It’s Friday night and I’m waiting for my dough to rise so I can make pizza. This is the kind of person I am. Not to say that I’m a homebody, but I am also the kind of person who’s installed Steam on her computer just to grow a pot of virtual succulents.
Viridi is is a beautiful and simple 3D “meditative potted plant app” available free on Steam (which is probably necessary because I imagine it would be difficult to convince new users to pay for it, although it is possible to pay miniature prices for miniature plants – as much as thirty-nine cents!). The art is undeniably adorable in its sub-realistic minimalism, little puffy non-flowers in vibrant, earthy colors, the perfect subject for the unassuming style. As cute as it is, I’m not really here for the animation. Somehow I’ve logged eighty minutes since downloading Viridi and I might be close to hitting a wall with it (at least, not until after my aloe vera blooms), but the reason I’ve gotten this far is the beautiful soundtrack by Michael Bell.
On Bandcamp, Michael Bell is credited with three soundtracks for Ice Water Games. Elsewhere on the Internet, he is virtually invisible. The sounds that accompany such dainty gardening assist the game in creating a beautiful yet impersonal atmosphere, encouraging the “meditative” qualities the game relies on. Attention to detail is essential. Every song is a vaguely exotic melange of crystal clear bells and reverberant vibraphone – tiny, plump sounds arranged in a cohesive, but diverse bunch like succulents. The compositions are soothing and endearing. While they all sound very similar, they gently usher time past without running into one another or becoming redundant. A surprisingly indulgent moment without fail, every time it happens, is the short pause between songs in the gameplay. I’ve been interested for a while in ambient video game music (see also: Disasterpeace and Thomas Brush) but this is the clearest, most direct relationship I’ve found between composition and subject matter. My personal favorite on the soundtrack is “Hens and Chicks”, one of the more rhythmically rigid songs. “Mote” is by far the most cheerful selection. The rest of Bell’s work on Bandcamp is similarly ambient, although The Absence of Is features more industrial, otherworldly sounds, while Eidolon works with a wider range of timbres and more straightforward melodies.
Other sounds in Viridi can be heard by spraying plants with water, or pulling plants and weeds out of the pot. Both sounds are crisp and distinctly satisfying, especially against the smooth soundtrack, and especially in the silent breaks. Adorably, one of the few options available to interact with the succulents is to “sing” to them. To avoid interrupting the background music, the “singing” is represented by a short staff that runs across the screen on which note heads appear one by one, with no rhythmic value. Upon further research (a quick Google search), there seems to be no correlation between singing and succulents, but this reviewer put it nicely:
“There’s also a snail that travels around the pot….If you’re so inclined, you can pour water on the snail and sing to that little bugger, too. I mean, if singing to a succulent is a thing in Viridi, why wouldn’t singing to a snail be a thing? Whether singing to the plant or snail is correlated to their growth remains to be seen.”
My succulents are named Tim, Tim 2, Tim 3, Tim 4, Tim 5, Tim 6, Tim 7, Tim 8, Hayworth, Phil, and Aloe Vera. The snail is named Irving and was once deleted by a reckless friend, but returned faithfully the next day. Those are their names because it makes me happy, dang it, and that’s the whole point of the game.