Blueberry Garden

By: Xander

On: June 10th, 2009


After a failed start this monday, the IGF 2009 winning Blueberry Garden has finally been released by Erik Svendäng. This is notable especially because I can’t recall the last time a grand prize winner was released in the same year that it actually won the prize! I kid of course, and truthfully it’s interesting for something like this to have earnt such a prestigious award as unlike previous titles such as Aquaria or Crayon Physics it’s pretty hard to talk about. You play the bird-man pictured above and simply explore the world however you desire in an attempt to partly play around with the world and experiment with it, and partly to figure out if there is some sort of conclusion. As play begins you are given an image of a tap flowing water, and from there on your task is to do what you will with that information.

It plays similarly to a platformer however you have the ability to pick up and eat different kind of fruits which bestow extra abilities, such as an air bubble around the protagonist. You can also fly, which takes away some of the usual expectations of a platformer clearly. You can’t fly straight upwards though, only on roughly a 180 degree angle with a little leeway on either side. Similarly to Takahashi’s ‘Noby Noby Boy’ its hard not to suggest to people to buy because of the incredibly cheap price point of $5, and whilst it’s hard to really tell people specifically what there is to do in the game there’s certainly a lot to enjoy here. The atmosphere is great and the music is a complete joy, as well as the sheer surreal juxtapositioning of a minimalistic terrain crossed with wonderfully vibrant vegetation and the occasional gigantic block of swiss cheese.

There’s a demo on Steam at the moment, which I hear mixed reports on whether it actually works or not, so at the very least you should play it to see whether you find it interesting or not. Ultimately though at just $5, no bad can come of that purchase, and if its really your curiosity that’s pursuaded you to play the game then that’s exactly the kind of mindset the game desires of you. It’s a game that fully deserves the recognition it received at GDC, and it truly deserves just as much today.

  • Edmund

    Gish was out when we won the grand prize :)

  • C418

    Everyone should buy this little lovely game

  • Robert

    I played this at GDC and wasn’t too impressed… Then again, I picked up from playing where someone got stuck, so my experience of this game was being stuck in this same spot with no clear objectives of what to do or where to go. The graphics were pretty plain and if there was music it couldn’t be heard over the din of the crowd at GDC.

    I was really kind of surprised when I heard this game was chosen as this year’s winner. Then again, the entries this year weren’t exactly of the same caliber of the previous two years (YHTBTR- really??) In lieu of my poor experience with BBG, I decided to look up some videos on YouTube.

    I still wasn’t really won over. It just looked like a simple exploration platformer that involved flying around in vast, empty spaces while not doing much of anything.

    Am I missing something here?

  • SEH

    Oooh, I’ve waited for this one!

  • David

    The demo doesn’t launch — it gives me some kind of XNA error. Is there some kind of workaround?

  • berb

    love it already

  • crukid

    definitely entertaining.

  • StarStabbedMoon

    Every game will be missing something if you only take it at its surface value.

  • Anarkex

    Well…okay. I’m giving this a shot, but only because in months long past I looked forward to this game and need to have some closure.

    Don’t fail me, blind love of impulse buys.

  • Magnnus

    Is the demo bugged or is the game really that cpu intensive. Because it would be a real shame if this is as slow as in the demo.

  • Paul Eres

    considering all the bugs people are having and being unable to play it, i think maybe this is a game that *should* have waited longer before release (like most of the other igf winners — maybe they were onto something! extended playtesting matters!)

  • louis

    I just had an incredible fourth session with the game. Toying with the ecosystem just for toying’s sake, trying to spread every type of plant and animal through the world… I think the game deserves to be played at least for the feeling of gradually getting a grip on the actual workings of the little world, while not being able to ever control it fully either. It may not be a game which explicitly rewards a higher degree of investment, but that is what sticks out most for me. The pleasure of witnessing the game deploy its organic qualities (and its overall pace too).

  • Fuzz

    This feels like a game my five year old laptop should be able to run fine. I can run The Path fine (albeit on the lowest settings), so why should I be unable to run a stylized 2d platformer without ridiculous slowness? I was really looking forward to this. =(

  • Scone

    I think that a lot of people with performance issues are missing the following crucial part from the system requirements:

    Processor: 2.0 GHz Dual Core

    Yes, it is that CPU intensive. A five year old laptop will not run this very well. I don’t see a lot of reviews for this game mentioning that it requires at LEAST a dual-core processor.

  • Archagon

    I’m really digging the atmosphere, and the music in particular. Here’s a link to the free soundtrack:

    This composer definitely needs more exposure!

  • G

    Actually, I haven’t seen it using the dual core (cpu activity topped at 50%, only one core, so), but yes, it is trully CPU intensive, it emulates the entire ecosystem, whever you see it, or not.
    People are too much into the idea that only graphics are demanding, for a game :P

  • frst

    wow.. was looking forward to it, but the minimum specs really saddened me. I can understand the cpu for the simulation, but shader model 3? really? on the video you only see white gloom/overexposure effect on starting(?), but that’s it? if the extent of the effects would not inhibiting in the lack of their presence, he should have made them optional. I really should upgrade :(

  • Alex May

    The shader model 3 requirement is probably a base XNA thing and less to do with the game itself.

  • frst

    no, I develop my own gamey things on XNA, no hard requirement for sm3.

  • =(

    I gotta say, I was really looking forward to this.

    I don’t remember seeing the minimum specs for this listed anywhere, while going to buy this, but now I have come to find that my CPU doesn’t cut it.

    What really annoys me tho, is that my laptop has a good enough CPU, but the video card doesn’t support Shader Model 3, and my desktop PC has the opposite problem. The CPU is crap, but my video card is more than good enough.

