We don't condone this, but this game may be better if you are not-so-sober. (It is. MUCH better.)
You can check out the above video to get a feel for what you are getting into. As the trailer claims, you can solve puzzles with a friend. Unfortunately, the second player is little more than along for the ride in co-op mode. To access it, simply push start on another controller when you are in the hub level. It is not exactly drop in/drop out, but it is pretty close. Couch co-op only, friends.
This isn't a fully realized co-op mode; as in games like 'Splosion Man, where there are actual co-op levels designed for multiple players. The UnderGarden simply offers an opportunity to play the single player campaign with a friend. The screen stays focused on Player 1. If Player 2 strays or falls behind, they just warp back to Player 1. There are a few opportunities where having a second player prevents having to make a second trip to gather more fruit, but it really doesn't add anything to the experience.
The level progress doesn't save for the second player, either. We played through the first few levels co-operatively, both with Xbox LIVE Gold accounts. Later, when the second player started up a game under their own account, none of the levels were unlocked, even though they could view their own completion scores for those levels. Online Leaderboards also have a co-op section for each level and overall score.
Aww. The baby demon spawn are wearing their Christmas colors.
There are two minor flaws that can become big annoyances. One is the camera. It zooms in and out on its own, sometimes giving an aggravating view. A player controlled zoom function would have been optimal. With the easy going nature of the game, and the lack of any ability to die, this is an irritating, but minor, issue.
The second gripe is for all of the completionists out there. As stated before, you are scored on the percentage of flowers pollinated. You can see your pollination progress in a meter at the bottom right of the screen. Nothing will ruin a nice relaxing tour of the UnderGarden like getting to the end of the level and realizing that you have missed some flower somewhere, and the levels get sizeable toward the end. A few don't allow for back tracking, either. Some would say "Relax, this adds replay value, you can float through again." To those people I would say, "Shut up, hippie. I bloom 100% or I don't bloom at all!" At least I would, if I wasn't so damn mellowed by the game.
I'd like to compare this game to one of the better 2D puzzle platformers that has come out recently, Limbo. Limbo was incredibly simple yet invoked a narrative and a feeling of loss and dread from a minimalist score and graphics that were little more than shadows. The UnderGarden is the anti-Limbo. No narrative develops, or is even offered. Where Limbo managed to set a dark and brooding mood, the UnderGarden is a light and fluffy affair, full of sound, color, and well...nothing. It is, however, good at what it does. It is a simple, relaxing experience that can appeal to many different types of gamers. It is a great game for the casual gamer, or the beginner, or for the hard core FPS player who simply needs a break from his latest knife kill streak. Float around with a friend to relieve some of the stress this holiday season. It will make you feel better, even if you don't know why.
The UnderGarden is available now on Xbox LIVE Arcade for 800 MSP, or on the PC for $9.99. It is coming Q1 2011 for the PSN.
The Co-Op Experience: Two players can team up locally to pollinate plants while listening to new age tunes.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.