The video game industry is filled with massive open-world games that take countless hours to complete. Every once in a while, it’s refreshing to come across a title that can be completed in a single sitting and still offer an emotional experience for its player. The Voxel Agents have provided just that with their title, The Gardens Between. It’s a game that bends the mind, explores your imagination, but never stresses the player out. Its quirky aesthetics and callbacks to childhood memories is a joy to experience and well worth your time.
Beautiful Story Without Words
The story, which is told with nary a line of text or dialogue, follows a young boy and girl who are next-door neighbors and best friends. When lightning strikes the treehouse in the garden between their homes, they are transported to a world seemingly built from their imaginations. It’s oozing with charm and a vibrant style that makes it a very welcome experience. You can tell a lot of love has gone into this work, which has taken four years to complete. And it’s well worth the wait.
The gameplay centers around a time manipulation mechanic to solve puzzles. You don’t directly control the two characters, but instead push them through time. If you’ve seen the film Minority Report, you’ll remember that Tom Cruise’s character can view people’s memories by rewinding and fast-forwarding. The Gardens Between works similarly here, but adds the ability to change aspects of the environment before pressing on. Touch an item early on and, as time progresses, it causes a domino effect to open up a path.
Just Enjoy the Ride
The beauty in this gameplay style is in its simplicity. The solutions to the puzzles are often binary, and never feel too difficult to figure out. Yet the solutions still feel very satisfying in a way that makes you feel like you accomplished something greater. It’s a fine line to balance, but The Voxel Agents have succeeded admirably.
What really sells The Gardens Between is its sad tale, which was a genuine surprise for me once I rolled credits. It’s told in such beautiful fashion that resonated with me far more than I expected from a game with such simple mechanics. It reminded me of what it was like to be a kid, exploring the world with a friend or getting into mischief. Each island brought back my own memories from childhood in a way that warmed my heart and flooded me with nostalgia.
The Gardens Between Final Verdict
Rarely will you hear me recommend picking up such a short experience at launch, but this is a developer from which I want to see more. It’s a beautiful game that needs to be seen by more people. Don’t expect intense head-scratcher puzzles with this one. Just enjoy the atmosphere and reminisce about a time when life was simpler. A time when all that mattered was keeping yourself entertained by learning about the world around you and what it has to offer. You won’t be disappointed.
I had an opportunity to interview Simon Joslin, the Executive Producer of The Gardens Between, when I was a guest on the Horribly Awkward Podcast. You can hear that interview here, and I highly recommend it, as you can hear the passion put into this project. You can also see the gameplay trailer below.