Jim Sim: Under The Garden

Make yourself at home! I think I have an onion in here somewhere.

Between draining shifts at RPS headquarters, Jim likes to retreat to his house in “the country’s side”. Being a city boy, I’m not sure what a country’s side is, but I’d imagine living there would be just like indie freeware game Under the Garden (courtesy of the Indie Games blog). In fact, I’d go as far as to say that playing Under The Garden is the closest the modern man can get to being inside Jim Rossignol. Under the Garden is a game of surviving in a bleak wilderness. You keep your fire lit, your belly full, and gradually travel further and further on hikes to recover bits of house to shelter under. Platformers don’t come much more atmospheric than this. Talkage and footage after the jump.

It’s buggy, yes. Fiddly, yes. Even a little tedious at times. But I really like this little game, and I’d love to see the concept developed on a larger scale, in a larger world with even more to find. The warmth and simplicity of the concept- leave house, watch the weather, find things for house, go home- is effective enough to make you wonder about all the wargames dominating the charts. Why aren’t we playing this kind of thing?

With any luck, Man Vs. Elements will be a genre of videogame in the future. Wouldn’t that be nice? For years Japan’s had videogames which simulate holidays. It’s not that much of a stretch. Anyway, afraid I don’t have any footage of the game, although I do have a YouTube upload of one of Jim’s home movies which I’ve enclosed below. Maybe it’ll convey Under the Garden‘s atmosphere in some way.


  1. Kits says:

    I’ll give it a look when I get more than a few moments, but from the sound of it, it seems similar to the “Lost in Blue” games on the DS. You leave your cave to explore the island, going further out as time goes on to gather food, water, wood and whatever else you can find.

    • Quintin Smith says:

      It is a bit like Lost in Blue, but you are all alone and can end up sick with a flu and taking on a bear with a sledgehammer in a final desperate play for calories.

    • Mungrul says:

      Wait, the bears have sledgehammers?
      I can’t decide if that or bears driving cars is more awesome!

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      What about…

      Bears with CHAINSAWS!?

  2. Alex says:

    Those Lost in Blue games were spiritual sequels to a/some Gameboy game/s… Survival Kids, or something similarly named?
    If (author) wants a taste of a similar concept in a large world, he should check these out.

    • Quintin Smith says:

      Thanks, Alex. Thalex.

    • CMaster says:

      I was also about to say it sounds a lot like the “Survival Kids” games (well, I only played the first one) on the Gameboy. They were awesome.

    • Auspex says:

      Are you people thinking of “Stranded Kids”?

      If not, you should definitely check it out – it was a cool little game.

    • CMaster says:

      Auspex – I think that’s the one. I borrowed it off a friend back when I played it, so can’t check right now.

  3. Schaulustiger says:

    Oh man, I’ve been waiting for AGES for someone to develop a cool survival game like Robinson’s Requiem back in the DOS days. Please let Under The Garden have a child with Minecraft and said oldie and I’d play the heck out of it.

    • Clovis says:

      If there’s been anything disappointing about Minecraft so far it’s that surviving is way too easy. Notch keeps adding all kinds of interesting bits and bobbles but the number of ways of dying are kinda’ low. We’ve got snow now, but not frostbite. We’ve got eggs, bread, pork, milk, and water but no starvation, thirst, or malnutrition. We’ve got the ability to build castles and traps, but mobs with no ability to assault castles.

      However, watching Minecraft develop is so much fun, and Notch seems like a great programmer and game designer. I’m hoping that as we move along that the game will develop a real sense of survival to it.

    • Schaulustiger says:

      Exactly my thoughts. Only the first night in Minecraft Survival actually feels like survival (at least on hard difficulty). Rushing to get a quick hut or cave done and then sitting out the night as you can hear the skeletons and zombies moan outside. I wish that the rest of the game eventually becomes as unsettling and challenging as those first ten minutes.

    • Coillscath says:

      I wondered if someone would bring up good old Robinson’s Requiem. I’d love to see a survival game with that much detail done with today’s technology. Jeez, the number of ways you could die in that game. Frostbite, suicide pill, sickness, tiger mauling, t-rex mauling, breaking limbs, starvation… Amputating every last one of your limbs. It does make you wonder what he used to amputate the last limb though.

    • Matzerath says:

      I thought of Minecraft immediately. I didn’t cheat and check online how to make things (OK a little, because until that point I didn’t know you COULD craft things), and spent many real-world days trying to figure things out. Since Notch is joyfully adding stuff almost constantly, I have high hopes for the final product. Is this first time gamers are requesting starvation as a feature?
      And personally I find big square exploding snakes very terrifying — especially when they sneak up behind you.

