Reading the description of Cloud Gardens, a new title from the makers of Kingdom: New Lands, really didn’t prepare me for the experience I was about to embark on. In hindsight, calling it a hybrid of a video game and an interactive toy really hits it on the nose. Some aspects of the mechanics feel very puzzle-like but make no mistake, the purpose of the experience is to achieve a state of relaxation.
The concept of Cloud Gardens is very simple, the goal is to turn a diorama of some industrial age setting into a green and lush natural area. Whether it’s a road sign that’s seen better days, or a decaying car in an empty parking lot, the goal is to throw seeds into the diorama area in order to spur the growth of plant life. On top of the plant seeds, the player is provided with additional objects such as road signs or garbage that gets tossed into the diorama to initiate the plant growth. It seems counterintuitive at first, but as the object strikes an area, a solar glow permeates that expands the reach of the seeds. Once enough of the diorama has been covered in plant life, the objects given are accessible in an open sandbox mode and the next diorama is presented.
A tutorial section explains how to toss seeds and place items, but figuring out how to get the plants to grow is something that’s learned with experience. Place or throw an object too close to the plant and you could knock it off, too far and it doesn’t provide any growth. The amount of difficulty is rather low though since the whole point of the experience is to relaxingly discover the mechanics at a leisurely pace. Some of the more fun moments included the discovery that headlights on a car would trigger aggressive growth, and finding new plants with different methods of expanding.
The art direction is absolutely gorgeous and continues with the style present in the Kingdom series. The contrast of colour and design is only improved by the relaxing melodies from Kingdom composer, Amos Roddy. Cloud Gardens is made available through the Early Access program via Steam, so it will be a game worth checking in to see what gets added over time. Although this type of experience wasn’t something I was expecting to see from the makers of one of my favourite Nintendo Switch games, I can say that I feel a whole lot more relaxed about the state of the world after playing it.