The Gardens Between will make you miss your childhood friends, that you forgot a long time ago.
The Gardens Between is a beautiful adventure puzzle game by The Vox Agents, it is a game that has been sitting in my wishlist for a while and I’m starting to regret that I have waited so long to play it. The game follows the story of best friends Ariana and Frendt, as they relive their memories during a storm.
The main premise of the game is the control of time, move the analogue stick right to move time forward and move the stick left to rewind time, that’s about it for controls within this game. There are other objects in the world to interact with but for the most part, you spend the majority of your time with the game experimenting with time itself. It’s very interesting how the game uses time and place, because time is linked to where you are on the map, so to take a look around you have to move time forward or backwards, but in some situations you have to remain still. It really makes you think, however, the puzzles are not incredibly hard but they are satisfying.
The objective is simple, collect a ball of light in a lantern that Ariana holds and make it to the end of the level. This is one aspect of the game that I enjoyed, to me the light symbolises the actual memory itself, instead of collecting the items you are tasked with collecting the memory. Once you’ve collected it and brought it to the end it is then sent up as a constellation, i love this imagery, the children are going through each memory and making the memory eternal.
“Oh that’s clever” was my only phrase throughout this game, the developers really put some thought into the puzzles and it shows. The two children in the game play differing roles, Ariana is tasked with collecting the ball of light, Frendt has the ability to interact with other objects. He is able to switch points of interest and also use certain objects within the game to alter the world around you. Each map is carefully designed to replicate a memory within the friend’s lives and is designed to be memories that many people would have, like staying up late to play video-games or building a treehouse/den. once you have completed all parts of the level (Usually two or three puzzles), you are treated to a pleasant memory sequence which helps expose the friendship between Ariana and Frendt.
The reason that I think the story works so well is that it is relatable, most people will have memories like these, so they can relate. What I also enjoyed is the choice not to include dialogue, because we tend to remember images rather than the words spoken, I actually did not notice until the song in the credits that there was no dialogue.
Weather is not a theme that most would mention with The Gardens Between, as it’s not really a major theme. However, I really enjoyed the use of weather throughout, the first few levels are clear, whilst the later part of the game works up to a thunderstorm. The last mission is during the thunderstorm and it is interesting because it builds to the climax that one of the friends will be moving away. I enjoyed the use of a thunderstorm, it represents how a child would see a moment like this, one huge surge of emotion out of their control. Interestingly there is no use of dialogue throughout the game, this draws more attention to the visuals of the game and the symbolism used throughout the game.
The main problem I have with the game is that it is really short, I probably completed my first playthrough in about two or three hours, and I really wanted more! The last level is my favorite, it felt like there was a diversity in the puzzles and I really felt the potential of the game to its full. I’m really excited to see what The Vox Agents are up to next, this game is promising and I will be keeping my eyes open for their next game.
If you’re looking for a game that will take you thirty hours to complete and be able to really sink your teeth into, this is not it. But if you have a few hours spare and want to relax, I would suggest The Gardens Between, It’s not too difficult (So, if you don’t play many puzzle games like me, you’re in luck) but the story and game is well thought out and enjoyable!
The Gardens Between is available on all consoles, plus it is on Xbox Game Pass, so if you have Game Pass you don’t have an excuse not to play this.