Calendula: Something, something Lynch and childbirth (warning of minor spoilers)
Updated: Jul 21
Among the rise of post modern games that challenge what can be done with the video game medium (games like Undertale, Pony Island and DDLC to name a few) Calendula sits on something of a conundrum, the idea of being a haunted game that does not want to be played and you having to fight it in order to play it sounds interesting and has potential. Does Calendula explore this idea of a game trying to prevent you from playing it?
Kind of, but I....really don’t know....
Calendula has a plot, at least I think it does, the spattering of verge purple prose and cliché phrases found in most horror fiction are there (it is not your fault.....look in the dark....only pain etc) suggest that there is some sort of story to be had, the ending itself suggests there is something to do with childbirth. Unlike Calendula, Pony Island or DDLC that have great narratives that don’t spoon feed the player while keeping them engaged, DDLC in particular has a fantastic story that is talked about frequently. Calendula’s plot (if it has one ) is far too abstract for it to be involving or have much in terms of meaning, I would hazard a guess in suggesting that it is not even that well written with the pretentious wording and phrasing. It all feels like Blooming Buds Studios thought they were more intelligent than they actually were. That is not to say that there are periods of menace in the game, or that there is no unsettling imagery (still don’t understand what that meat in the sink was for but anyway....) it does not last long because the atmosphere, writing and imagery are inherently shallow and lacking in meaningful substance, the sense of danger is never really established properly. There is no SHODAN or Monika equivalent here, we never even find out if the game is even malevolent. The game just does its thing; putting only the minimal amount of tension and hoping its patch narrative will help the rest through.
There is not really much to talk about in terms of gameplay, you spend majority of in the opinions menu trying to find a pass word or situation where you can load a save file in order to press w until the game ‘crashes’, rinse and repeat until the game finishes. Again there is some creativity to the puzzles involving perception and sound which all contribute to the atmosphere even if it is somewhat weak. The game gives a clue for each puzzle with clue (the eye) which can be either incredibly obvious or incredibly obtuse depending on how hard the line is trying to be sinister. Lines like “who controls who?” are easy to solve while “your path is written” left me confused as to what I was meant to do. I am trying to say that this game’s difficultly curve is somewhat all over the place. It is not bad per say but it is not really good either, it works and that is kind of it.
When the game presents the 3d graphics it is very basic, very flat texturing and shading. This is not a bad thing per say as periods where this is happening are very brief as we spend most of the time in the opinions menu. There the art style shines, beautiful and yet just that little bit off putting, that something is wrong with the game itself. However even with the range of reds and whites the game does not really have any striking imagery, the game’s visuals are unique but sadly not memorable. I am struggling to remember anything about the game; I doubt I will remember this game will occupy my thoughts in the near future.
This game has no flaws regarding technical aspects, runs perfectly well. The sound design is pretty good despite it being somewhat generic screams and soft smooth music laced with glitches.
Calendula must be one of the most mediocre titles I have reviewed recently; it wants to be the next David Lynch but lacks the talent and dedication to pull it off. I would love to see the concept of a game that does not want to be played done with more creativity, more gameplay and/or story and with less head up the ass.