As a terribly impatient and inattentive man, gardening perhaps isn’t the pastime for me, but I can see myself playing more of Mendel over the weekend. It’s a quiet, abstract sandbox about growing flowers in an alien landscape. You explore small islands rich with extraterrestrial flora, take cuttings and combine them into new and interesting plants which grow to full size in seconds. Not normally my jam, but this article is going up late because I decided to give it a quick try and lost most of an hour to my small virtual flowerbed. Take a peek at it in (gently swaying) motion below.
While largely abstract in its presentation, there’s a hard scientific core at the heart of Mendel. You control a drone, sent to a remote alien island to experiment with its plants. As you discover different types of native flora, you can name them. Your hybrids will be given ratings telling you what they bear most genetic similarity to. Thanks to these plants growing almost instantly, you can practically create family trees in the ground, visibly flowing from one mutation to the next. At least, that’s what I did, but I’m more of a tinkerer than a gardener.
Mendel’s developer, Owen Bell, clearly has flowers and the science behind them on his mind. On his Itch page, I noticed The Whirlwind, a little development jam art-thing, where you assemble a screen full of procedurally generated flower blossoms, then turn them into a swirling kaleidoscope of colour with the aid of a little virtual wind and a bit of Philip Glass accompaniment.
Before she scooted off for the weekend (and a holiday), Alice mentioned that Mendel also reminded her of Meadows, a game produced in another Procedural Generation jam, with a similar concept. While its true origins are unknown to me, it would be positively poetic if Mendel was itself a cross-pollination of ideas as to how an abstract, procedural garden should grow. Either way, it feels like a fitting antidote to last night’s ceaseless cacophony of explosions that was Battlefield 5. Make plants, not war.