Reviews

June 27, 2009

Crush! Frag! Review! – Blueberry Garden

blueberrylogo_0Reviewing a game that rests narration squarely on the shoulders of the player is no easy task. Nor is it easy to discuss a game wherein the discovery of the world around you is the fundamental component. How can I possibly hope to convey my feelings and reactions to a game like this without altering the perception of others who may play the game after reading this piece?

Simply put… I can’t. So perhaps it’s best not to think of this as a review so much as a look at some of the broader strokes that make Blueberry Garden the game it is.

As I previously mentioned, one of the key elements of Blueberry Garden is the world in which the player interacts. In fact, the game really consists of two characters; the player-controlled avatar, and the Garden itself. As the game progresses, the world changes, in reaction both to you and to elements outside of your control. Much like a Metroid or Castlevania game, more of the world becomes available as you play, however, unlike those games, Blueberry Garden performs the task so seamlessly, you won’t even notice.

blueberry1

Based on early concept art from 2006 and 2007, it appears that the Garden was, at one point, vastly larger and featured more intricately connected parts. I asked the creator of Blueberry Garden, Erik Svedäng, if the smaller final product was due to technical limitation, or a result of creative choice. He commented that:

“Like all creative work it was something that evolved and changed a lot. I really tried to streamline the idea and not make it too large, only keeping the central parts of it. In that way I could explore the things I wanted, like storytelling and ecosystems, without getting bogged down in details and adding a huge amount of content to the game.”

blueberry2

Interesting, too, is the realization of the game’s ultimate goal. In my first play through, I remained oblivious to what was going on around me until, tragically, it was too late. Of course, when I played again, I knew my purpose, and set out with intent. At first, I thought myself somehow flawed for having missed some of the (now) more obvious clues. However, I later saw Svedäng comment that he believes his game is meant to be played twice. I thought about this statement, and how it reflected my own experiences. I spent one session learning the rules and concepts of the Garden, and my next session applying those understandings towards a focused endeavor.

I’d be certifiably insane if I didn’t pause to make mention of the game’s limited yet haunting score. Daduk’s piano playing perfectly reflects the Garden’s fine line between wonder and tension. His collection of songs, which features several from the game proper, can be found here. When I spoke with Svedäng, he mentioned that he spent a lot of time thinking about the music for the game, but was inspired by a “lonesome piano” he heard at the end of a song. He searched the internet in order to find the perfect composition to compliment his game, and I’d say he succeeded with Daduk’s work.

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When I realized the story was kinda Messias-like I tried
to emphasize that in some ways.
” – Svedäng on his inspiration

I could go on into the minutia of the game mechanics or even decry some of the little technical issues here and there, but it would be a disservice to Blueberry Garden. Resting somewhere between “adventure” and “puzzle,” the game is an experience that is best left unspoiled. Is $5 too much to ask for an hour that you will be thinking about for the next few days, if not weeks? Well, I’ve certainly spent $5 on worse.

—————

RecommendedThings We Liked: Sense of wonder. Entirely subjective experience. Excellent music.

Things We Disliked: Few little bugs which remove one from the experience.

Target Audience: Anyone with a vibrant imagination. Fans of independent works.

(Blueberry Garden – Available for PC on Steam. New to CFD’s reviews? Read our explanation here.)






2 Comments


  1. NdIGiTy

    For me it’s the little things in the game that bring the most satisfaction, namely the implementation of various items strewn about in the Garden, i.e., fruits and nuts that initially only seem like another part of the simple aesthetic. The game gives subtle encouragement to experiment with the items by teaching the player how to interact with them, and then letting them loose.

    Like you said Scott, the Garden itself is every bit as alive and dynamic as the player. Trees and plants themselves will often change depending on the availability and type of fruit in the area, and the ground itself shifts when subjected to certain terrain-deforming items.

    Other things, like the moody piano music that arises softly as you take to the sky, make me think that this is something that I could potentially come back to every once in a while, when I crave something simple, yet engaging.


  2. I want to check out this game but it’s on Steam. Sadly, it’s a 50-50 chance my computer and Steam will work together. I’ve bought a few games that I can run according to the specs but I get a “that game is not available” comment when I try to play it. Their support has been of no help either…so it’ll have to wait for the future, when either the problem gets ironed out or I get a new computer.

    Sucks though, I really want to play this.



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