The Gardens Between
Gameplay 8
Graphics 8
Sound 8

The Gardens Between is a relaxing and charming puzzle game based around friendship and memories. It features time manipulation for puzzle solving but never becomes too complicated or convoluted. The visuals are detailed and beautiful while the audio complements the dreamlike atmosphere nicely. While it’s not a very lengthy or particularly challenging game, it still makes for an enjoyable experience.

Gameplay: The puzzles are clever, but never too taxing.

Graphics: Very detailed and beautifully animated.

Sound: The soundtrack is very soothing

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The Gardens Between

Developer: The Voxel Agents | Publisher: The Voxel Agents | Release Date: 2018 | Genre: Puzzle / Adventure / Indie | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

The Gardens Between opens with a rather forlorn-looking pair of friends, Arina and Frendt, sitting together in their treehouse on a rainy evening. After a flash of lighting a ball of energy appears while time seemingly stops. Touching the orb causes the duo to be whisked away, along with their tree-house to what looks like a deserted island. To get off the island the two friends have to collect the energy orb and then make their way to the exit, which is located at the highest point of the island. This then transports them to the next island, where they have to repeat the process.

Whereas too many games forget the importance of showing instead of telling, this is not an issue in The Gardens Between. There are no long scenes of exposition that tries to impart the importance of your mission or the perils in which your characters find themselves. In fact, this game not only lacks speech but also text of any kind. It soon becomes apparent that the island on which the two friends find themselves are filled with objects related to their memories together. Players will also quickly notice that time remains frozen if the characters are not moving. So, to reach the exit players must move the characters forward, which also advances time and cause events to happen in the game world. However, by moving players backward the flow of time is also reversed, which can have some interesting consequences. It is the process of using these consequences to your advantage that make up the bulk of the puzzles in The Gardens Between.

As with most puzzle games, The Gardens Between starts off very gently. While the difficulty never really ramps up drastically, the game does introduce a few new elements and throws a couple of unexpected curveballs at players. Although its not the first puzzle game based around time manipulation The Gardens Between still manages to feel fresh and unique. There are no enemies to fight, no evil to defeat, and no way to back yourself into a corner that requires you to restart a level. Instead, you can simply move your characters backward and forwards to see how the flow of time can be used to your advantage.

As the complexity of the puzzles increases, you’ll find that occasionally the characters will need to interact with the environment too. Arina is limited to picking up and putting down the lantern that she uses to hold the energy orb on each level while Frendt is capable of manipulating certain objects. For example, some levels have fog that blocks the path, which can be dispelled if Arina is carrying the orb. Unfortunately, the fog also serves as pathways in places, which means it cannot be crossed while carrying the orb. Instead, Arina has to place the lantern on special blocks which often move around the level on their own accord as time advances. It’s not exactly rocket science, but players still need to think out of the box sometimes to figure out how to make use of these blocks. On the other hand, Frendt can activate special items that freeze the time for specific elements of an island. This is often essential for clearing special paths or getting past obstacles that would otherwise be impossible. Since the game is very short we don’t want to spoil any of the puzzles, but suffice to say that they are all interesting without being too easy or too obscure. There’s even a couple of perspective puzzles thrown in for good measure, which is quite neat.

The Gardens Between is also a good looking game with each island looking like a miniature diorama. Along with the grass and rocks the islands are also filled with giant objects related to the memories of the two friends, such as playing cards, game consoles, snacks, and more. Completing each set of islands also shows a short animation of the actual event that the memories are based on. In a clever touch, the color scheme and mood of the game also changes as players progress. Everything starts out bright and sunny with vivid colors, but then the colors begin to fade as the islands become dark and rainy. Observant players will spot the “twist” long before the ending is revealed, but it still packs an emotional punch. Overall, the visuals do a great job of capturing the melancholic and nostalgic atmosphere of the game. The game is also beautifully animated, with Arina and Frendt in particular looking great as they traverse the levels. A closer look at the visuals reveals just how much detail has been packed into every scene.

The audio for The Gardens Between is quite mellow and laid back, which suits the game perfectly. As we mentioned earlier there is no speech of any kind, which also contributes to the dreamlike feel of the game. The controls are very straightforward and only three buttons are required, one for moving forward, one for moving backward, and one for interacting with objects. It’s not possible to change the path on which a character is moving and things like jumping or climbing are handled automatically by the game.

Although it is not a game that is going to keep puzzle fans scratching their heads for very long The Gardens Between is still a charming and enjoyable experience. It is unfortunately a very short experience, but it does feel complete, which is better than padding out things unnecessarily or recycling puzzles. If you enjoy puzzle games but want something a little more relaxing and less taxing than the typical stuff then The Gardens Between won’t disappoint.

System Requirements

  • OS: 7
  • Processor: 1.8 GHz
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Intel HD 4000 Series
  • DirectX: Version 10
  • Storage: 2 GB available space
  • OS: 10
  • Processor: 2.4 GHz
  • Memory: 8 GB RAM
  • Graphics: GeForce 780
  • DirectX: Version 10
  • Storage: 2 GB available space
  • OS: 10.11.6 (El Capitan)
  • Processor: 1.8 GHz
  • Graphics: Intel HD 4000 Series
  • Storage: 2 GB available space
  • OS: 10.13.6 (High Sierra)
  • Processor: 2.4 GHz
  • Graphics: Radeon R9 M370X
  • Storage: 2 GB available space
  • Processor: 1.8 GHz
  • Graphics: Intel HD 4000 Series
  • Storage: 2 GB available space
  • Processor: 2.4 GHz
  • Graphics: GeForce 780
  • Storage: 2 GB available space

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