Terrorarium

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Terrorarium Game Poster Image
Occasionally frustrating Pikmin clone with fantasy violence.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

The simple plot suggests it's OK to do whatever it takes to best a rival in competition, including sacrificing the lives of lesser creatures. The level editing features encourage kids to be creative and social, sharing what they make with the community.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The gardener is greedy, competitive, selfish. She doesn't care at all for the Moogus she uses and often kills to accomplish her goals. She's not really meant to be admired or emulated, but rather to serve as comedic fodder.

Ease of Play

Controls -- keyboard or gamepad -- are straightforward, as are goals and instructions in most levels. But the intelligence of the Moogus that follow you around can be frustrating, since they often get stuck on objects, blindly walking into danger and dying, eventually forcing players to restart levels. Creator mode lacks a tutorial, forcing players to experiment.

Violence

Small cartoonish creatures called Moogus frequently die, sometimes in gory ways that see them burnt, squashed, or eaten. They occasionally emit small splashes of gooey fluid when killed. The player's character, an aging alien gardener, sometimes dies as well, collapsing to the ground after walking into spikes or running out of Moogus.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Terrorarium is a downloadable 3D puzzle game for Windows PCs. Players control an aging, competitive, cold-hearted gardener who wants to best her rival. To carry out her plans, she makes use of Moogus, strange little creatures who do her every bidding, even if it means their death. They might drown, get burnt, or even be eaten by carnivorous plants. Their deaths are often accompanied with splashes of colorful blood that quickly disappear. Careful thought and strategy are rewarded, though the dimwitted Moogus can throw a wrench in players' plans by blindly wandering into danger and dying. A level editor mode encourages creativity and community by having players share what they make.

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What's it about?

TERRORARIUM puts players in the boots of a highly competitive alien granny gardener who's tired of being ranked second to her rival. Determined to become the best, she uses her pet Moogus to tame and conquer a variety of exotic interplanetary gardens. Moogus are obedient little walking mushroom things with special powers. They follow your gardener around without question, letting her do things like toss them at barricades that need to be destroyed or into the gullets of carnivorous plants waiting to be fed. Getting them to objectives can be tricky, though, since plenty of obstacles are waiting along the way, such as ponds in which they can drown, or hot rocks that can burn them. And the gardener isn't invincible either. For example, steer her into spiky plants pushing up from the ground -- which the little Moogus can easily move through -- and she'll die. Your goal is to keep both your Moogus and the gardener safe for as long as possible by expertly navigating these obstacles via simple commands so that you can reach the end of each short level and sacrifice a number of Moogus to a final plant. Outside of the story, players can use the included level editor to sculpt their own garden puzzles and share them with the game's community.

Is it any good?

Think of this one as a poor man's Pikmin game. Terrorarium was clearly inspired by the adventures of Nintendo's tiny Captain Olimar, a crash-prone astronaut who enlists the help of local sentient plants to clear obstacles and battle enemies. Several identical mechanics -- such as using a whistle to summon followers and throwing them at obstacles -- are brought to bear in Terrorarium, along with the concept of followers with different abilities. Terrorarium is a bit saucier, though, thanks to its portrait of a ruthless, uncaring alien granny gardener. The ability to create and share your own levels is also novel, though this part of the Terrorarium experience feels only half-finished, since there aren't really goals or even any sort of formal guidance in how to start building (thankfully, it's not that hard to figure out through trial and error).

While levels in Pikmin games tend to be lengthy and comprise multiple puzzles and enemy encounters that build off of each other, Terrorarium's levels are generally much shorter and less complex. That makes it easy to work through several in a single play session. Unfortunately, Terrorarium's developers haven't been able to replicate the impressive artificial intelligence of Nintendo's Pikmin. Moogus are constantly getting stuck on obstacles or wandering into dangerous areas. And if you lose too many to complete key objectives, it's game over. The only way to reliably keep them safe is to constantly jam on the whistle button so that they can't meander too far off. It's an inelegant and annoying solution, but it usually works. Terrorarium lacks the polish and personality of the Pikmin games, but fans of Nintendo's series who've been waiting years for a new entry might be able to satisfy their itch for bossing around wee creatures with this unabashed clone.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the impact of violence in media. Is the impact of the violence in Terrorarium affected by the fact that the creatures that die aren't real? Did you feel for the Moogus in Terrorarium? Did their portrayal make you think about the way people use animals in real-world industries?

  • What are some of the benefits of competition? Can you think of times when it's a bad influence on those involved?

Game details

  • Platforms: Windows
  • Price: $24.99
  • Pricing structure: Paid
  • Available online? Available online
  • Developer: Stitch Media
  • Release date: July 28, 2020
  • Genre: Puzzle
  • Topics: Space and Aliens
  • ESRB rating: NR for Not Rated
  • Last updated: September 20, 2020

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