As a steampunk puzzle-platformer set in a lush fantasy world, Project Grove puts players in the shoes of an alchemist hunting for magical plants to catalog and research.

Blending a variety of visual styles, the demo starts in a steampunk laboratory adorned with pointedly retro tech before revealing that said lab has been plopped down in the middle of a magical wonderland full of floating islands and glowing plants. This contrast provides a nice balance to the world, allowing any fantastical creation to fit naturally within it.

The demo’s main quest revolves around collecting a magical flower which can be used to brew a potion to protect the player from fall damage. To achieve their goal they must deactivate a magical shield which requires delving into a dank cave full of physics and platforming puzzles. None of the tasks were particularly challenging because at this point, the player has just one tool to work with — a friendly flying robot that can transform into a platform to help the player get across wide gaps. As long as the player can figure out the right place to set him up, they’ll get through each area just fine.

Project Grove controls smoothly, and the platforming is forgiving in a way that first-person jumping puzzles often aren’t. It’s not completely accessible – there’s no mantling up low walls, for example – but the developers have gone out of their way to make sure that every jump is reasonably spaced, allowing players to easily make it across without having to worry about split-second timing. Everything about the design – the light humor of the main character’s interaction with his robot, the soothing music, the softness of the world’s visuals – sends the message that this is a chill game to be enjoyed at whatever pace the player likes.

I can’t speak to what the developers have planned for the full version of the game – collectible flowers and ore suggests that some type of crafting mechanic will be added eventually – but for the moment, Project Grove feels like a delightfully low-stakes, all-ages adventure that anyone could enjoy. I’m interested to see what other surprises the developers have store going forward!

You can find Project Grove on Kickstarter – there are four days left in the campaign.

Daniel Weissenberger
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