If there's one thing that Indie games have in common, it's the fact that they have absolutely nothing in common. This means that when you sit down and open up a brand new title produced, written and drawn entirely by one man, as a rule you cannot be sure what to expect.
And that's a huge appeal to indie gamers. We've all at least seen Skyrim footage, and maybe pootled about on Call of Duty or made high-pitched whining noises until our housemates stopped playing FIFA. As gamers, we all have a certain knowledge of mainstream games in common. We can hammer off a definition of 'shooter' or summarise the basic plot to every dungeon crawler, and we can scoff into our expensive multicoloured LED keyboards when someone asks us what a 'mumorpuguh' is. Defining the key gameplay aspects of an indie game, however, is much more difficult - nay, impossible.
So when I hit on Blueberry Garden, I made a point of not looking anything up before opening the game, so everything was a surprise. I didn't know whether I would be murdering aliens with an assault rifle, or uniting the land in a revolution against the Empire. And, of course, none of that happened.
The game is cute. As a young lady who spends most of her current time virtually sighting down sniper rifles and rousing the other residents of her home at 3am to the fervent cries of 'headshot!', a cute game was a fairly welcome change.
You play as a flappy duck-man in a trilby who just has no clue what's going on, so around and around he flaps, exploring every hard-to-reach crevise and cranny of the surreal platform world and occasionally happening upon strange animals, fruit with magical powers, or random household objects. Sold yet? You will be when I tell you that there's a species of moose with sunglasses on. But you'll have to find them yourselves.
When I settled into the controls - having to use the arrows keys instead of the now-standard WASD set-up was a bit disorientating for my poor gamer hands - I was wooed by the idea of a no-pressure exploration game. I could take all the time that I wanted to see which fruit did what to my flappy duck-man, and find different ways to change the terrain, throw birds at passing marshmallows, or plant trees.
But, no. Actually, in Blueberry Garden you're on a strict time limit, and it takes you a while to cotton onto the fact that despite the tinkling introspective music and the whimsical fedora, you are all going to die if you don't complete the game as quickly as possible.
So, after I watched flappy duck-man not really mind about his inevitable and fairly slow death, I started again with a new grasp of the objectives and controls, and this time I was off; no time to mess around with the moose or the marshmallows. I had a garden to save.
Unlike any other game I've played recently, I was actually rewarded for completing this game. Svedang includes a URL and a password after you have completed everything there is to do. It was lovely to feel as though I was part of a special club: those who had spent enough time on this man's creation to deserve a pass into a corner of the internet that not many other people would ever see.
So, in the end: the game is nice. There's not really much else to say. I hardly wanted to scream in frustration at all, and that is a wonderful change of pace for a gamer. I believe that this creation is more suited to casual gamers, though, as they are less likely to be incensed at the idea of a game that lasts absolutely no more than an hour. The music is pleasant enough, but oddly sporadic, meaning there are weird stretches of fuzzy silence. The Easter Eggs are good for a smile, but if you play the game wrong you will have to watch as the moose and the marshmallows die a slow, totally apathetic death.
If you're a fan of the genre - though we've already established that 'the genre' can't really mean much in this case - there are, regrettably, better games out there, with more satisfying and clear objectives, or with more attractive scenery.
Blueberry Garden is...nice. Worth an hour of your time, but nothing that will creep into your dreams at night.
Want to try out Blueberry Garden for yourself? Good news, we have a digital copy (PC version) to give away! To enter, all you need to do is answer the following question:
What's your favourite unusual indie game? Let us know in the comments below to enter!
Giveaway is closed!