Edutainment is a tricky thing to get right. Being both fun and educational means you often have to try new viewpoints or tricks to get people on board. Secrets of Soil is a free game that takes about 45 minutes to play and it has decided to translate the world of soil and food chains into a psychedelic polygon art show. It is bright, beautiful and hypnotic.
Across various scenes a narrator introduces you to a new weird and wacky representation of soil. You could be looking at roots, microbes or bacteria – it’s represented like a chaotic disco of lights and flashing bars. After each room is narrated, you get to float around it with the camera but in a strange omission, you often can’t do anything except that. After a while you’ll have floated around a bit and it will move to the next scene. Rinse, repeat. There are a few segments where you get to trigger artistic changes as the grey lifeless monocultured soil can be given new life, or you can move a microbe around for fun but they aren’t games as such. Instead they are movement and interaction for the sake of saying the game has some it seems.
Yet despite all of that, the actual message of saving our soil is well sold. The narration is simple and doesn’t complicate things too much and offers a nice starting point for thinking about how we plant our crops. By the end of the experience I was quite interested to know what else I could do but the links it takes you to for more information were quite sparse. It feels a bit like a missed opportunity as Secrets of Soil definitely educates but then leaves you hanging for next steps.
In what must be the most generous 7 I’ve given, the main reason aside from education that I enjoyed the game was how LSD inspired the art was. I found myself taking loads of screenshots to make Soil Art from it all and that was where I spent most of my time. Add to that its a free download and I couldn’t really knock it for any other reason.
Niche? Absolutely. A wonky but heartfelt execution? Definitely. I am glad that projects like this exist though so I’ll happily support them to spread some goodness.
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