Post-apocalyptic worlds are notoriously strewn with loads of junk, often surrounded by vibrant plants that have overcome the trash and continue to repopulate an otherwise empty world. Often, this sort of setting lends itself well to horror games and their scary worlds, but Cloud Gardens takes that idea and environment and instead of creating something horrific, allows you to create interesting dioramas.
Cloud Gardens is a relaxing sort of game where you are given a small scene to work within. This area normally just has some ground, scaffolding, and dim lighting. You can then pick up giant seed pods and plant them. Once you have your initial seed planted, you must start adding junk from a little bubble into the area, which will affect the plants around them. When your environment is covered in enough plants, you will then be able to start the next scene.
The game itself is pretty easy and simple to understand, giving you only a handful of objects to start out with, and one type of plant. Once your plant is fully grown, it will start producing pink pods when you add junk around it, which you can then harvest to plant more pods. The only issue you might come into is when objects you place in the world topple onto the plants, destroying them and your progress on the screen itself.
Some of the scenes in Cloud Gardens are huge, while others are quite small. Some objects can only be placed down, while others — like signs — can be stacked up and placed on the walls. You’ll want to pay attention to the green circle around each object, as that showcases the area they are able to affect, and if your plants aren’t in it, they won’t benefit from the placement. There aren’t really any other rules to the placement of items, though, as you can build, zoom in, place, rotate, and create a little world you enjoy.
Eventually, you will unlock other plants to place and switch between, as well as tools like a vacuum that quickly harvests flowers to a chainsaw to make plants turn back into seeds if you want to change their location on the level. You won’t be able to see all the objects you can place at once, instead getting small handfuls, but you can switch between the objects you are currently tinkering around with!
Losing levels does happen in Cloud Gardens — specifically when you run out of items but you have not grown the level enough. You do have one action undo, but often if you are this far, you will need to just restart the level.
Cloud Gardens is a really slow, relaxing, and freeform puzzle game. There isn’t really a puzzle to solve, apart from decorating a world until it is happy with you. The game also contains a freeplay mode, where you can just design little scenes with no fear of failures, though you will need to unlock new objects for this world through playing the regular levels first. It’s a good game to relax, while making the world a bit brighter.
You can find Cloud Gardens on PC or Xbox.