At this year’s Game Developers Conference, two trends in indie games were evident. At the Experimental Gameplay Session, curated by Braid designer Jonathan Blow, creators pushed game development to dizzying new heights, turning shadows into substance, moving through time, and exploring the fourth physical dimension. But over at the Independent Games Festival, the grand-prize winner was much quainter: a quizzical little 2D platformer named Blueberry Garden, by Swedish developer Erik Svedäng.
Explaining what the game is about would ruin it. The chief appeal lies in moseying through the titular garden, mingling with the flora and fauna, and puzzling over how the doors, caverns, and oversized objects work—or even what they’re for in the first place. It’s a short game that doesn’t take long to master, although mastery isn’t the point. Where so many puzzle-platformers—like Braid, Closure, or even Puzzle Farter—start with a clever mechanic and build from there, Blueberry Garden barely even has puzzles. With only one map, the game barely explores its simple set of concepts. And the flashes of wonder—including the ending—are surreal, but not really purposeful.
Yet the sense of place is compelling. The game’s surprises are pleasant and genuine, and the visual design is undeniably charming. And while it doesn’t push platforming in a whole new direction, the gameplay has its quirks: This is one of the only keyboard-driven games to find a good use for the “Home” key.
Beyond the game: Beating the game takes about an hour. Then you’re invited to hang out on the “I Beat Blueberry Garden” page at Svedäng’s website.
Worth playing for: Protagonist Mr. Beak has an inept flying style that seems totally hopeless, like a rag doll on a clothesline. When he gets the job done, it’s tempting to applaud.
Frustration sets in when: Though Blueberry Garden is short, a save feature would’ve come in handy.
Final judgment: With the indie scene’s biggest award under its belt, the simple Blueberry Garden may make you wonder “What’s the fuss?” But take it at its own pace, and it’ll give you a soothing surprise.
Buy Now link: http://store.steampowered.com/app/29160/