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The Gardens Between

Posted by GG Goblin On September - 25 - 2018

A charming puzzle experience.

Often times, the length of a game will be a factor in how well it is received by gamers. A game promising to entertain for over one hundred hours is preferable to one that runs for less than ten, especially in the same price range. However, there is a time and a place for a short game, and a game that creates a memorable experience over the matter of only a few hours will often make more of an impact than any one hundred hour epic. The Voxel Agents’ latest title, The Gardens Between may only take a few hours to complete, but the charming, bitter sweet tale it tells will stay with the player for a long time to come.

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Two young friends, Arina and Frendt, take shelter in a tree house to avoid the rain. They soon discover that their tree house, which is now acting as a kind of boat, has taken them into a strange, dream-like world made up of islands packed with all manner of everyday objects from their lives. The objective is to follow the path on each of the islands to the end with an orb of light.

There is a reason to all of this strangeness, a tale that the game is trying to tell, but it may not be apparent from the very beginning. However, the relationship between the two youngsters is very apparent from the off, and only grows as the game continues. While there is no verbal communication between the two, their body language and the way they interact shows just how close they are. It really is quite charming, and it is this relationship that stands out as one of the most endearing aspects of the game. The developers have done a wonderful job of conveying emotion without words.

The gameplay comes from the way the player interacts with time on each island. This is the core aspect of the puzzles. Players don’t actively control either of the youngsters, and they will go about their business and follow their path on each island. However, the player is able to spin the island around, causing time to either move forward or roll back depending on the direction. Each of the youngsters also has their own ability, with Arina able to transport the light and reveal bridges, while Frendt can operate switches. It is a bit difficult to explain, but the player will have to pay attention to the surroundings of the island environment and what happens in that environment in order to move time back and forwards, while hitting switches and placing or picking up the light in order to get the two of them to the end of the path. The player can then move on to the next island.

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The puzzles range in difficulty, from fairly straight forward to puzzles that require multiple steps to find the solution, and the simple mechanic is used to great effect. It feels like there is more to come from the game and its mechanic, but the developers haven’t pushed it as far as they could yet. Still, the situations that the pair face are enjoyable and satisfying to solve, and the interaction between the two as they go about their journey is just great to watch.

Visually, The Gardens Between is a great looking game. The islands that make up each level are like detailed dioramas that combine the mundane yet beautiful with all manner of out of place objects from the real world, giving everything a very surreal feel. The two characters have plenty of detail and personality, and are able to convey their feelings without having to utter a word. The whole thing, soundtrack included, has a calm and peaceful air that would suit a relaxing afternoon’s gaming.

Which sums it up quite well. The Gardens Between is a relaxing game that players can just chill with. At a normal pace, the game will only last about three hours, but that is all that is needed. Would I have liked the game to last longer? It’s a great game, so yes. But am I disappointed that it was over so soon? No, because the game did enough to make me feel good, and that’s alright.

tgb3 (Copy)

The Gardens Between is a short game that is full of impact. It is charming, pretty to look at and puzzling to play. It is also slow and almost sleepy, which is quite welcome. It is an unusual puzzle game that is a joy to play and bodes well for future games from The Voxel Agents. For puzzle game fans, or those who want to just chill, The Gardens Between would make the perfect choice on Switch.




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