Warden: Melody of the Undergrowth – Review
Follow Genre: Platform/Adventure
Developer: Cardboard Keep
Publisher: Cardboard Keep
Platforms: PC, consoles (soon)
Tested on: PC

Warden: Melody of the Undergrowth – Review

Site Score
Good: Stylish world, challenging puzzles
Bad: Weak storyline, frustrating battlesystem, outdated graphics
User Score
(1 votes)
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VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 4.0/10 (1 vote cast)

The old school platformer genre we knew from the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation 1 era is as good as extinct. The franchises from that time either disappeared or evolved, leaving a huge gap for many gamers who grew up in the 90’s. With Warden: Melody of the Universe the studio Cardboard Keep (a studio with only 3 developers!) tries to satisfy this nostalgic missed feeling.



You start the game as Tavian, the Emperor’s son. Together with your father, you’re in a forest training when suddenly you get attacked by Mudmen. During this attack you get separated with your father and get lost in the process. When you decide to sleep, after not being able to get any further, or get back, you wake up in some sort of dream realm. In said dream world, you’ll find some sort of dragon called Nyona, who is the spirit of nature and currently finds herself in chains. It’s your job to travel through the world in a quest to rescue her. She promises you that you will be reunited with your father afterwards, so with no further questions asked you start on your journey.

Unfortunately it’s no epic journey. The storyline doesn’t get any deeper than just described. And even though you meet many characters in the game, none of them really matter or add any depth to the game. It doesn’t help either that almost all other characters look like some weird trolls and are all almost the same. Later on you will meet the other playable characters, but neither of those add anything to the story either.



The look and style of Warden: Melody of the Universe  really bathes you in pure nostalgia. Cardboard Keep said in the game description that the game is inspired by “classics of the N64-era” and that really comes out in the visuals. The game is colourful and cute even. The forest setting that the game went for really works in this style. Even though the whole game is set up in this same forest setting, every area still has its own style, which keeps the map interesting and never boring. From time to time you will also travel through a dream world. This world is dark and leaves the green forests behind you. This makes the game visually more diverse and is a real welcome change.

The main characters are cute children, and next to Tavian’s dad, the only humans, who are heavily inspired by Link’s look from The Legend of Zelda: Orarina of Time. The monsters you fight are all obviously inspired by 90’s games too. You will fight shooting flowers, piles of mud, and walking branches with swords. The friendly NPC’s however all have the same trollish look, just like certain villains, which makes them uninteresting and replaceable. Not once will you really care about any of them.

The visuals unfortunately also suffer from low and outdated textures. That the game goes for a nostalgic look and doesn’t contain AAA graphics is understandable, but that the texture quality is this low isn’t. It’s also not just the texture quality, but the placement is weird at moments too. Sometimes you will even notice that some of the collectable points of this game are stuck within those trees without any way for you to reach them. This really makes it seems like those trees were just randomly added afterwards, to fill the place up a bit. Warden also has the most ridiculous depth of field. If you’re only a few steps removed from something it’s already blurred out. All these issues make it impossible to really get sucked in the game.



Warden’s soundtrack is friendly and inviting. The music never gets to the foreground, but still is able to give a good vibe while playing the game. On top of that it really fits the nostalgic vibe of the game. It are simple tunes that could’ve come straight out of a N64 or PSX platformer. Every area seems to have their own song, which makes the soundtrack diverse enough. Unfortunately in some areas the music will stop without any reason.

The conversations are all text-based so you will never hear any character talk. Something that is to be expected in a nostalgic game like this. Your characters do make sounds when attacking, jumping, or getting hurt in the same way that Link makes sounds in Zelda games. It all just adds more to the 90’s vibe the developers are going for. Every of your main character has their own sounds though, which makes it feel like they really have their own voice and are actually different characters.


Warden is really an old school platformer. In the majority from the game you’re climbing and jumping from one platform to another. While doing this you will look for levers and buttons to complete the smart created puzzles. Most of these puzzles you need to solve to progress in the game, while some are there to give you extra points or new weapons. The learning curve of these puzzles are done really well too. In the beginning of the game they are really easy, but they get harder at a decent rate making them challenging and rewarding. The only thing that causes a real frustrating struggle for some puzzles is the camera. It never really goes to the positions you want and it controls a wonky. So at quite some puzzles you will be spending more time adjusting the camera than actually jumping.


