Some games are about fighting demons with massive swords, some games are about gunning down bad dudes, and some games are about growing plants. As much as I enjoy high octane gameplay and a test of my skill, sometimes I just want to unwind with a video game. They don’t come much more relaxing than Cloud Gardens, a game about taking the world back from ugly man made sculptures.
Each stage of Cloud Gardens is a floating island with remnants of humanity cluttering it, and your task is to plant seeds and let the green run wild. There’s no sign of life in these little dioramas, only empty but familiar places. Whether you’re in an abandoned car park or a stretch of road, it’s nice to see life find a way in this desolate world.
It’s probably quite obvious that Cloud Gardens is a pretty Zen experience already, but I should describe how the game works. When you arrive at a floaty level, you’re given a number of seeds to plant. Once you pick a suitable spot to pop a seed, you’re given a pile of objects to place around the world. These could be anything from road signs to garden gnomes, but it’s important to place them because your plants only grow when you place one of these “decorations” into the level.
Once a plant has grown enough, it’ll start producing seeds. By collecting enough seeds you’ll be able to plant another bit of greenery and the cycle begins anew. This might sound easy, but placing objects in the cramped stages of Cloud Gardens without accidentally destroying the plants you’re trying to grow can be a tough task. There’s a percentage counter in the bottom corner of the screen, and once nature has sufficiently taken over you’ll be able to move on to the next stage.
To make the flowery takeover of the world a bit easier, you’ll slowly unlock more and more seeds as you progress through Cloud Gardens. Each of these grows better in certain situations, and should be placed accordingly. Ivy is fantastic if it has some mesh to cling onto, whereas cacti are happy in the dirt. By the end of the game you’ll have a vast selection of flora to pick from, all with their own strengths and weaknesses.
Perhaps the most enjoyable part of Cloud Gardens is the creative mode, especially when you’ve unlocked a vast array of objects and seeds (or if you choose to unlock everything in the menus). Creative mode lets you place plants and items wherever you want, to create whatever glorious scene your heart desires. It’s a really relaxing experience creating your own little green paradise, and if you’re anything like me doing so will fill up your storage with screenshots very quickly.
There’s something about the lo-fi aesthetic of Cloud Gardens that just looks gorgeous. Watching colourful flowers bloom and vibrant mushrooms take hold in this desolate environment is nothing short of beautiful, and really makes the game worth experiencing.
As wonderful as it looks though, there’s no denying that as you progress through the game it starts to feel a bit tedious. With close to a hundred levels and very little changing in terms of the core objective, it doesn’t take long to realise you’ve seen everything you’re going to see. The new plants just don’t do enough to change things up, and in the end you’ll just be stacking the same items again and again until you can move onto the next stage.
Cloud Gardens is a lovely zen experience that’ll make you hit that screenshot button more times than is healthy. Growing plants and watching life spring back into this dusty world is delightful, but the actual gameplay gets old fast. If you want something relaxing to play for thirty minutes before bed you could do much worse, but don’t expect lengthy sessions and gripping gameplay from this post apocalyptic plant growing simulator.
Creative mode is a screenshot dream
Get very repetitive very quickly
Not enough variety in your objective