    And the really crappy thing is that I have already bought it =(

  • Paul Eres

    it’s just five dollars, man. besides, one day you’ll have a computer that can run it, and will still own it, right? just wait a year or two, and play some other great indie games while waiting

    if you’re really upset, ask for a refund, i’m sure they’ll give you one. it’s a reasonable request, i give refunds for people who can’t run my game but bought it before noticing that

  • =(

    I can kinda understand the CPU requirement, because there’s a lot of stuff to keep processing, but the video card requirement is absolute bull.

    Why does this simple-looking game need more video ram and a better shader model than… I don’t know… “The Sims 3” I’ll use as an example, since it was the most recent game I bought, which only requires like 128 video ram, and shader model 2.

    Once again, I TOTALLY understand the CPU requirement, but the video card is insane. Add in some freaking graphical options so I can turn off whatever needs all that video ram and special effects so I can at least run it on my laptop, since it actually has a dual-core processor.

  • !CE-9

    the demo worked perfectly under Boot Camp XP. The game has so many charming qualities from the artwork to the peaceful and still interesting gameplay through the music. and what seems to be the core element is a good enough idea.

    but is it me, or is there no more than 7 items in the demo and the spot shown when a new game is started can not be reached?

  • Sninnyer

    Works just fine on a 1.66Ghz Core Duo with a less-than-state-of-the-art GeForce 7600 Go. XP SP3.

    Very nice, I’m buying this. :)

  • St!gar

    Urgh! is there any way to stop that nasty tap from drowning the entire world?!

    I kinda thinks it ruins the whole atmosphere, making the otherwise serene game a franic race against the ever-rising water- :(

  • Ballos

    Re: St!gar
    yes, there is a way to stop it

  • St!gar

    In the demo?

  • Ballos

    Not sure, I could not get the demo to work so I just bought it…I spend more than $5 on a sandwich so why not just buy it.

  • v1510n

    The only thing I’ve been able to do “goal” wise in the demo is live endlessly by standing on a log.

  • Robert

    That was… kind of underwhelming. It’s a nice looking world; it’s no Knytt Stories, but genuinely pleasant to behold. The controls are definitely well-tuned. The fruits are worth toying with, though a bit unintuitive. It was definitely worth the five dollars I paid for it, but I cannot quite understand how it won first place at IGF 2009.

  • Eddie

    Yeah, it’s definitely not as polished as Aquaria, nor is it as intuitive and fun and Crayon Physics. Looks like the competition was pathetic this year.

  • Robert

    Actually, I’m getting kind of paranoid; I’m beginning to vaguely suspect that this is the IGF equivalent of Oscar bait. Its artistic merit is above average, but it sort of trips over what its theme is. Play around and explore… oh, but if you play around and explore too long, you drown. However, everything about the art and game design screams “INDIE” at the top of its lungs. I’m going to give the designers the benefit of the doubt and assume it was an unintentional, subconscious thing, but this seems like someone practically took a checklist of what indie types like and checked it off one by one. Classical-esque soundtrack? Check. Minimalistic artistic design? Check. Minimalistic game deisgn? Check. Complete lack of violence? Check. Well-dressed main character? Check. Had they done a shout-out to retro games, it would have been a complete list. Again, I’ll give the benefit of the doubt and assume the game designers did this all on accident; it FEELS like a lot of love went into this game. But I’m half-tempted to do the same thing intentionally and see how I do. Maybe I could make an unlabeled satire of the worst tendencies in indie gaming and see how long it takes for people to realize I’m having a laugh at their expense.

  • Do it

    Yeah, you’re describing a typical indie game perfectly with that checklist. If you go to you’ll find that that checklist applies to all the games there, and all the games that ever will be submitted there.

    Fact is that, easy as it sounds in your head, making a game like this and having it turn out cool isn’t easy. Even if you have the right ingredients, baking a cake can be pretty difficult. But by all means, it would be interesting to see you try and prove your point.

  • Archagon

    Personally, I didn’t enjoy Knytt/stories and like this game.

  • Chris Whitman

    I think there’s definitely a certain element in indie games which is reactionary towards the excesses of a lot of mainstream titles, where you have your choice of being a knight, a soldier or a soldier from the future and all you do is bash heads in all the time.

    Camus wrote that ‘every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence…’ and I think for indie games this ends up with a lot of people trying to capture the sort of childhood innocence with which we approached gaming in the first place, in an attempt to get back to something which is more our actual way of playing than an attempt to, say, cash in on film titles.

    But this is practically a manifesto for indie games. I can’t speak for everyone, but I have no interest in getting caught up in a self-conscious culture war where every time you can grasp the genealogy of an idea you have to either do something different or tack on another level of irony.

    So yes, Robert. I think you’re being a bit paranoid. Everyone is aware of when indie games feel ‘indie,’ but it’s okay to be aware of it and still enjoy it.

  • James

    It’s pretty easy to glitch out the physics engine.

    The demo was fun for a few tens of minutes; I had to play through it twice just to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

    It ran alright-ish on my decidedly pitiful Intel GMA X3100, though there were a few slight hicups here and there.

    I probably won’t buy it, just because I’ve already got so much free stuff to play, not a lot of money, and so little time to game in. ;-)

  • Scypher

    Whoa, whoa, whoa. Until I read this post (“You play the bird-man pictured above…”) I completely, unequivocally, definitively believed from the very moment I saw the first screenshot of Blueberry Garden all those months ago, that that shape on his face was a beard.

    And now that the truth has been revealed, I just can’t see it as anything other than the beak that it is.

    You just blew my mind, Xander.

  • God at play

    I played it all the way through on the IGF floor. I thought it was an awesome game!

    Great atmosphere and fun to explore and experiment. Definitely worth $5.