Game: The Gardens Between
Developer: The Voxel Agents
Publisher: The Voxel Agents
Age Rating: EU 3+|USA E
Price: £17.99 | €19,99| $19.99
Release Date: September 20, 2018
(The game is also available on PS4 and Steam)
Overall Feeling: I Like it a Lot
Review Code generously provided by The Voxel Agents
The Gardens Between developed by indie The Voxel Agents is a puzzle cross adventure game. A none narrative story about the friendship of two young friends, Arina and Frendt.
The story of two friends
The story starts with the two friends sitting in their battered treehouse on a stormy night. Lighting hits the treehouse and a glowing orb appears in front of the kids. Arina being curious touches the orb which warps the pair and the treehouse to a planet of water and a series of themed islands. They sail between the small islands using their treehouse that has turned into a makeshift boat.
Each of the island represents shared memories of the friends. Islands filled with larger than life items, a giant TV, couch, pencil or computer screen.
In this beautiful visual story Arina and Frendt must climb to the top of each island to place the glowing orb that Arina carries in special lantern into a pedestal. Frendt doesn’t carry anything but has just an important role as he has the job of interacting with switches that change the environment.
The gameplay: puzzling your way to the top
Of course it’s not just as simple as placing the orb into the pedestal, obstacles placed throughout each island come in the form of flowers that steal the light from Arina’s lantern, a dark purple fog that either needs removed or kept to form a bridge.
The themes of the island all relate to the story of the friendship between the friends. One island has a moving in theme, packing boxes tumble to the ground, on another island electronic items are scattered around some of these are useful like a video cassette that falls to the ground to make a handy ramp for the pair to cross on their way to the top of the island.
During their travels the friends stop and point out certain items around the islands or to examine something of interest to them and their story, during times like that you are the observer as their story unfolds.
Upon completion of an island this adds to a constellation in the sky above the island, two or three island are enough to complete a short story where you learn a little bit more about the friends.
In this game you control time
Unlike other games you do not control the two friends as such, instead it is time that you control. Rewind time so that a large bone from a dinosaur skeleton falls neatly into place to form a bridge. Moving an electrified box to connect to wires to power a row of lights.
It’s a simple as moving one joystick to control time, or as I found myself just using the ZR/ZL buttons to control time and the friends as they traverse the many island and a quick press of A helps Frendt press or pull that switch.
The puzzles on each island are never to complex that you feel frustrated while playing the game. They do indeed require some thought and some islands did take a few tries before the friends made it to the pedestal at the top of the island. A bit of try this, try that involved and some working out while you rewind to move a certain object into place or take it away. It never feels repetitive.
The chilled music is relaxing and matches the gameplay perfectly.
In all my years of gaming I’m not sure I have played anything like The Gardens Between. Its take on time is really special. Sure moving time has been done before in games but not in this ingenious way. I really enjoyed the story of friendship and the island puzzles. I will definitely revisit The Gardens Between in the future, I liked it a lot.