There’s a lot to be said about the wonder of a more laid-back title where action isn’t the forefront or even involved at all. The Gardens Between is a story told in a most peaceful manner that combines a sense of wonder with childhood nostalgia, all wrapped up in a delightful package that nails home what it’s like to be a child with a creative mind. Combine this with a fun creative puzzle mechanic and an intertwined stories, and players get one of the most beautiful and unique experiences culminated into one outstanding experience unlike any other.
The story follows two best friends, Arina and Frendt, as they make their way through wonderful islands made up of gardens. These aren’t just ordinary gardens, however, as each one has a significant role to play in the friendship between these two friends. Things begin to unfold as these two make their way across the magnificent terrain and find all manner of objects quite familiar to them. From video games, television and even paint with tools they remember their fond moments surrounding their friendship as they progress. It’s a light-hearted story that isn’t meant to be a long play, but instead wrap players up in the wonderful bond between these close friends.
While there is a strong emphasis on the engaging story, the core gameplay mechanic is the fact that the player doesn’t directly control either of the characters. Instead, the main mechanic is simply moving time forward and back as they head towards the top of each garden island. The main goal is to reach the top of each island with a lantern containing light, but finding and transporting that light will take some figuring out. The two friends will activate things automatically on their way, and it’s up to the player to figure out how objects can interact with one another using this time mechanic in order to help them progress. It may start out simple enough, but quickly becomes a fun trip through amazingly clever puzzles that often require a good pause for thought. While these might not be the most difficult of challenges, it’s presented in a way that makes every puzzle feel more interesting than the last.
One of the most beautiful aspects of The Gardens Between is the very art style itself. This gorgeous appearance tied together with the wonderful animation that is full of life works well with the slower paced gameplay. Each island is filled to the brim with a plethora of items to look at that help build further upon the strong bond between the two main characters as nothing feels left out, but instead strong highlighted. The music helps capture this feeling by being fitting for every scenario and never feeling out of place. It’s a relaxing time for anyone to sit down and enjoy for a short burst, or even knock the entire thing out in one go if they so desire. The gentle atmosphere is truly inviting and creates such a wonderfully unique experience that shouldn’t be missed out on.
The Gardens Between almost feels magical in its approach to storytelling and unique take on puzzles. The story is wonderfully highlighted without the use of words at all, instead being told simply through imagery that fits perfectly into the overall atmosphere of the game. Anyone looking for a relaxing experience will likely fall in love with the overall take on friendship that The Gardens Between interprets through its many garden islands. Those who want to try it for themselves have a chance to pick it up when The Gardens Between launches next week on September 20.