The Gardens Between PC Review

Short and sweet, The Gardens Between's light puzzle adventure is clever and soft to the touch.

By Daavpuke, Posted 22 Sep 2018

The world is a tumultuous place where we don’t always have control of the things surrounding us. The Gardens Between is a light puzzle game that allows two children to rewind time, to the moments where their lives were worry-free. This short story revolves around bright, cheerful dioramas that encapsulate the duo’s adventures, as they build a lasting friendship as well as a tree house that transports them through time.


The Gardens Between


The Gardens Between uses soft shapes and pastel color schemes to convey the soothing atmosphere of these kids’ lives, exploring it one event at a time. In particular, the level design is uniquely built up of cylindrical set pieces that revolve around topical objects, such as the time where the two played video games together or when they went spelunking in the sewers. These areas rotate 360 degrees, packing every point of interest and unwritten plot point in a condensed little adventure cake; it’s clever, functional and cute as heck.

Creativity has top billing in this project, as everything in the world reacts to the level design’s rotation. A simple back-and-forth mechanism affects time, together with sparse interactive objects. Usually, the boyish and girlish character will each travel their own path, where one can flick switches and the other can carry a light that activates certain spots. As the two manipulate their environment, they can rewind back in time, where the level has now shifted, such as a light now being available or a collapsed passage being restored.

Most puzzles serve the purpose of just recounting the adventures of the duo, seeing them make plans for a tree house or visiting the playground together. As such, progression is often a matter of figuring out how the area’s enlarged objects will react to being manipulated and how that will lead to a path to the next level. There are a dozen or so interactions that synergize with the game’s level design that reward players for paying attention to the smaller details, such as a protagonist gawking at a certain spot or a box flying behind an obscuring pillar.


The Gardens Between


That untold, intuitive flow of strolling through an area effortlessly is the upside of having such a creative project as The Gardens Between. It is, however, not without downsides. There are, particularly in later levels, a few more painful examples of “developer logic,” where separately acting concepts will have a mind of their own and it’s unclear what direction the game wants to go to. Seeing as most of The Gardens Between trains the player to react to interactive objects in a select amount of ways, these rare outliers will present an anticlimactic obstacle in finding out the next adventure of the duo. At best, quirks like using a perspective trick exactly once, shows that there was still room for this game to grow, but variants were cut short to write a more compact, cohesive tale.

The odd hindrance aside, The Gardens Between is a well-needed bite of escapism, both for the two protagonists as for the player. With cute and, more importantly, uniquely clever diorama set pieces, this tiny adventure that spans just a few hours feels as innovative as it is refreshing and heartfelt. The price tag might not entice everyone, but that isn’t indicative of this game’s worth in the slightest, especially for those who want to sleuth through background details for added replay value. There is no price on well-being and if The Gardens Between emphasizes anything, it’s that our time and how we spend it is precious, no matter the cost. We all wish we could go back to a simpler time, now and then.

Daav Valentaten, NoobFeed (@Daavpuke)

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General Information

Platform(s): PS4, PC
Publisher(s): The Voxel Agents
Developer(s): The Voxel Agents
Genres: Adventure
Themes: Story
Release Date: 2018-09-20

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