The Gardens Between | Nintendo Switch Review
Updated: Nov 19, 2021
If you are looking for an indie game, which is calm and relaxing, but also contains a bittersweet storyline, then look no further than The Gardens Between, developed and published by The Voxel Agents. This game was released back in 2018 and is available on Windows PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, XBox, Apple, and Android. I had the joy of playing this game on the Nintendo Switch Lite, so my review will refer to that platform.
The game begins in the gardens between two houses, where you notice the two young neighbours huddled together in a treehouse while there is a storm ravaging outside. A quick look at the surroundings will indicate that the male and female characters have crept out from their bedrooms to convene in the treehouse. Suddenly, time appears to stand still, and the two youngsters are transported to an alternate world – you will discover that the mini-islands where the characters find themselves are full of memories which can be pieced together once the island is completed. These islands contain familiar objects, which may be from the household or beyond and hold some significance to the characters. While in the beginning, you are quite oblivious to what is going on story-wise, the story only really becomes apparent, once you reach the end.
The puzzle element in this game revolves around light orbs and beacons, and the manipulation of time. You are in control of both characters and the controls are very straightforward. The left thumbstick is used to control the passage of time, forwards or backwards, while the A button allows you to interact with the objects. The female character holds a torch which you will need to transport a light source to the beacon situated at the top of the mound on this “island”. You will need to have your wits about you to negotiate your way up to the beacon, as while the light source is needed to light the beacon, it can also hinder access on your path to the top – the light can clear fog which may block a path, but the fog may also provide a bridge which is removed if the light source is close by. This source of light can be taken away from you if you are close to a plant with a black orb of light. Plants can be opened and closed by a switch which can be activated by the male character interacting with it. There are also moveable plinths upon which a torch can be set, but again the puzzle element sets in, as you need to be mindful where or how the plinth moves.
The attractive element to these puzzles is the manipulation of time. You can move forward and backwards in time, which can reverse the events which happen, but not all events. For example, if you have a torch lit, and you reverse in time, the characters simply move backwards, but the torch remains lit. Certain items may also interact positively in accordance to how often you go back and forth with time, or by pausing time at the correct spot. I will not go into more detail about this, as by doing so will take away the challenging parts of the game. There were some islands where I was left scratching my head, trying to figure out how to proceed further. The good thing about this game is that in some instances, you are limited in going forwards and backwards too far, so it softly indicates to you an area where more focus is required. I found it enjoyably challenging – not too difficult, but not too easy either.
Another positive about this game is the general layout and graphics. The game is visually stunning in particular when manipulating the passage of time. Furthermore the music is also very soothing, and the game automatically pauses itself if there has not been a detection of movement for approximately a minute, which is lovely to see. The game autosaves, although for personal preference, I do like to have a manual save option (I blame Lego for that). I do not really have many negatives to point out – I found myself becoming slowly bored of the game, which can be combatted by not playing it in one sitting. I think my impatience at trying to figure out the meaning of the story made me a bit frustrated. The not so obvious storyline is an intriguing way of becoming sucked in, as you try and figure out the meaning behind it all, but I did find it tedious after a while. The game can be easily completed in about 4 hours, even less. I would say that the game would suffer if the story was longer.
Overall, I quite enjoyed The Gardens Between. I do not think it was flawless, but it is a really attractive indie game with a simple but interesting premise, which can be enjoyed by young and old. It provided many head-scratching moments and was a welcome distraction from every-day life. I would be interested to see how this game would play out on a bigger screen, but I enjoyed playing it on my Nintendo Switch Lite and found it to be ideal for a portable device. Make sure to check out this game and see for yourself.
Tina’s Rating: 4 orbs of light out of 5.
Many thanks to StridePR for supplying the review code.