I think we all have had that childhood friend that we once shared everything with; making box forts, playing silly games and just generally making unforgettable memories. That is what The Gardens Between is all about.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch; also available on PlayStation 4 and PC.
The Gardens Between follows best friend duo Arina and Frendt on a journey through time, revisiting old memories in a totally unique way, reminiscing their old adventures whilst also creating new ones. The pair find themselves transported to an unknown realm filled with almost dream-like takes on their precious memories. Levels made up of nostalgic items from their past, representing a specific memory they both share.
The Gardens Between is an adventure puzzle game that is incredibly unique. I don’t think I have played any game quite like this one before. In this one, you don’t take the role of the characters themselves, you actually take the role of time, manipulating it backwards or forwards to change certain aspects of a level in order to continue. I mean, have you ever controlled time? There have been so many times I have needed to rewind time in a game to correct a mistake I had made. With The Gardens Between when something you have done isn’t quite right, instead of restarting the level, as you would with most other puzzles, you just go backwards in time. Oh, and when you complete a level you actually spark a constellation in the stars that represents the memory you just uncovered.
What I really loved about this game, well there are so many reasons why I loved this game but one of the main reasons is that even though these weren’t my memories, they reminded me so much of my own memories, triggering forgotten moments by just seeing a certain object, like a VHS player or an old games console. Another thing I loved was how it tells a very important story without saying a word. You can tell that the characters mean so much to one another just by the way they interact; waving as they pass each other and looking to each other for guidance. It’s incredible. I’ve never been so engrossed in a story that had no narrative.
The only negative thing I can say about The Gardens Between is the length. It is an amazing experience but also a short one. It can easily be completed in 3 hours. Honestly, I don’t think I have ever been so sad when I saw a credit screen rolling.
Graphics & Sound
The visuals here are absolutely stunning and simply a pleasure to look at. The vibrant colours pop out the screen at you and the amount of detail in each level is insane. The Gardens Between has some of the best level design in a video game I have seen for some time and it’s part of what makes this already amazing experience just that much better. Although the levels are filled with items that should feel out of place, the strange thing is, they don’t. It’s oddly comforting to see all these nostalgic things in a completely unlikely setting. Like I said earlier, it’s all about the memories.
Now, onto the soundtrack. Honestly, I think The Gardens Between has one of the best soundtracks I have heard. I love a soundtrack that really sets the scene and this one does that to the T. It now is one of my favourite soundtracks to a game (a very close second to Life is Strange) and in fact, as soon as I had finished I searched everywhere to find the soundtrack to buy. I completely got lost it and I’m not lying when I say it gave me goosebumps. I mean, just have a quick listen to this:
The Gardens Between was probably my favourite gaming experience of the year so far. It ticked every box for me and is completely unlike anything I have played before. It made me happy, sad, reminiscent and it quite simply blew me away. I was really looking forward to playing this game but I had no idea that it would soon become one of all time favourite games. Don’t let the length deter you from picking this up, this is something truly every gamer must experience. When you’re lost in the world playing and you get so much joy out of a game, does the length really matter? It didn’t to me.