I have never played anything quite like The Good Time Garden. The juxtaposition of cute hand-drawn characters, sexual imagery, and a dreamlike soundtrack creates a bizarre but compelling experience. This 30-minute adventure game by developer Coal Supper is best experienced blind, but if you have no desire to explore the fleshy garden for yourself, then read on.
The game begins with the protagonist emerging from a blooming flower. A dark-red gremlin creature exploring a world coloured in shades of pink, he befriends a lump of flesh that is eternally hungry. As the gremlin finds more things for his new acquaintance to eat, he is able to explore further into the garden, paths created by the shifting of the friend’s tentacles. With each creature consumed, the amiable lump grows bigger and hungrier. As the game swells to a climax, the terrible consequences of the corpulent creature’s insatiable hunger become clear.
Gameplay is fairly simple in The Good Time Garden, with the gremlin able to slap, grab, and spew liquid to make his way around the garden. The game is without instructions, and it needs none: once you pick up a cute mushroom creature, and see a flesh lump pointing towards its mouth, the core gameplay loop of feeding the lump is obvious. Some creatures are more difficult to lure into the maw of the tumorous beast than others, but the focus is more on creating an unusual atmosphere than head-scratching puzzles.
With the plot line of a horror story and a style themed around phallic and yonic imagery, one would expect The Good Time Garden to be creepy or gross. However, the inhabitants of the titular garden do seem to be genuinely having a good time. Everyone is all smiles, from the sentient mushrooms to the many-breasted amphibian. Frog-like children dance around the protagonist, exclaiming that they can see his butt hole. Slapping an errant pair of breasts causes a cheerful couple to emerge from the earth, fused together into a single entity. One tree might gush liquids and another would be shaped like a penis, but never both at the same time, toeing the line of using sexual imagery without gratuitous or obscene. The Good Time Garden is more like a mosaic of the sexual experience, a celebration of just how absurd the individual elements of lovemaking are when taken out of context.
This dreamy atmosphere is heightened by the utterly gorgeous artwork. Every element of the game is hand-drawn, resulting in silky smooth animations and an extremely unique appearance. The garden’s inhabitants are adorable, even with their dicks swaying in the breeze. Soft guitar notes in the background lend a sense of peace, the pace only quickening when a creature is being carried to its doom. While the lack of interface is a good choice for showing off the artwork, I would have liked an option for subtitles. The voice mix is a touch too quiet at times, and I could not understand the eagle creature at all.
The Good Time Garden is a surreal alien world based on the human body. The game plays with ideas of horror and sexual imagery, and overlays them with a world that is cute and serene. The end result is truly peculiar, and entirely engaging. I would love to see more from Coal Supper in the future, as it is a developer with a truly unique vision.
Next week, we will be playing Hive Time, a city builder focused on creating the perfect colony of bees. The game can be downloaded from Itch.io here. Discussions are happening in the Discord server, or you can email me here.