The Gardens Between Game Review

The Gardens Between is an atmospheric puzzle game where players manipulate time to complete the levels. Explore items from the story of their friendship while navigating them and the light to the top of every level. Completing levels uncovers more of the story between them, from their first meeting onward.

Format: PC via Steam
First playthrough time: 1.5 hours

Arina and Frendt, the main characters of The Gardens Between, passing by a light flower and windchime
Released September 19th, 2018 by The Voxel Agents

Quick Overview

Major Pros:

  • Wonderful atmosphere
  • Unique puzzles
Major Cons:

  • Some key items in the background are easy to miss
Minor Pros:

  • Bittersweet story
Minor Cons:

  • Move speed is a little slow
Arina and Frendt, hiding together from the night rain in a treehouse
The story focuses on the friendship of Arina and Frendt

In-depth Review

The atmosphere of The Gardens Between is beautiful. From the color palette to the music, and simply seeing everyday items blown up huge compared to the characters. It certainly made for a surreal and engaging experience. I personally like the color palette most in the darker levels, but all of them felt very thematic.

The Gardens Between level using a color palette of blues with green and purple accents
One of my favorite level color schemes

The puzzles in The Garden Between were interesting. I enjoyed the time manipulation. Characters can be directed to move the lantern (which carries the light) and toggle light consuming and producing flowers, as well as other level specific interactions. Doing this allows the player to rewind and replay time for different effects, since toggled and moved objects persist their state through time change.

Arina and Frendt traveling around a rock spiral while a moving cube with the lantern travels up the other side.
Giving the lantern to moving blocks can let it travel a different path when time is manipulated

The story of The Garden Between is told through objects, images, and short scenes between the two characters. The story progresses linearly from when they first meet to later in their friendship. The story is wordless, but effectively communicated through both bitter and sweet moments. I found it able to communicate many of the small precious moments of childhood friendship.

Summer scene involving Frendt filling up a kiddie pool while Arina comes into the backyard hiding something behind their back
After completing sets of levels, players see moments from the character’s friendship

I had a smaller two problems with The Garden Between. The bigger of the two was that there were several levels where I felt interactable items weren’t highlighted well. Often while playing forward I would simply miss that something was happening because it blended in with the background, even after I rewinded and re-played several times. Most items were well highlighted, but some of them got lost in the movement of the background for me. The other minor issue I had was that once I knew how to solve the puzzle, I wished I could speed up time to get feedback on my solution faster.

Arina and Frendt walking a twisting path around an island
I often found myself trying to hold Shift or other keys to speed up time

Recommendation

Overall I found The Gardens Between to be a wonderful puzzle game with a bittersweet story. I had some difficulty with noticing all the interactable items in the moving environment and with my own patience, but I found the experience to be an enjoyable short adventure. I recommend The Gardens Between to any puzzle or story fans intrigued by the time manipulation mechanic.

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