Why You Should Play
- Imaginative puzzles with creative gameplay mechanics that anyone can dive into.
- Surreal 3D environments with nostalgic elements sprinkled throughout.
- A touching story about friendship and cherished memories.
The Gardens Between is a puzzle adventure game developed by Melbourne-based independent game studio The Voxel Agents. The game is a single-player adventure that recounts the story of two young friends, Arina and Frendt, who must navigate surreal puzzles to uncover memories they’ve shared. Players must control both characters and manipulate time to solve puzzles and discover the bond they share as friends.
The game is broken down into a series of puzzle islands or “gardens” that represent a past memory shared by Arina and Frendt. The objects in each puzzle correspond to those found in the scene of the memory, such as a game the two used to play or a location they visited together. Each puzzle has the same goal: to have Arina bring a lit lantern to a pedestal at the end of the path. It’s up to you to control both characters to figure out how to get light into the lantern before reaching the end of the garden. Solving all the garden puzzles of a given theme will unlock a memory of an event the two shared in the past.
The Gardens Between uses a unique time-scrubbing mechanic that involves moving forward and backward through time to manipulate objects in a given scenario. For the most part, the characters and objects will move through the world on a fixed path. Rewinding and stopping time allows the player to interact with certain objects in the environment in a way that alters how the scene will play out.
Although there is no dialogue, the characters each have their own personalities that shine through the subtle interactions they have with one another. Arina is the one who takes charge, carrying the lantern and wielding the light orbs used in each puzzle. Frendt’s role is a bit more subdued, as he is used to ring bells and stop time to adjust or change specific parts of the environment before the two can proceed forward. Both have their own roles to play in solving each garden, so it's up to the player to synchronize Arina and Frendt's actions in order to make progress.
The gameplay starts out very simple, introducing new creative ways to interact with the environment as you go along. There are no timers, and you won’t need to have fast reaction times for any of the puzzles. You can move forward and rewind at your own pace, taking in all the surrounding details to solve each part of an island. The laid-back nature of The Gardens Between makes for a relaxing puzzle-solving experience that still provides enough challenge to give you those “ah ha” moments.
Visuals and Performance
The Gardens Between has colorful graphics that are certainly easy on the eyes. The game uses vivid colors and crisp visuals that help to keep important visual cues and puzzle elements distinguishable from one another. The way a certain object looks or sounds can often play a role in solving a puzzle, so it’s important that these sorts of features remain distinct.
The puzzles also appear to be grouped by season. The first few puzzles consist of summer environments, with pastel hues and bright outdoor settings. The next few puzzles feature rich sunset colors and falling leaves, signaling a transition into autumn. Later in the game, the puzzles shift to a darker tone, with puzzles taking place outside in the rain or beneath the star-studded night sky. All of these seasonal settings are propped up by a lovely musical score, which sets the tone for each puzzle and corresponding memory shared by Arina and Frendt.
Game of the Week
The Gardens Between is a charming puzzle game that has inventive gameplay mechanics and a touching narrative. The game is rather brief, as it takes no more than about four hours to complete. However, you can tell that The Voxel Agents put a lot of heart and soul into this project, and it is a worthwhile experience that deserves to be played by anyone who loves solving puzzles.
If you get stuck on any of the puzzles in the game, head over to our guide to solving all the puzzles in The Gardens Between for a nudge in the right direction.