Calendula is a psychological indie horror game where the player finds themselves hanging around the main menu for the most part of the game. Everything seems to be normal.
I know that doesn't sound too appealing but it is similar to games like Pony Island in that someone or something seems to possess your game. It’s better to play it and experience it for yourself (Although, there are cases of flashing lights in the game so be aware of that if you are prone to epileptic seizures.)
We start off at the main menu. It was like your typical menu but as I progressed through the game, I realized that there was something else at play. Initially, once I tried to make a new game, I received a Fatal Error message.
It seemed as though there was some funny business happening with my video settings. I naively hoppped on over to the video settings, clicked on the “Mirror” option and thought all my problems were fixed.
I was wrong. Everything, at that point, went to a spiral descent. The cursor would invert for no reason. When I wanted to go up, the cursor would go down. The game was playing with me, as if someone was observing me in real time, trying to see my reaction to whatever it was planning. Soon afterwards, loading a game needed a password.
Graciously enough, the game would leave clues for the password. I see them as taunts, really, but I digress. Some of the clues are vague but doing a bit of exploring in the various settings in the main menu helped figure out some of the puzzles the game had in store for me. One of the more clever ones, in my opinion, was the clue, “flooded in red.” The solution was simple enough in that all I had to do was turn the “saturation” all the way down. Simple, right? To be honest, most of the puzzles were simple but the way they were executed was superb in my opinion.
In between the puzzles, there was this small place the game would teleport me to. My visit here was brief but, haunting images of blood and alien figures (not actual little green but figures that were uncanny and non-human like) flashed before me every time I entered this surreal world.
At times, disconcerting moans would invade my eardrums. I wished the game would allow the players to explore this area more because it was a very linear path but as the story unfolded before me, I understand why they had to restrict the player’s movements.
This might be me being paranoid but I felt like I was kept under surveillance. I got the hibbie jibbies. I mean, there was a not so subtle message telling me “I SEE U” so I wasn’t wrong for feeling this way. Maybe, I’m just the paranoid type. It rattled me quite a few times but I wouldn't call Calendula a scary game. More like a game that likes to creep you out from time to time and leaves you questioning the game's true motives.
I have to reiterate that I spent most of my time in a menu. That is the intention for Calendula. It is buggy on purpose. There’s always some kind of glitch in the matrix. With that said, this is when it’s hard to tell whenever a glitch is an intended glitch or not. Unfortunately for me, I did come across a game breaking bug that might have impeded my progress. I encountered this close to the end of the game. It is in a room full of eyes. Once every eye had manifested before me, I couldn’t move at all. Logically, my first thought is to ALT F4. It worked. I was able to proceed. Only after I scoured the forums did I find out that this was not intentional.
You never know if a glitch is part of the game or not.
I’ve talked to a few friends who asked me about Calendula. Their first questions were always, “How long is this game?” I answered with, “about an hour or so.” I do not blame them for letting the length of the game be the decided factor for them. I also do it as well. However, I still want to recommend it, only because I had fun sorting the puzzles out, no matter how simple they were. I don’t want to ruin the ending for anybody who wants to play it but it made me think about it.
I believe Calendula can be interpreted in a few ways since the ending isn’t entirely clear to me.
To me, Calendula is a story about life.
People come and go. People are born. People die. It’s all part of life. What you do with your life, is up to you.