The meditative experience that is Cloud Gardens is, in a nutshell, an absolute joy. Despite it being the end of the world and all, there’s just something relaxing about engaging in a little bit of gardening in the midst of the apocalypse. Granted, the plants you nurture and grow aren’t exactly the most decorative, but the thing is that all that greenery just makes the dystopian wasteland more appealing.
In Cloud Gardens, you’re never quite sure what the actual story is, only that humans have seemingly gone from the world and all that’s survived are plants and the debris we’ve left behind. While random signage, abandoned cars, and empty bottles of beer don’t exactly paint such a positive image, the fact that plants have taken over somehow gives you a sense of contentment - and it’s really humbling to see how, even after humans have gone, the world will keep on spinning. Someone said once that the world lives in spite of us, and it’s never been truer here.
The gameplay is pretty simple, made even more low-key by the low-poly graphics and the super chill music in the background. With each level or stage, you’re presented with a diorama-esque set-up where you figure out the right placement of junk to help plants grow. You’ll start out with some meager seeds, but each time you successfully nurture your plants - with a well-placed wheel here and a fence for the plants to crawl onto there - you can harvest flowers for more seeds. Eventually, you’ll have a whole arsenal of seeds at your disposal.
Someone said once that the world lives in spite of us, and it’s never been truer here.
Successfully clearing each stage rewards you with cool items you can use in the game’s Creative mode, just in case you want to unleash the artistic gardener in you. You can also make use of tools like a vacuum cleaner and even a chainsaw to decorate your dioramas as you see fit.
And that’s it, really. The whole point here is to sit back, relax, and do a little gardening amid the soft color tones and the music serenading you in the background. I can’t tell you how much the game hypnotized me with each playthrough, me clicking here and there until hours have passed with me in a complete daze. I’ve never been particularly good at gardening in real life, but here, you don’t need a green thumb to make your little garden thrive.
To say that the game is breathtaking is an understatement - it’s simply proof that you don’t need overly complicated mechanics or top-notch graphics to make a really good game. It does encourage you to tell your own story somehow via your dioramas, and with each stage, you’ll be left wondering about the lives of those who could have gone that same way. What happened to the humans here? Who was the owner of this random radiator? Did they ever make it out of there safely? Where are they now, and did they somehow find peace?
There are many, many, many levels to complete here, and it might get tedious after a while of the same thing over and over again. But the idea really isn’t to race to finish everything as soon as you can. It’s a game that encourages you to slow down, to revel in the moment, to find meaning in each random vine even if the picture itself tells a very lonely story.
Cloud Gardens | Final Thoughts
Overall, Cloud Gardens is a wistful journey that paints the apocalypse in a sad but very hopeful light. Despite the lack of human activity, the whole thing is never static - each still image is somehow alive, and the longer you stay in each stage, the longer it’ll make you brood about a lone plastic chair and succumb to an existential crisis. You’re never quite sure how the world ended here - zombies, nuclear blast, or maybe even a pandemic - but if this is how Mother Nature will move on long after we’re gone, then maybe the end of the world isn’t so bad.
TechRaptor reviewed Cloud Gardens on Steam with a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S.
- Breathtaking Dioramas
- Beautiful Emotional Score
- Meditative Gameplay
- Some Gamers Might Find It Boring
- There’s No Real Story Or End Goal Here