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    Blueberry Garden

    Released in 2009, Blueberry Garden is another game that I missed, only seeing it thanks to attending Game Masters in Sydney this year. My son and I monopolised it while a small crowd gathered behind us. It is an experience that is equal parts charming and harrowing, which makes for compelling viewing and, as player, the drive to beat it. It’s a short game, but not without its challenge. Generally, failure occurs because you’re lost, not because you’re bad at platformers, which is good.

    For the first little while, you may not even notice that the game’s single level is in terrible peril, although it certainly is. When us asked designer Erik Svedang as to his choice of menace, he simply replied, “I spent the summers of my youth in the archipelago on the Swedish west coast. That landscape is very inspiring to me.” (You’ll totally see.) As the game progresses, it becomes clear that there is one route to safety, which you build through exploration.

    As a birdlike creature who can walk, jump and glide in an arc, movement is free and reckless. There are many areas to discover. The world is populated by cute little creatures, too, like smiley marshmallows wearing party hats. Svedang says, “I love drawing little doodle guys. I wish I could have put more of them into the game, in the end I had to pick my favorites.” Be that as it may, these lovable creatures are going to be consumed, make no mistake.

    And therein lies the sadness to the Blueberry Garden. This fruitful paradise will soon be no more. Aesthetically, it’s beautiful, as strong colours block out objects on a white background. Svedang tells us, “Everything in the game was drawn in sketch books while I was dreaming about creating it. The style with black lines on white paper survived the process of digitalization.” As to what links together the collection of items you will need to progress, he says, “That I like those objects.”

    The entire game is set to meandering piano music, mostly arpeggios that flow effortlessly between sounding light and mildly sinister. Does this movement aurally depict the encroaching danger, or does it make you feel nice? It’s hard to decide at any given moment. On why he chose piano, Svedang says, “I was initially thinking that the game would have organ music but, when I found Daduk’s songs, they fit perfectly so I had to go with them.”

    Blueberry Garden shows that simple presentation can be highly evocative even if Svedang himself is matter of fact about design. When asked what he hoped the player would feel as they navigated the level, he said, “Curious and adventurous, like an explorer who has just landed on a strange island.” That I could still know an inquisitive peace in the face of the apocalypse is quite remarkable. It is an
    artistic experience you will remember until memory fades to white.

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