Developer: Noio Games
Publisher: Noio Games
Genre: Simulation, Sandbox, Casual
Age Rating: Everyone
Release Date: 09/09/2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
Life Finds A Way
Pictures of abandoned buildings reclaimed by nature have always fascinated me, and I find them strangely aesthetically pleasing. Clips of Chernobyl in documentaries for example, where wild deer and wolves roam the empty streets and greens vines eat up the grey concrete of skyscrapers.
Immediately upon looking at the store page for Cloud Gardens, this atmosphere jumped out at you. On Steam, the devs have described the game as “an experimental project, somewhere on the line between a game and an interactive toy.” It’s relaxing, it’s satisfying, and it’s just what we need in this stressful time.
Nature Taking Back the Earth
There are two modes in Cloud Gardens, the first being the campaign with a more linear structure. Starting off with a small platform and one or two plants, you are not told the objective of passing the level, but rather you discover it yourself. Through trial and error, you learn that you must plant the seeds and watch them grow. The more they grow, the more the meter to the left fills up, spacing the plants to cover all of the platform. Fill it all, and you can move onto the next level!
However, it’s not as easy as that. You must also place objects which help the plants to grow; each level gives you a certain amount of items, so if you run out of items and haven’t filled the meter, you must restart. Be careful not to crush your plants with items though! Like an urban Jenga, you must find the best way to balance the objects. As a helping hand, the plants produce flowers or fruit which fill a machine to your right, and collecting a couple produce a whole new seed for you to plant.
Progressing through the levels takes you to new themed stages, unlocks new plants and spawns larger platforms or buildings. It was a bit different to have to work out what to do yourself, and this may be frustrating to same people, but I personally enjoyed discovering it myself! The process of planting and watching everything grow was so pleasing that I didn’t mind doing it again.
Straightening Out the Bugs
As you might expect from an early access game, I encountered quite a few bugs. Seeds spawned from the machine would fly off the screen, leaving me unable to complete the level. Sometimes items would stop spawning too, also meaning I couldn’t grow my plants and finish the objective. Clipping can be quite an issue too. However, the devs have done an excellent job of addressing these and noting players’ input through the Cloud Gardens Discord!
It was a joy to see the UI develop throughout my time playing, and seeing updates putting into effect what was discussed in the Discord. The devs have been super friendly, complimenting our creations and letting us know what they’re working on, or what will be hard to implement.
The controls overall are relatively simple, easy for any age to pick up. To place seeds and items, simply click and drag them onto where you want them to go. Use the mouse to move the camera and the scroll to rotate objects. Escape brings up the menu and the space bar the photo mode, though I think this needs to be clearer as I wasn’t sure how to access it at first. A quick message in the Discord and my question was answered though!
An Apocalyptic Atmosphere
Speaking of photo mode, Cloud Gardens is just the perfect game to test your photography skills. The low poly graphics are simple yet effective with the amount of items and plants, and I didn’t experience any lag despite this large amount of content on the screen. The colours are soft and the fog adds to the atmosphere of a humanless world left for time to ravage it.
The soundtrack is also full of ambient sounds, creating an almost melancholic experience. Yet, it is so relaxing and the perfect companion. At times I was starting to drop off while I played in the evenings, and I mean that in the best way!
My favourite features about the photo mode were the ability to change the background filter, and the grow animation for recording videos. Filters could take a screenshot from a muted and calm sunset casting a pink gloss over your scene, to creating a gloomy, creepy atmosphere with fog and shadows. As for the grow animation, need I say more?
The other mode in Cloud Gardens is sandbox mode, perfect for using photo mode with to share your creations. Using the props you unlock throughout the game, you can choose a platform size and terrain and away you go! The large platform is still quite small and restrictive, so it would be nice to see bigger areas. However, it is possible to get around it by using building items; some creations people have made are insane! Just take a look at the Cloud Gardens Instagram.
There are some bugs in sandbox, such as props not unlocking after playing all of the levels, but again, this is expected in early access and is being worked on. It can also be a little tricky to place items where you want, and I found it a little frustrating that you couldn’t remove specific items if you decided you didn’t like it at the end. There is an undo button, but it would be nice to be able to click on just one object to delete instead of undoing all of your hard work.
Let It Grow
Overall, Cloud Gardens has so much potential and I’m loving it. It’s ideal for hopping on to play with when you want to chill and create plant magic. Though currently there aren’t an awful lot of levels, we have been given a sneak peek at Greenhouse stages and more coming soon. I’m sure stages could keep being added for a while too, and you can always replay levels to go from a different angle, increasing the replayability of Cloud Gardens.
There is an opportunity for so many props and plants, and I’m excited to see where it goes. I have to judge it from an early access point of view, but I can see my rating increasing over time for sure! For its price too, what is stopping you from picking it up?