Cloud Gardens has just come out in Early Access, and what an absolute joy it is to play. Not that it’s a game, as such. Well, it is a game, but it’s more about sculpture. Let me explain.
You’re presented with a little urban diorama filled with human detritus, like, say, broken TVs and a knackered old car. Then you’re given a seed – a wisteria seed to start with, then later seeds for things like cacti and mosses. After you plop the seed onto the landscape, you’re given more rubbish to place, rubbish which has the magical property of making plants grow if you place it near a seed. Once your plants have grown sufficiently big enough thanks to all that mystical garbage energy, they’ll start putting out flowers, which you can harvest for more seeds. And after you have covered enough of the urban blight with beautiful foliage, you’re given the option to move on to the next diorama and do it all over again.
And that’s pretty much it. The only real challenge is arranging the rubbish you’re given in an efficient way to propagate the seeds – run out of rubbish and you’re prompted to restart the level. It’s fantastically simple, but also wonderfully compelling – and before I knew it, four hours had flown by without me noticing.
Like Hardspace: Shipbreaker, it’s a game that can easily generate a flow state whereby the passage of time seems to be suspended. But unlike that game, it’s supremely relaxing thanks to the lack of a time limit or any other real objectives. It’s just about making a lovely garden.
Along with Townscaper, Cloud Gardens proves there is amazing scope for making games with the sole goal of creating something beautiful to look at. And considering how compelling it is, I expect to see many more games follow in its footsteps.
Cloud Gardens is out now in Early Access, and the developer Noio Games (aka Thomas van den Berg) estimates a full release in around three months’ time.
Disclosure statement: Early Access code for Cloud Gardens was provided by Future Friends Games. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.
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