Paradise Marsh — Marsh mellows under the stars

If relaxation sim is a genre that sounds right up your alley, Paradise Marsh has you covered. From the gorgeous and unabashedly antiquated graphics to the simple, calm music that accents each one of the biomes, it’s easy to get lost in the swamp and love every moment of it.

Sometimes it is difficult not knowing what you want until you see it and Paradise Marsh is one of those games. The story features the idea that the creatures that are formed by the constellations we see in our night sky fall from their place in the heavens and land in a marsh. Your task is to return them to their rightful place amongst the stars by collecting them and using mysterious monoliths that litter the landscape to get them there.

What seems like a simple task, is, however, not — there’s a lot of technique needed to capture these creatures. With only a bug net to do so, you sometimes need to be stealthy or utilize the environment to bag a catch. Some animals only come out at night, so you’ll have to wait through the day cycle to get your hands on them, and others are reactive to noise and can simply fly away from you, out of reach.

Running around catching bugs may seem dull, but there are plenty of different types, each one with its own behaviors and particular spots where they are found. Throughout the various procedurally-generated biomes that you’ll stumble upon, some of the bugs are in plain view, and some are hiding, waiting to be discovered. Once you net one, you’ll add that creature to your journal, and that’s where some of the brilliance of collecting is revealed.

Each page of the journal is chock-full of information about the critter, including musings about their demeanor, a cute little drawing, and their habits and habitat. More importantly, it tells you how many you still need to collect to activate their constellation. All this information takes the menial task and turns it into something tangible, like the bug-collecting endeavors many of us enjoyed as kids.

Throughout the environments in Paradise Marsh is a littering of objects and various landmarks to interact with. I found many peculiar items, ranging from a snowman that you can build to what was obviously an inspired version of the Game Boy that plays music. Each one makes the walking through this wonderland a bit more magical, and while it takes away from what might seem like a serious journey, it allows you to relax and enjoy the beautiful landscapes you are in and let your worries wash away.

Rescuing the critters from their new earthly home tends to make them feel a bit poetic, and aside from the ‘tick a box’ completion of a task, they respond in kind with prose. The creatures, back up in the nestled blanket of stars, will monologue about their endeavors or their demeanor, or simply riff off a joke or two, depending on their personality. This additional dialog might be the highlight or bane of the game for you, depending on how much you enjoy poetry or ‘waxing poetic’ speech, but it dives deeper into the true voice of your willing captives. Additionally, notes that you find floating in the water will bring to life the purpose and feeling of the character you play as, and the overall experience is enrichened by this lore that can otherwise go unnoticed.

The graphics in Paradise Marsh are best defined as belonging to a long-forgotten PS1 game, with chunky pixels and a dash of extra-aliasing for good measure. If you so desire, you can even change the chunkiness of the pixels, ranging from fine to chunky, to further feed into the look of nostalgia. Don’t let these graphical options deter you, however, as the game is bright and colorful and what it loses in aliasing it more than makes up for with charm. Each creature is brimming with personality and animated flair and really ramps up the cuteness of the game by taking time to lovingly craft the details. The unique environments also feature plenty of wonders to discover in each one, each fitting to their theme, as you explore their nooks and crannies looking for more animals to catch.

With warm and fuzzy feelings filling the game up to the brim, Paradise Marsh knows what kind of ‘game feel’ it is going for, and achieves it better than many other games in this category. Relaxing by enjoying the capture of adorable creatures and the simple loop of the game’s mechanics while bopping your head to the brilliance of the soundscape that Disasterpeace created is a feeling few games can match. Paradise Marsh manages to deliver a fresh, fun experience to anyone willing to wade in its wetlands and net themselves some good feels.

Paradise Marsh is now available on the Nintendo Switch, Xbox, and Steam.

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