  4. sassy says:

    schiffbrusch (I think its the name, shipwrecked in german) is an excellent man vs elements game, far better than lost in blue … also much more free.

    PS 3 captcha fails and undoubtedly a reply fail as well

  5. Metalfish says:

    I’ve been extolling the potential of a “desert island game” for ages, I know of a couple on handhelds, but I’d prefer something using the vast potential for interaction with the environment offered by something like oblivion.

    In fact: Oblivion – Beards + Mirror’s Edge + Castaway = game I want.

    • Ashes says:

      Seconded but for me it would probably be more of bleak atmospherey STALKER + Mirror’s Edge + Castaway sort of game, where the actual enviroment hates you and wants you to die. Though I would accept Oblivion – beards as a decent substitute.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Such a game will one day appear. It has been foretold.

    • westyfield says:

      Why would you want to remove the beards from a desert island game? Beards are an essential component of all desert islands. Even if no-one is stranded there.

    • Wilson says:

      I was going to say, “- Beards” is not something that should ever appear in a discussion of the ideal game. Ever.

    • BigJonno says:

      Oblivion doesn’t even have beards, just weird coloured bits on your face that could kinda sorta be a beard if you squint and don’t expect beards to have any actual depth. People have had to mod in beards! They’re stuck between “dual wielding” and “hot, naked female bodies” in the list of things that people have to mod into Elder Scrolls games.


  6. Klaus says:

    closest the modern man can get to being inside Jim Rossignol.

  7. Xercies says:

    Actually in the indie freeware circles man vs environment is quite popular there is a few out there. i remember one about a spaceship crash landing on a planet and you having to survive. Now i must search for this like a man on a mission hoping i don’t starve or get eaten by nsty cratures on the way through the depths of the internet.

  8. Elyas says:

    Pixelly artstyle reminds me a lot of Sword and Sworcery. Or vice versa, whoever came first.

  9. LM says:

    minecraft can be a powerful survival simulator, if you don’t use cheats. Due to the survival part being the purchased part, though, the minecraft community sometimes comes across as being totally focused on construction. But the alpha is a great survival sim.

  10. Chakawi says:

    Makes me think about Island Troll Tribes in Warcraft 3.
    Very fun stuff! Very interrested in seeing this on a “larger” scale!

  11. kyynis says:

    As far as I’m concerned Unreal World is the game about Man vs. Elements. Finnish Iron Age has never been bleaker.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      Back in the day I sent money in an envelope to a small cottage in Finland so I could play this game. It really is great (and hard).

    • Schaulustiger says:

      Oh wow, that looks great. Immediately bought.

    • Bob Bobson says:

      Unreal Worlds looks worth it’s own post, RPS hivemind wot do you think?

    • terry says:

      Great game. Any game that teaches a morbid fear of rampaging badgers is a great game.

  12. DJ Phantoon says:

    You know, there’s a gametype in Garry’s Mod that does this sort of thing. It just depends on which one you’re playing in. Winter Survival is stupidly hard to get down pat at the beginning and you will most likely die first, and Stranded is really laid back and easy.

    Surprised no one mentioned that yet.

  13. Antilogic says:

    Reminds me of Pikmen.

  14. Quests says:

    i don’t really love it. While it’s beautiful artistically, there’s not much interaction-wise.

  15. Coins says:

    It reminds me both of notrium AND unreal world. That the RPS readership knows about both those games made me smile, for what it’s worth. Now, off to play!

  16. a says:

    Stranded 2 is a nice deserted island survival game. It’s very much on the silly side of things. Fucking raptors…

    link to stranded.unrealsoftware.de

    • Prettiest Boy on the Planet says:

      Yep, I was going to bring up Stranded 2 as well. It’s been ages since I last played it, but I only remember good things. You can also make cookies, if I recall correctly.

  17. Harlander says:

    Incidentally, this game is one of the entries in TIGSource’s “A Game By Its Cover” competition, where people craft games based on imaginary game cartridge covers made up for the Famicase exhibition thingy.

    I don’t think anyone’d mentioned that yet. TIGSource’s competitions are usually a good place to dig up something indie and cool.

  18. Alex Bakke says:

    I love it.

    Of course, now I think I’m playing Jim Rossignol.

    Am I the only one who actually wants to do this? That is, go out into the woods, with an axe, knife etc, craft a home?

