Project Grove is a steampunk puzzle-platformer set in a fantasy world slowly succumbing to a deadly pandemic. Set out on an adventure to find a cure for the trees using alchemy and explore lush forests and gloomy caves to hunt for magical plants and minerals to catalogue and research. The demo, Project Grove: Prologue, starts off in your airship’s laboratory which is filled to the brim with retro-tech and steampunk machinations that seem so alien yet intriguing. Quickly, you’re told to set out and scan a statue and a rotting tree, promptly revealing to you that your steampunk airship laboratory is hovering over an idyllic and magical wonderland of a forest with glowing vines, floating islands, giant lilypads, and floating wood whales! This contrast is very much welcome and is a great precedent for potential other creatures, both fantastical and potentially more steampunk-ish.
Developer/Publisher: Antler Studios Genre: Adventure, Puzzle, Exploration, 3D Platformer, Indie Release Date: 2022 Played on: PC Copy was provided by the developer.
The main gameplay consists of exploration, which is right up my alley. You go around and navigate the forest using your compass and journal. You collect and scan plants, use those for potion brewing and crafting… and then using those potions, you’ll be able to reach new areas and explore the world even more. On top of that, you’re accompanied by a flying robot that helps you with platforming, scanning and hints. While the TTS-like voice bothered me initially, L-P1N grew to me and became more than just a travel guide… In a way, L-P1N has its own personality and provides humour and help in most situations where it’s needed.
The puzzles in the world are interesting and essentially are woven into the world, utilizing magical plants that interact with each other or create new pathways when utilized properly. On top of that, there is some light platforming as well, although I didn’t mind it too much. The jumps felt spaced out in a way that is fairly accessible and less reliant on frame-perfect timing and those other shenanigans you may know from other 3D platformers. Instead, you can take your time with each jump and explore the world at your own leisure. The lack of a climb-mechanic or a sprint button was a bit annoying but overall, Project Grove felt quite accessible, especially due to multiple colour blind options as well as subtitles. I’d like to see even more settings, especially for graphics and sounds… but I’m sure the full release will feature those as well.
And well, the world of Dacrima is filled with life and absolutely stunning. On top of that, it also features a plethora of lore entries in your journal, breathing more life into the world. I hope that there is more to this in the full release. The store page promises “the most bizarre magical Flora & Fauna” as well as “musky autumnal wetlands”, “deep crystal caves”, and other interesting features that I’m looking forward to.
Honestly, with the latest release of Potion Craft, I was hoping that there’d be more alchemy-themed games and because of this demo here, I’m really excited about even more games that may come out centred around alchemy, potion-brewing or the rejuvenation of forests. Frankly, I really enjoyed myself with the demo and while I’m obviously not able to tell how the full release of Project Grove is going to play out… I’m looking forward to even cooler puzzles, hopefully, less platforming, and interesting creatures! You can check out the demo yourself on Steam and you may even want to wishlist the game over here. For more information, you may even check out the Kickstarter page that was completed a while ago!