Another way to solve puzzles is to light up campfires and sleep next to them. This causes you to enter a dream world which you can use to travel throughout the game. Whenever you go to sleep next to another campfire in this dream world you wake up in another place within the game. You can use this function to travel to places that you normally can’t reach, but also to fast travel back to points in the game where you have been. Meaning you don’t have to backtravel much in the game. This is a real creative and good addition which makes the game more unique.

Later on in the game you will gain extra playable characters who all have their own skill that you need to finish these puzzles. For example making flowers grow into platforms you can use to get over gaps. This option however is more hassle that forces you to switch characters than really adding depth to the game.

Of course you aren’t only jumping over platforms and solving puzzles. There are many monsters and enemies in the game that you have to fight off. And here we end up on the most frustrating thing of the game: the battlesystem. The basics of fighting are simple, you can attack and evade. The attacks are all frustratingly slow and your characters jump forward a bit too much when attacking. The blowback from landed attacks are also gigantic, meaning it’s extremely hard to hit a monster multiple times in a row. While in puzzles you only struggle a bit from the camera, in fights it is just horrid. In many battles you will spend more time rolling around, trying to evade every attack and hoping that you get a good camera angle and timing to attack. If you’re really unlucky you will get stuck against a tree or rock which in boss fights makes you lose a fight more times than you’re willing to admit. Later bossfights are even barely playable because of this, which really takes out all the fun out of the game. In most games the boss fights are challenging but rewarding, in Warden however they are terrible and at points even game breaking.

You don’t have a real inventory in the game, but you can hold up to 3 weapons. These weapons however break down after a while, making it important that you gather new weapons quite frequently. Warden is filled with weapons, so it’s never a struggle to gain them. Almost every enemy drops a weapon and sometimes you just find random weapons laying around. The weapons in the game are all close combat weapons diversing from swords to spears to blunt weapons. All these weapons vary in strength and speed, however there is no way to know how much because there are no weapon stats within the game. So the only way to find out what kind of weapons are useful for you is by using them.


Weapons aren’t the only things you find throughout the world. You will find points, that in the game are called ‘Motes’. These are little lights you can collect and use as a currency to open doors and buy weapons. The latter however is a useless option since the game is already filled with weapons for you to find for free. The doors that you can open with Motes open up new levels and areas of which you need to progress the game, so it’s important that you pick up any Mote you can find. On top of this you also can collect health upgrades and Lore Scrolls. The Lore Scrolls give you more of a backstory, but they aren’t really important to the game itself.

Progression through the game is made by completing missions and quests and follow the storyline. However at many times it’s unclear what you actually are supposed to do, so you will run through the same levels a bunch of times and almost always find what you were supposed to do by accident.


Warden: Melody of Undergrowth is a game filled with potential, but unfortunately a lot of its potential is either misused or not used at all. While it is a stylish game with great puzzles it really suffers from the terrible battle system and weak storyline. It doesn’t help either that the camera never does what you want and that it’s unclear what you are supposed to do. The combination of this battle system and camera movements creates unplayable and game breaking moments. These issues make completing the game a hard and unfair task, instead of a rewarding experience. For people who want a nostalgic trip this game can be fun at times, but it will never be that great adventure that you had in the 90’s. This is all a shame because it was such an ambitious project for such a small studio. If you go to the Steam forum of the game you will also notice that the developers respond to many of the posted issues, questions, and bugs. They really do care, so all we can do is hope that over time they will be able to make the game better than it is now.

We tested the Ultimate Edition. This version of the game gives you the soundtrack of the game and a digital booklet filled with concept art and insights in the development of the game. It doesn’t add anything in game however.


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Rating: 4.0/10 (1 vote cast)
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Warden: Melody of the Undergrowth – Review, 4.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

Comic and sci-fi nerd waiting for the Doctor to pick him up!

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