Review: The Gardens Between (Switch) - Japan-based Nintendo Podcasts, Videos & Reviews!


Thursday, September 20, 2018

Review: The Gardens Between (Switch)

by Danny Bivens

A relaxing time altering puzzler. 
At a quick glance, it is a little difficult to determine what The Gardens Between actually is as a game. Even without voice acting or a text based introduction, it’s abundantly clear that at its core, the game is about friendship. Well, that and manipulating time. The Gardens Between focuses on two friends, Arina and Frendt, and their journey through a series of island puzzle stages. There is definitely quite a lot to like here in this well crafted game from developer The Voxel Agents.

The controls in Gardens are super simple. By pressing either analog stick left or right, you are able to control the flow of time. Doing so propels the two friends through time and the levels. It gets a little more complicated than that however, as there are numerous puzzles and obstacles that prevent players from going forward. It’s up to you to manipulate the level in an effort to light a lantern and bring it to a shrine-like area to move on. The goal is clear, however you will have to put on your thinking cap to clear some of these stages.
The level manipulation has players doing a variety of both interesting and challenging tasks. The levels always contain some kind of a way to light up the previously mentioned lantern. Light for the lantern can typically be picked up by specific flowers that are located throughout the levels. At the same time, there is what amounts to a dark flower that takes the light away. The light and the lantern can be used in a variety of ways. For example, some areas are covered in a dark fog and require you to carry a lit lantern through to pass. Other times with the same fog, you will need to have the lantern unlit which allows you to use the fog as a bridge.

There are also numerous items and elements in the stages that players can interact with. All sorts of things ranging from a video game system (that looks just like a Famicom), printer, computer, a skeleton and more need to be tinkered with to make progress. To interact with a lot of these, players must pull in game levers that will allow them to manipulate these specific items in time outside of main character movement. Small square robots will also make appearances in many of the levels. Utilizing these friendly guys will help get the lantern to areas that you can’t reach through the base time manipulation. Going back and forth in time in both manners feels and looks amazing and is one of the main draws of the game. As mentioned previously, some of these puzzles will really rack your brain. However, at the same time, nothing will feel insurmountable.
The Gardens Between looks spectacular with the levels each sporting a unique look and feel. Not only that, but the game runs smoothly with no lag. For those keeping score at home, the game runs in 1080p in docked mode and 720p in handheld while running at 30 frames per second. In a really smart inclusion, there are a lot of visual cues that will help players make progress through the levels if they get stuck. Keeping your eyes peeled to where Arina and Frendt are looking can really help in some of the tougher puzzles. The audio in the game is also well done. While subdued, the ethereal tunes and spot on sound effects fit the overall aesthetic perfectly.

The story elements aren’t completely apparent from the outset. As a matter of fact, if you don’t read information from the developer themselves, you probably won’t even know the names of the two main characters. With that said, the story is told through the interactions between the two friends in a very non-verbal way. By the end of the game (and without spoiling anything), it would be hard to not be able to relate to Arina and Frendt. The Gardens Between is totally worth it to play to the end just to see this.
The Gardens Between is a fantastic, relaxing experience that you shouldn’t overlook. The visuals, simple gameplay mechanics, excellent audio and loose yet fantastic story all come together to make a great game. It’s a little on the short side, but is something that you should have in your Switch library.

Final Score: 9.0

[Review code provided by the publisher]

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