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Review: The Gardens Between – a beautiful puzzler where you manipulate time

Manipulate time while thinking of your own time as a child.

the gardens between
Image: Josiah Motley / KnowTechie

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Puzzle games have never been a go-to for me. Quite frankly, I get frustrated easily and eventually lose my patience due to overly-complicated puzzles or convoluted controls. The new puzzler, The Gardens Between, does not suffer from either of those issues.

Based heavily in nostalgia, The Gardens Between has you controlling two friends as they navigate through various “time islands” that not only evoke various emotions for the characters but for the people playing the game, as well. Whether it is scaling an island full of old computers and VHS tapes or manipulating various building materials for a treehouse, the game is beautiful and will have the player fondly reminiscing times of their own youth.

The story is stripped down to the bare basics. You complete islands, see small snippets of the two friends enjoying a simpler life, to then transported to a new island, with new challenges and nostalgic influences.

I’d be lying if there isn’t a tinge of sadness to the presentation, as I found myself missing blanket forts and my Super Nintendo. This doesn’t take away from the experience but adds tremendously to it.

the gardens between

Image: Josiah Motley / KnowTechie

Gameplay in The Gardens Between

Using a magical lantern and light that can transcend time, The Gardens Between uses a very simplistic control scheme where almost everything is accomplished through the left and right arrows (I played the game on PC). Your goal on each island is generally to reach the top, with your magic lantern and various lights in-hand.

The controls don’t really move your characters, but instead, manipulate the time and journey around you. You’ll have to build dinosaurs then deconstruct them. You’ll have to fix a broken TV and gaming system. All through the use of your lantern, time, and whimsical, hopping platforms that can carry your magic lantern around the island for you.

the gardens between

Image: Josiah Motley / KnowTechie

You’ll be taken aback by the ease of the early levels, but every level presents new challenges that will stack on top of each other and by the time you’re on the third island you’ll begin to realize the brilliance in this control scheme and mechanics introduced. It truly is a treat.

The style of the game is beautiful and calming, with a light soundtrack that fits perfectly with the rest of the aesthetic. It definitely feels like an indie game, one that was birthed from a love of puzzle titles and a fondness of time and youth.

the gardens between

Image: Josiah Motley / KnowTechie

At $19.99, the game features enough content to fill a day or two depending on how long your play sessions are and is well worth the price tag. I would love to see developer Voxel Agents continue to release content for this game and would happily pay for more content.

The Gardens Between released this week and is available for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC/Mac.

Voxel Agents provided a copy of the game for the purpose of this review.

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