The Gardens Between Review

Prominitently highlighted during a Nintendo Direct just last month, we decided to take a walk through this delightful puzzle game. Craig explains how this quaint title took over his Switch in our The Gardens Between Review

Upon starting up The Gardens Between I wasn’t too sure what I let myself in for. Puzzle-type games aren’t usually my thing, especially if I can’t figure out where I’m going or what I’m supposed to do. The Gardens Between has a lot of ideas and mechanics that I just don’t like in a video game, yet, when things come together so well, it just works.

This is usually the part of the review where we usually start to delve into the characters you control and their movements, the thing is though, you don’t control the characters. Through the simple control scheme that sees you only needing to move the left stick left and right, combined with one action button, you control time. Moving left takes time back, while moving right takes time forward. At times you’ll find objects in the environment that you can manipulate by pressing the action button but everything else is controlled but not just how you’re dealing with time but also when.

Moving time forward will see your two characters traverse their way around numerous spiral-shaped levels trying to get a point of light up to the top in order to move on. It’s an objective that is remarkably easy in earlier levels – as it should be – but gets increasingly more intricate and elaborate as the game moves on.

The Gardens Between never leaves you to fend for yourself – despite a real lack of instruction or direction. You’ll see subtle hints in the environment that will either look out of place or be impossible to ignore. Some of the solutions are actually quite clever, as the effect of time will have slightly different ramifications for some objects compared to others. One of the earlier levels sees you encounter a saw early on and only by moving time back and forth will you allow the saw to chop a piece of wood that then creates a new pathway for your characters to traverse to. In fact, you’ll often find that levels are broken up into sections as your characters can only travel so far before you must figure out how to get past an obstacle – usually, you’ll then need to go back in time in order to find an item you missed or something that you need to change. It might be that the bag one of your characters’ uses in order to carry the light needs to be placed into a moving box that can pick the light up and deliver it to you later on, or you might need to interact with an object in order to change the pre-determined path your characters take. It might be that you need to press a button, manipulate an object floating in a river or trigger a different object entirely.

As someone who usually doesn’t delve into puzzle-like games too much, the one thing that really struck me with The Gardens Between is that the difficulty level never spiked, every level felt like it was doable. I never felt lost or beaten, and even the moments where I really had to think about what I was doing I always knew I was inches away from figuring out the solution. This is in part down to the small play areas and limited actions but it works. There was only one moment late on in the game where I felt frustrated because I knew what needed to be done but couldn’t quite get things needed to line-up. In fact, many of the games’ solutions gave me a sense of immeadiate gratification, which, in many respects, makes a good puzzle game.

The Gardens Between Review

There’s a tale here as well, with the two characters close friends exploring the garden that sits between their home – hence the name of the game. Many will feel more emotionally attached to the story than I did but the final moments make it clear what’s actually happening and it wasn’t until then that I started to feel for the narrative.

Speaking of time, the game is unfortunately somewhat short. At between three to four hours, The Gardens Between doesn’t stay around long, but this also means that it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. My disappointment at its length is mainly down to the fact that I was having so much fun with the game that I didn’t want it to stop. Perhaps a few extra hours would’ve soured the game a little bit but what’s here is certainly satisfying, although it’s price (£17.99/$19.99) combined with its length may put some off.

Another outstanding part of the game is its idyllic soundtrack, with ambient sounds and peaceful tones soothing the journey that you take. For many, this will be a soundtrack that you’ll probably spend more time listening to than actually playing the game.

The Gardens Between is a great game that will no doubt be hailed as one of the better indie games of this year. Its short length and high price may well put some off a purchase but if you’ve got a spare few hours and not much else to play, I implore you to give The Gardens Between a try. It’s likely you’ll fall for its charm, wonderful soundtrack and get that puzzle-solving satisfaction that we all crave from time to time.

The Gardens Between Review Conclusion

While it’s lack of longevity is certainly a factor, The Gardens Between is a delight to progress through and will have you controlling times and solving puzzles with a smile on your face in no time at all.

4/5

We tested The Gardens Between on the Nintendo Switch after receiving a review code from the publisher. The Gardens Between releases on September 20th for Nintendo Switch, PS4 and PC

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