Genre(s): Simulation, Lifestyle, Sandbox
Platform: Nintendo Switch, PC
Age Rating: PEGI 3
Release Date: May 12th 2022
A code was provided for review purposes
On a clear crisp Summer’s day, I like to be outside pottering around in the garden. Tending to plants and weeding brings a sense of tranquillity to what might have been a long week at work. When I saw Cloud Gardens was available to review, I was keen to extend my green fingers to the gaming world. Let’s dive straight in.
Cloud Gardens doesn’t tick your typical apocalypse-style game. Think less carnage and more calming abandonment. In fact, being a sandbox, point-and-click game, you have the entire world to yourself. Just you and the whisper of crows, creating beautiful daydreams surrounded by trellising blossom and Monstera vines.
The game itself has two modes; level by level, or complete freedom in open creative mode. Both modes concentrate on reviving the earth, once plants are left to their own devices. Our job as beholders of the seedlings is to place both seeds and items in suitable locations to enhance the growth of the plants. Collecting propagations along the way to encourage healthy growing plants.
Sandbox games are known for being more of a calmer game compared to other puzzle styles. The freedom that comes with being in charge, gives the player the chance to fully dive into the game and assess every angle while taking their time with each level they experience. Cloud Gardens supports freedom, with soft music and quiet chimes of trolleys nudging. The sweet noise of a wistful breeze soothes the air, with the overall soundtrack creating the ideal soundscape for a world revived by plants.
A reserved selection of graphics is more than enough for leisured gameplay, as you are immersed in a world of minimisation. One-man band developer Noio, known as Thomas Van Den Berg, has excelled in creating a blissful environment, without overloading colour and background information.
Creating a calmer game is challenging as you need the right structure through audio and visuals, but Noio resisted the urge to overwhelm the game with more than it needed.
In every supermarket, you usually find a selection of fruit and veg not good enough for the higher paying customers. You take a glance at the wonky selection or reduced items, but they are always just starting to go off or secrete a slight stench in the aisles. Like every leftover selection, Cloud Gardens has its own selection of wonky characteristics. The playthrough itself, while enjoyable, is hardly hours of fun. It’s repetitive, with each level, looking similar to the last. The creative input the user can have doesn’t venture far, thus, you quickly become a master at set reproduction.
I also want to take a moment to highlight the clunky controls of this game on the switch. As I have not played the PC version, I have nothing to directly compare it to, but the Switch controls for enabling the camera movements are a complete pain. It caused immense frustration and were not comfortable with what you are doing. The great thing about the Switch is that it does come with a lot of control options, which I think some games try and match by attempting to use all buttons. A simple game needs simple controls. Or at least the main controls to be few and far between. Having to use a random button every now and then for the info I can understand but having to use all buttons at every level, creates more of a chore than necessary.
The game also provided a few bugs during gameplay. More often or not the game would get stuck while I was levelling up and the percentage of completion wouldn’t move. In order to resolve this, I would have to restart the level, which was nothing major, but it is a bit of a faff as the levels do take some time. Taking a glance at others online, it appears this has been a regular bugging feature.
Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining
Cloud Gardens brings peace and tranquillity in a form of floral escapism. It provides every gamer with the breath of fresh air to just be in the moment and appreciate the world for its natural amenities.
A game that encapsulates our worst-case scenario as a human race – an apocalypse – and turns it into beauty is a game to be admired. Despite a few rain clouds, this luscious sandbox provides entertainment for the masses. I’m glad I got to experience this game and so should you.
Rapid Reviews Rating
3.5 out of 5
You can purchase Cloud Gardens on the Nintendo store here.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.