A trip down memory lane?
Developed by Australian based studio The Voxel Agents in 2018, The Gardens Between is a puzzle game that plays with the idea of manipulating time, constellations and chain reactions. In the game you play as both Arina and Frendt (that’s not a typo), two teenagers who live next door to each other where a small park/treehouse is situated between the two buildings. One stormy evening the pair – who are sat in the treehouse – encounter a sphere of light which transports them to an abstract world made up of islands based on their memories together.
The aim of the game is to transport a different sphere of light from one side of the island to the other. To do this, the player must manipulate time in order to move fallen objects, create reactions that rely on timing and more. Instead of navigating the world as Arina and Frendt, the player instead moves time forwards or backwards which is turn moves the pair along a predetermined path from one end of the island to the other. It isn’t as easy as it sounds though as there are multiple puzzles and obstacles to overcome during your time on each island.
I bought this game on a whim as it was in the PlayStation sale and honestly, didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. The storytelling is minimal with most of it being revealed towards the end of the game. It’s the perfect game to play in the evenings to relax with its appealing visuals and leisurely soundtrack. As I started the game and the mechanics were introduced to me, I naively assumed that this would be a breeze and that I would finish the game - with a run time of around only 2 hours - in one sitting. The puzzles then progressively got more difficult meaning the game became more challenging as you move about the islands. In most cases though it was always an obvious solution that I had been oblivious to that suddenly clicked into place the longer I observed it.
My only issue with the game is as I previously mentioned, the playtime. The main story comes in at around 2 hours and even with all the extras you’re still only looking at 2 and a half hours of gameplay. Due to the puzzle aspect of the game, it may also be a tricky game when it comes to replayability as once you’re aware of how to solve the puzzles, you can probably get through the game in half of the average playtime. Personally though, I don’t think this is too much of a fault with this game as it is the kind of thing you can experience once and still fully appreciate.
The Gardens Between has a nostalgic sense to it with the pair traversing islands filled with retro gaming relics, old television sets, VHS tapes and more. This once again gives the game a sentimental feeling about it similar to games such as What Remains of Edith Finch and Unravel which transport you through memories and make you nostalgic of a time you may not have even experienced yourself. I am a big fan of these simplistic, affectionate games that construct an emotion that typically you can only get from recounting your own memories. The game’s simple, however imaginative gameplay is enough to keep you engaged without causing frustration and features a melancholy ending that feels right for this kind of story.
The Gardens Between is available now on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC & iOS.
If you would like to see some of my experience with The Gardens Between, I streamed my first playthrough on the NOWO YouTube channel, you can find it here! For more of my reviews see what else I have to offer on nerdoutwordout.com and my personal blog hopeelizablog.wordpress.com.