The Gardens Between
Developer: The Voxel Agents
Publisher: The Voxel Agents
Price: £17.99 // $19.99
While playing The Gardens Between, Its interesting when I think about how much time has had an effect on my life. We are all victims of time in our lives, it’s always deserting us or running away from us too. Doctor Who is a personal favourite and the main theme is travelling in time. So colour me intrigued when I get a game where the main mechanic used is playing with time.
Lets hop in the TARDIS and discuss The Gardens Between.
Lets go on an adventure.
Now I am going to say that when I first turned this game on I wasn’t sure where I stood with it. I mean it looked good and the music was interesting and atmospheric but was that enough for me. I am a guy who likes his games with plenty of violence and gore. Lately however, I have tried my hardest to try new things and I am very glad that I have. It’s not always easy as you get older to try new things but with a steady flow of games that are not in my wheel house, its made the battle easier. The Gardens Between is an interesting concept. The main characters are Arina and Frendt, they are best friends who have descended into a series of island worlds. The worlds are wonderfully designed and the colours really catch your eye.
The islands are the puzzle and using the often unexplored mechanic of time manipulation you will find yourself and your friend traversing each island and solving the puzzles that lay before you. Nothing really taxing there, right? Well believe me the fact you have the ability to move time forwards or backwards shows that you are not expected to get this right first time.
The wonderful variety of worlds and the way in which each one looks and the design is brilliant. I was surprised as usually this game is not for me (However I do love a good Layton mystery).
Causality is a strange topic for a game to choose but an interesting one none the less. How your actions affect what happens going forward is something we all face on a daily basis and its nice to see a game tackle the issue head on in such a clever way. Being able to control time to alter the way your choices have gone is great (if only real life was so simple).
The design of each Garden or level is brilliant. Each one is designed around a memory that Arina and Frendt have shared and the Garden is littered with different parts of debris from the memory until you complete your objective. Each level has a unique feel and the way each one is presented shows real care and attention to detail has gone into this by The Voxel Agents. The way the different pieces of furniture are utilised in solving the puzzles is clever also, you may find yourself pressing a button on the VCR remote or knocking a bowl off the sofa to conquer the causality puzzles.
Lets talk who this game can be played by and the simple answer is anyone. There is not a single piece of dialogue in the game. When you begin your journey into the gardens you are literally just playing the game and solving the puzzles. It may sound simplistic but therein lies the beauty of this game. Don’t get me wrong I didn’t say the puzzles were simple as you will find out yourself. The further you move into the game the more creative the Gardens become in their frustrating nature.
I loved this game, whilst the actual length of the game is very short (Around 4-6 hours depending on your puzzle ability), the way in which its presented is clean, crisp and down right beautiful. No one can accuse The Voxel Agents of a lack of polish here. The game is simply lovely, there I said it. It reminds us of what truly is important in regards of friendship. We will all be able to relate in some way to the themes at work in The Gardens Between.
Friendship being a central theme is wonderful, we all have someone in our lives that we hold dear. Let me say that I am someone who loves my friends dearly and a game that can re-emphasise this is all good in my book. The puzzles are clever and will make you think, I won’t be the only one to turn the clock back and realise where I went wrong, multiple times (Yes I said multiple times lol). There are many times that you will see images from your childhood scattered around the Gardens, items such as old school tvs, game controllers etc and the little nostalgic nods are a welcome addition to me.
The mechanic of moving time forwards and back is brilliant in my humble opinion. Whilst you are controlling the action you are more in control of the flow of time and that aspect to me is fantastic and fascinating. The more you play you will realise how well it has been implemented by the games developers. With the unique way that you do not really control the characters its certainly a refreshing way to control a puzzle game. The characters have a certain path to follow and you just need to control the flow of time around them as they move.
The audio work is just so relaxing. The music is something I would expect in a Lush spa treatment or some other such relaxing therapy. The music suits the themes perfectly, It evokes the sense of a dream like state whilst you’re playing. The relaxing music and the level design work together to give such an easy-going, at your own time vibe. The game puts no pressure on you at all and if anything provides a sense of calm throughout.
The guys over at The Voxel Agents have produced a game for all ages that’s enjoyable and good to look at (Though some people (me) in their late 30s may need assistance. The playtime could be a factor but obviously this will depend on how you play and if you can solve the puzzles at first attempt. This game is certainly more than I expected from it and I highly recommend you try it.
This Game was Provided by Stride PR on behalf of The Voxel Agents for the purposes of this review.