The Gardens Between is a puzzle game unlike any in recent memory. While many puzzle games rely on pushing logic and forcing you to learn through trial and error, The Voxel Agents designed a puzzle game that is tranquil and does not expect too much from the player.
In The Gardens Between, you are introduced to best friends Arina and Frendt. During a stormy evening, the two are swept away to mysterious open waters where small islands reside.
As you begin to explore, you’ll realize that although Arina and Frendt are the focal point of this story, you are not 100% in control of these characters. No, what you end up controlling is time itself.
Throughout your exploration of each island, you control time whether it is pushing it forward, or pulling time back. The path of Arina and Frendt are almost predestined. There is no walking off the beaten path for these two friends.
That is not to say there is no interactions for the two characters. Arina carries a lantern which can capture small bright orbs. These orbs allow the two to progress through the level. Whether it be across bridges, or through clouds of fog. The orb is also essential to being used on the pedestal at the top of each island.
Frendt on the other hand is able to interact with objects on the island. These actions allow further progression through the island. While each island is different, the circumstances are roughly the same. Frendt can open up objects to allow a orb to manifest. He can also further manipulate time beyond the player.
Both characters work in tandem, and are almost tethered by an invisible rope. Neither character can progress without the other. It is up to the player to manipulate time to ensure the two make it to the top of the island.
The Gardens Between is a relatively easy puzzle game. Each island can take up to five minutes. While the difficulty does spike near the end, nothing is unattainable (no need for paper and pen drawings). What I found particularly enjoyable was how the game respected the players ability to learn. Each level would introduce a new mechanic, and never piled on too much at once.
Though I did get stuck on a few puzzles, each level is designed so that I could not progress further in the level without solving the puzzle in front of me. By the time I got through to the end of each puzzle, I knew I did not miss anything.
Completing each island unlocked a small token from the two character’s lives. These items would all trace back to a moment they were reminiscent of. Whether big or small, these moments had an impact on their friendship throughout their time together and offered a small window into their lives.
As The Gardens Between does not have any voice acting, or text, the entire story of the game came through these moments. Without and dialogue, The Voxel Agents created a soothing soundtrack to fill the speakers. The visuals of the game are brilliant, yet simplistic in all the best ways.
In the three to four hours I spent with The Gardens Between, there were few instances where I would get caught on a puzzle. With the end result being the answer was right in front of my face. Otherwise, there is very little to not love about the game.
Overall, players looking for a in-depth, rack your brain kind of game may be a little disappointed in the simplicity found in the game. Otherwise, The Gardens Between provides an afternoons worth of bite-sized puzzles while taking a couple friends down memory lane.
The Gardens Between releases on September 20th on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Steam.