There's something relaxing about two best friends wandering a desert island. That atmosphere comes through in The Gardens Between, but there's something else that sets it apart from other indie game offerings. That's that players aren't controlling either friend at all.
Shacknews recently stopped by this year's PlayStation Experience to try out this latest effort from the Voxel Agents. What we found was an enjoyable effort that's looking to be a solid (if brief) adventure.
The Gardens Between's objective in each level is for the two friends to reach their destination at the top of each stage, where one of them sets down a lit lantern. But the hook of the game is that players are controlling the flow of time.
What this means is that the scene will play out naturally, but the triggers can be used to fast-forward or rewind time. While the boys still go about their way, certain objects in the world are affected by manipulating time. For example, one of the boys will hop off a giant saw and walk into a dead end. However, rewinding and fast-forwarding his leap off the saw repeatedly will eventually cut down the plank of wood he's landing on, which will send him on an entirely different path.
These puzzles are solved through lateral thinking, an easy task once the rules of the world are understood. There are certain objects that will suck the light out of the lantern, so the more difficult puzzles involve finding ways around those. They'll later be joined by leaping lantern posts that position themselves across different parts of the map. The key is in getting the light to the level's ending point, which can be tricky since sometimes having the light will block the boys' path.
The Gardens Between is charming for its environments, meant to evoke different aspects of childhood. There are levels with treehouse parts, levels with board game pieces, and levels with giant vintage computer components just laying about the island. The visuals are surreal and they lend to the game's charm. It's made all the more relaxing by a soothing soundtrack that mixes in melodic tunes with ambient sound.
The one thing to note about The Gardens Between is that it feels like it'll be a short effort. I was able to get through the full demo in about 20 minutes and that's supposedly going to be a decent chunk of the entire game. It could wind up being a short adventure at the end of the day, but for a $15-20 game, the ambiance might make it feel worthwhile.
The Gardens Between is set to come to PlayStation 4, as well as PC and Mac, in 2018.