle game and growing plants in an apocalyptic wasteland in the clouds. It was developed by one-man development team Noio, also known as Thomas Van Der Berg.
He’s described Cloud Garden as a ‘chill game’ and that is a fairly suitable description. While some games can get us pumped for action or suspense, Cloud Garden is calm and relaxing. It’s the kind of game you play when you want to destress. It’s a slow, take your time kinda game with a quiet and peaceful atmosphere.
The premise of Cloud Garden is simple and to the point, in fact, that game doesn’t really have a plot. In a seemingly post-apocalyptic city floating in the clouds, you have to plant seeds to grow vine-like plants over a series of urban structures like cars or road poles. You start with just a seed and some items like bottles or road signs, which the plants can grow over and use to further expand. You get a limited number of items at the start of the level and must figure out how to use them in order to grow the plant before you run out.
The goal is to completely grow your plant to 100%, indicated by a dial in the left-hand corner, using the available resources. If you end up using all of your items without fully growing the plant, no worries, the game gives you the option to reset from the start of the stage with your original seed. If you win, on to the next stage to try with a new plant.
The Visuals and Sound
The game has a ‘lo-fi’ atmosphere which is reflected in its music in visuals. The game has a very minimalistic approach. There’s pretty much nothing outside of the little floating hunk of urban rubble for your to grow your plants on. It’s an interesting apocalyptic aesthetic as it doesn’t feel dark or gloomy. There’s a theme of nature retaking the destroyed old concrete world which gives it a refreshing tone. The serene music and sound effect help making it reminiscent of being in a spa or a zen garden.
With this in mind, there’s nothing really to worry about in the game in terms of winning or losing. You just keep trying to get your plant to grow.
The Gameplay and Performance
The game itself is very easy to control and get into. Just drag the seed to where you want to plant it and then drag the items. As the plant grows, it’ll create more seeds which you can then place down to further grow the plant. It can however be slightly confusing with how the plants grow.
The initial idea you get is that the seed will grow over the items you place down. Like if you place a sign next to the plant, the plant will grow over the sign. However, whether the item makes the plant grow feels almost random. Some will make them grow and others will do the minimum.
I initially wondered if certain items made the plant react in a certain way but that wasn’t the case as items didn’t always make the plant grow in the same way. Then, I thought it was based more on the position of the item on the map but there were some items I placed quite far away from the plant and it still grew.
It’s not very clear and would be nice if it was better explained. You could say that over-explaining will go against the game’s minimalist nature and the fact that it is a puzzle game but I think it’s more important that players understand the basic mechanics of what the game wants them to do rather than rely too much on trial and error.
The game could also be occasionally janky. I was playing the game on my MacBook which has the recommended specs for the game. While it usually ran smooth, there was the occasional chugging once or twice. I don’t think it ruins the game but it is something that could do with polishing if the game receives further updates.
Cloud Garden’s main campaign is pretty short. You can likely beat it in about 1-2 hours however the game also features a Creative Mode. This gives the player a catalog of items and objects to grow your own cloud garden. For example, you can put down an Xbox fridge with a steel girder on top and grow the plants from there. You unlock more items and seeds as you play through the campaign so it is recommended that you get through those stages first.
The little gardens you can make can be pretty beautiful and I can see someone getting absorbed into making their own Cloud Garden diorama which can then be shared online. My creations weren’t the best but I’ve seen some truly imaginative pieces from the community.
While creative types may get something out of this, I’d still say the game is pretty short. It was obviously made this way though. Cloud Garden was meant to be the next big adventure game, it’s the kind of game you put on every now and then to relax kind of like Animal Crossing in a way. Just go in, fool around with the pretty plants and go out again.
Cloud Garden is very good at accomplishing what it set out to do. It’s a relaxing puzzle game about making a nice little garden out of an apocalyptic wasteland. Its minimalist visuals and music do a great job at conveying this. It is slightly let down but it’s somewhat unexplained mechanics and short run time however it definitely is one acquired taste. Certain people will get more out of a game like this than others.
I do think that $17.99 USD may be a bit much to ask since it doesn’t feature much content but I think if you are the type of person that likes to create and would like a game that you can come back from the day and unwind to, this may be right for you.
- Relaxing atmosphere and gameplay
- Lots of room for creativity
- Minimalist visuals and music help set the tone
- Mechanics could be better explained
- Price might be bit much for the content on offer.