Blueberry Garden is easily the most difficult to write about of any of the Finalists I’ve had a look at so far, and not just because it’s something that very much has to be experienced and not merely read about. It’s mainly because I’m not entirely sure what it’s about, what it’s trying to do, or why it’s so damned compelling. Blueberry Garden is, as I said in our interview with Erik Svedang, the game’s creator, an enigma.
There is somewhat of a basic premise to the game; you are a bowler-hatted man (who has some form on beak on his face) in a garden that is slowly filling up with water. The tap is very unreachable, so you must build a tower of various oversized objects to reach it and turn it off. Simple, right? Hardly. Of course, the various items you have to reach are very unreachable, and most require you to have the tower at a certain hieght before you can get to them. That’s all very well, but what you don’t really take into account is the rising water level, and the fact that there are things alive in this garden. Things that will happily eat up all the fruit you need to give you powers to let you reach the items which let you reach the tap which will save the garden. Pause for breath. Simple, right?
Perhaps I’m growing a little hyperbolic, but the game really does plunge you into the deep end. There are different types of fruits that give you abilities that enable you to get some of the more hard to reach objects, but you’re not told what abilities they give you, and after playing the game through 3 times I still don’t know what one variety does. Some of them are very obvious, and they work wonderfully within the garden, but it would have been nice to have it a little more obvious.
The garden certainly is a living organism, and while there are only two types of animal residing within it, they do affect how you play. The birds can become a nuisance as you fly around, and the little… I’ve got no idea what they are, but they multiply like crazy and eat up the plants with a voraciousness that’s startling, and mildly annoying. This, coupled with t he constant threat of rising water creates an environment that’s in constant flux between what would seem to be there naturally, and what is going to take over if you do nothing. The claustrophobia is enhanced by the fact the level is hemmed in by insurmountable walls, pushing across the feeling you’re hemmed in on all sides, and the only way to go is up.
Blueberry Garden is nominated for the Seumas McNally prize as well as Excellence in Audio, and for both it would seem to be a very strong contender. Daduk provides the score here, which only really kicks in when you start to fly, added an essence of drama to your actions that might not be there otherwise. It’s a sparse piano affair, fitting neatly into the neo-classical, but at the same time it meets the feel of the game; sparse beauty. Yes, the game would seem to be a doodle on the back of a notebook as far as aesthetics go, but the way it’s all put together make is something more.