  19. brkl says:

    You should try Unreal World: link to jmp.fi

    It’s an iron-age survival RPG (played a bit like a roguelike) that’s been incrementally updated for over a decade. Cheapest full version option is something like a couple of dollars.

  20. Owen says:

    Nope, you’re not. Possibly just the two of US are though!

  21. malkav11 says:

    It’s not so much a survival game, per se, but the Disaster Report games are very much about man vs. elements (earthquakes and associated disasters, or flooding, depending). Pity they’re console games.

  22. Armyofnone says:

    I do hope you all have heard of or played Notrium if you want a game like this, only on another planet, and better.

  23. Robot22 says:

    I quite enjoyed it, but has anyone reached a definite end to the game? I spent a few hours becoming a mountain bad-ass with a bear pelt and a fully-loaded rifle before I ran out of stuff to do. I suppose the true goal is to just keep on living, but with a house full of supplies the struggle to survive is all but over.

  24. espy says:

    I want to love it, but it seems amazingly unoptimized. I can play all sorts of 3D stuff on my machine, but this has huge slowdowns, maxes out my cpu with the menu screen alone, and switching between screens takes 5-10 seconds. And that’s with “effects=7” and “noshader=1” to boost performance :/

    I am a sad mountain man.

  25. Mereli says:

    The only problem I have with this game is that it is way to easy.
    After 10 minutes of playing I had a little hovel filled to the brim with supplies, supplies you don´t need all that much.
    The only thing I seem to be doing is building bridges.

    I like the rest though, especially the atmosphere the music gives.

  26. Nallen says:

    Is there a high-res-texture/high-poly-model/cover-mechanic mod for this?

  27. Bob's Lawn Service says:

    Let’s not forget the grandfathers of survival games Deus and Robinson’s Requiem.

  28. BeamSplashX says:

    Those hit sounds are a bit on the actiony side for an otherwise atmospheric game. It sounds like Bruce Lee VS Nature, if anything.

    Is that a game yet? Robinson’s Kungfusoe’s Requiem?

  29. Jacques says:

    I like it, though it disappoints me a little that when the Dude comes back to his original house by moving eastward continuously, he does not have a mental breakdown at the realization that he is caught in a mobius strip (I believe that’s the term, I could be wrong). That should end the game really, or unlock a new level where you exploit this physics phenomenon, granted the latter asks a lot of an indie developer.

    The first hour of the first playthrough was tough, but once you get to the caves, it’s fairly easy, just annoying to keep having to go back and get supplies to build with. I also don’t understand why this game runs so slowly, I mean, I’d take a guess that it’s saving item locations and keeping track of a series of timers, but there must be a faster way to do this.

    Anyone try zombie house mode yet?

    oh and who found the following items/ have you found others not on this list that you consider special?
    -Sonic Springboard tile
    -Picture of rumrunner
    -Rubber Ball
    -White Jumpy things (indestructible baby rabbits?) 1 & 2 (don’t know of a third one)
    -Super Healing Potion thing (red bottle)
    -Stuffed Bat
    -Chainsaw (not that special or hard to find, but nice none the less)
    -Rifle (took me forever to find this bugger going east, should have tried west first)
    -Rabbit Pelt (I got it from a caribou?!)

  30. Paul Greasley says:

    The photo frame is of edmund, a character from one of my previous competition games btw. If i had more time I might have expanded on the game, but atm I have a bigger project to do and this was just a distraction from that for a few weeks. The game runs slowly because in order to code and do art for all of it I had to cut a few corners, doing the programming and art for a game that size in less than a month means almost always corners will be cut.


  31. Jacques says:

    I appreciate the reply and yeah, that makes sense, I wasn’t quite sure about the situation under which the game was developed, but I can see your point.

  32. Heptazane says:

    I saw Under the Garden on JayIsGames and totally fell in love with it. The only other thing that I’ve found beside’s Jacques is a stuffed bird and various unique furniture: bed, chair, table (could be a table–wooden thing with a slot). I really love the feel of the game and have the following wish list:
    1. Play was cleaned up (jumping sticks you onto things, you can get over the top of the world in caves, etc, very hard to land on one block, etc)
    2. Play curved out further and that it had some twist “ending”–at least enough to let you know that there was no more scripted content.
    3. I’ve never had bricks get so old that they fell down, but you have to construct your wilderness mansion in such a way as to be able to get to blocks to repair them which can be tricky. For fun factor, I think building blocks should just be invulnerable.
    4. Coop multiplayer.