An Unforgettable, Short But Sweet Puzzle Adventure
The Gardens Between is a purely riveting puzzle game about a special unbroken bond between two childhood friends. After a powerful thunderstorm electrifies their treehouse sending them swirling into an alternate dimension, players will utilize the power of controlling time to navigate through the trivial, casually short, yet, exceedingly satisfying enigmatic adventure.
A Simple, Yet, Worthwhile Experience
With an easily approachable control scheme, players of any age can dive right into this short but sweet journey. The vivid colors bring the melancholic mystery universe to life themed with close memories shared between the two friends. The simplicity of The Gardens Between is what makes the game so charming and receptive. Not much to the story other than it’s a deep bond between two lost friends. Only three different button inputs are used throughout the entirety of the game, yet impressively keeps the gameplay engaging. The concept is beautifully rote and well worth the weekend it takes to finish.
As mentioned, players find themselves controlling two friends at once with the by moving time either forward or backward with either analog stick pushed left or right. It works exceptionally well with the circular level layout as players find their way around a variety of pleasing puzzle designs. Each character moves at altering paces taking different pathways creating a natural feel of two lost friends exploring an uncharted dimension. The linear direction of each friend allows players to casually explore various ideas for solving each puzzle correctly, without the hassle of running into dead ends.
The levels are separated into small islands each themed with touching memories shared by the two friends. There are either two or three islands that make up a clump of themed islands with each chapter typically introducing a new puzzle mechanics to the experience. Nothing ever creates an “impossible” feeling as every puzzle coordinates wonderfully with the current objective. The solution is usually hiding in plain sight, but it’s how you come to that solution that makes the journey satisfying.
No Need For A Complex Concept
Along with the simple movement controls of controlling either forwards or backwards movement, each friends also utilizes a single action that is triggered with specific items across each island. One friend uses a lantern type object to capture orbs of light which when used trigger various mechanics in each level. That’s part of the puzzle mechanics. The other friend can manipulate the area using pedestals located in every level which can break or fix various objects which change the layout of the level, create a new pathway, control moving mechanisms to carry light orbs over to the other player, or a variety of other interesting methods of puzzle solving. It’s a completely gratifying and incredibly casual approach to puzzle solving that never seems to dry up throughout the course of the relatively short adventure.
After each clump of islands is completed players are rewarded with a short and simple clip of the two friends sharing a special moment in their life together. Each memory forms a star constellation of sorts creating a series of shiny moments that highlight the young companions and their beloved friendship. It’s a beautifully crafted experience that creates a simple mind boggle driven by the subtle, yet, touching story all the way up to the shocking conclusion.
There’s literally not much to the formula of The Gardens Between, but what is there speaks volumes to games that take risks with simple concepts. It proves we don’t always need graphically demanding, highly talented voice actors and deep plotlines to fill the void of lacking gameplay. The Gardens Between compliments itself with gorgeous visuals, inspiring gameplay elements and an effortless piece of storytelling that never once tries too hard.
Puzzle solving finds itself in a beautifully realized dimension shared between the charming friendship of two loyal childhood friends in The Gardens Between. Altering each level to solve a series of puzzles is impressively charming, unapologetically casual and a near perfect experience in every way. The conclusion of the uncomplicated story is a sheer delight and unforgettable. There’s been a slew of well-polished, well-thought out indie games this year, and The Gardens Between is every bit a magnum opus from The Voxel Agents, and worth every minute poured into the experience.