The Gardens Between Review

The Gardens Between on Xbox One

  • Dev: The Voxel Agents
  • Pub: The Voxel Agents
  • Released: 29/11/18
  • PEGI/ESRB: 3/E
  • Players: 1
  • Size: 1.74 GB
  • Price: £16.74/$19.99/€19.99
  • Xbox One X Enhanced: No
  • Developed and published by The Voxel Agents, The Gardens Between is a beautiful and yet bittersweet tale that is woven together entirely out of surreal imagery. There’s been no shortage of poignant games that eschew dialogue for a more visual storytelling method, but most of these silent, narrative driven games take the route of allowing players the freedom to explore the entirety of the world that they’re set within in order to uncover the story within.  The Gardens Between, shirks even that style of storytelling, choosing instead to limit players to tiny island representations of the memories shared between two friends.

    Each island is a carefully constructed cluster of rocks and memorabilia that is being visited by Arina and Frendt, but players do not take control of either character specifically. Rather, players control the passing of time on the island, rewinding and fast forwarding to trigger various cause and effect events in order to manipulate the memory so that the pair of friends can reach the memory’s summit. Arina carries a small lantern, and in order to complete each level the player must place the lit lantern in a portal at the top. While there is no combat, each memory island is filled with puzzles and obstacles that the pair must overcome.

    The Gardens Between on Xbox One

    Each of the islands in The Gardens Between represents a memory shared between the two characters, Arina and Frendt, that encourage players to explore cause and effect while telling a bittersweet tale of friendship.

    The beauty of The Gardens Between is not just limited to its incredibly designed levels but also to its simplicity in gameplay. Players need only to use the left analog stick along with the A button to progress through the entire game.  Pushing the left thumbstick left reverses time and moves the characters backward through the level, while pushing the thumbstick to the right progresses them forward. Arina and Frendt’s movements through each level are effectively on the rails, as they never stray from their designated path on the summit. Players can, however, alter the path by interacting with curious objects in their way.  Having Frendt push the buttons on a remote control, for example, causes a VCR to eject a tape that serves as a ramp up for the two friends or rewinding and fast forwarding can move them across a calculator to type in a password in another level.

    The Gardens Between on Xbox One

    Each level in The Gardens Between forces players to re-evaluate the mechanics that helped them in earlier memories, and to use those skills in new ways to solve more complicated puzzles.

    The only real downside to The Gardens Between is that is has a shorter runtime. Without a guide it can take players roughly three hours to solve all of the puzzles, but with a guide you could easily complete the game at the one hour mark. Still, it is one to three hours well spent with a game that controls flawlessly, has a suitable uptick in difficulty as it progresses, and tells a fantastic story that will tug at pretty much anybody’s heart strings.  Coupled with the fact that The Gardens Between launched into Xbox Game Pass, it makes it an even easier to recommend title.

    A copy of the game was provided for this review by the developer/publisher
    Gameplay 10
    Graphics 10
    Audio 7.7
    Replay Value 5.5
    Value for Money 8.4
    The Gardens Between

    The Gardens Between aims to tell a story about cause and effect by guiding players through the memories of two friends. There's a notable emphasis on simplicity with the game, with everything being controlled from just one thumbstick and one action button. The game's puzzles are unique, enjoyable, and scale appropriately in difficulty with story progression. The game does have a shorter run time, being completable in one to three hours depending on your puzzle solving prowess, but there's the option to replay islands in case you get in too big of a rush and miss something important.

    • Unique puzzles that scale in difficulty
    • Entire story is told visually without dialogue
    • Bittersweet narrative about friendship
    • Short play time

    About The Author

    Gamer mom and hobby farmer. Raising kids, chickens, and gamerscore!

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