In this strange situation we find ourselves in, I've been searching for a way to switch off and create a little moment of calm. It's not easy. Alone in a flat with only myself for company, my mind just keeps getting louder and louder. My days sometimes feel like a big messy swirling vortex of anxiety and sleepless nights. But lately, every time I feel like I need some space to breathe, I've been turning to one game in particular to help me weather through this storm: Mutazione.
I first played Mutazione late last year, and immediately fell for its gentle art style filled earthy colors and pastel hues. You take on the role of Kai, a young teenager who goes to visit her ailing grandfather in a small town with a tight-knit community. In what developer Die Gute Fabrik describes as a "mutant soap opera", you get to know its members, who are all still trying to pick up the pieces after an event changed them and the town they live in forever.
Space to breathe
You quickly learn that this is no ordinary town, and the community inhabiting this place has its own unique story to tell. With its interesting, moving character-driven narrative, and all of its quirky threads, Mutazione is absolutely worthy of your time for its story alone. But I wanted to return to this indie gem for the chance to relive its most magical and calming feature - growing gardens.
I don't have a garden. My flat is devoid of any space outside, which means for the past few months, I haven't really been able to enjoy much of spring. What I wouldn't give to be able to have a tiny little square of green to sit in and just be. What I can do, though, is sit in my gardens in Mutazione. Sure, mother nature puts on quite a show, but the gardens in Mutazione are special in their own distinct way.
Kai's grandfather Nonno tells you that Mutazione has a unique biome, and that you can speed the growth of plants by performing garden songs. Every plant in the game has its own distinctive feel and sound, and you cultivate the gardens as though you're putting together a musical composition. The first garden you grow is on the rooftop of your grandfather's house, and all of the seeds have a "Pacific" composition, so you know to play a Pacific garden song to help the plants thrive. Each plant also makes its own specific set of sounds and melodies, which will play when you plant the seeds and speed up their growth by playing your drum and performing the song. Once the garden has fully grown, all of the plants will produce their own special notes to create a harmonious chorus of sounds.
It's so soothing to just bask in all of the gentle chimes of the plants and watch the notes flitter up as you sit and soak up the music they make. I've always loved the way nature makes its own kind of music. You can hear it all around you. Maybe it's a chorus of rustling trees playing their comforting melodies as they swish in the breeze. Or, on a rainy day, it might be the gentle shower of raindrops pinging off of flower petals and leaves. Mutazione takes that idea and creates its own calming ambiance.
The act of growing these gardens also makes you feel truly connected to the natural world of this fictional setting, and it becomes clear that plants and the feelings they evoke hold a kind of special power. Be it growing gardens over parts of the town where a calamity had happened and restoring life to the neglected earth, or planting down seeds to help a particular member of the community, the life that springs up from these gardens brings hope and reassurance to the residents.
Green shoots of hope
To me, these gardens deliver the message that even when life is tough, and there's so much loss and hurt, the plants still grow. And even in the darkest moments, with a little bit of care and attention, the flowers can still blossom. Hope can still be found. There's something so wonderfully calming and comforting about Mutazione overall. I don't want to spoil the story for anyone who has yet to go on the lovely journey of Mutazione, but I will say that it manages to feel so warm and serene, with moments of bittersweet melancholy. I might not be able to grow my own garden, but it helps to know I can take a moment of respite from my anxious mind in the tranquil gardens of Mutazione.
Mutazione is out now on Apple Arcade, PS4 and PC.