Grunn is definitely not terrifying so don’t worry at all

Grunn is a normal gardening game set in a mundane village, according to the Steam blurb. It is not at all weird and horrifying, not remotely a glimpse into the abyss. Moments after first arriving off the bus you won’t find yourself trapped in the garden by a bridge with a rotten plank. You won’t accidentally murder a magpie while chopping down tall grass. And you thoroughly won’t be stalked by a nameless tormentor as you go about your gardening work.

Okay, thankfully for everyone I can’t keep that up. Grunn is weird: deliciously, horribly weird, and while I don’t want to spoil too much, I can at least tell you that you’re in for a surprise. The game’s made by Sokpop, after all, the tiny collective whose games like to subvert expectations. Also, the atmosphere is thick and menacing from the off.

So I arrive in Grunn and I head into a garden. I find my way to a shed where there’s a bed to sleep in and a note from the owner of the garden, who’s asked me to tidy the place up by Monday. I need to tidy the grass, water the plants, get rid of molehills and pick up trash. Oh, and sort the hedge. All basic gardening stuff.

Grunn plays it straight for quite a while after that. Get shears to chop the grass, pick up bits of rubbish by hand, use a trowel for sorting out the molehills. There’s a completion meter in the bottom corner and, while the garden isn’t large, it’s a complex space filled with secret corners. There are locked doors, too, and Polaroids, and a gate leading to a nearby church which I eventually manage to get open.

As I work, the morning turns to noon and then afternoon. I wonder where the watering can is. I wonder whether I can get into the church itself, and whether I should sort the grass out in the graveyard. I chop grass, pick up litter, and reflect on how oppressive it all is, just doing my simple gardening tasks in this seemingly empty space which I start to realise isn’t empty at all.

An eerie bus and gas station at night in Grunn
Image credit: Sokpop Collective

From there, Grunn goes to some very special places. The Next Fest demo on Steam right now has five endings, and the two I’ve found so far? Well, they’re pleasantly skin-crawling. What I love about Grunn is that it isn’t a simple prank. It’s not over the moment that you find that this cozy gardening game is curdling into something stranger. It wants you to realise that pretty early, if anything. And then after that, the sense of confusion and impending doom just grows and grows, until you’re horrible curious about how Grunn will ever create a fitting pay-off.


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