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Review #011: The Gardens Between (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewed By: Chad M.

Developed By: The Voxel Agents

Published By: The Voxel Agents

Category: Puzzle, Adventure

Release Date: 9.20.18

Download The Gardens Between from the Nintendo eShop here.

There’s magic in the stars

As life progresses, we sometimes stop to ask ourselves what are the things that matter most to us. One thing that’s always struck a chord with me is friendship. The Gardens Between takes the concept of friendship and puts it under a magnifying glass. What we see as it’s examined is something as simple as saying “hi” to a friend for the first time, but also something as magical as only a truly rewarding friendship can offer. As you’ll come to learn, The Gardens Between weaves a beautiful story of friendship, time travel, and magic with engaging gameplay that allows you to remember how important youthful friendship is to us all. 

What dreams may come

The story in The Gardens Between is simple, like most things in this game. However, for as simple and straightforward as it appears, it’s also very meaningful and deep. The story consists of two best friends, a young male and female character. They embark on a time travel type journey through levels of memories from their past. Each level is broken down to a certain memory, like the day one character moved in next door to the other. This particular level included a dolly and moving boxes. Another example, and my personal favorite, is the level consisting of the TV, VCR and game system that looks just like an old school Famicom.

There are seven islands, with each island containing of two to three levels with a finale waiting for you at the end.  In each level, both characters start at the bottom of a hill and must find a way to the top with an illuminated globe to lock in the memory. The main plot of the story is a trip down memory lane of a forgotten friendship and along the way there will be many moments that one can relate to. The simplicity of the story is also part of the brilliance as it doesn’t try to convolute things by forcing a narrative; instead it just shows you the moments that mattered to them. If I had to name one critical thing about The Gardens Between, is that it had to eventually end. I could have easily kept on playing for many more hours as it reminded me of the experience I had when I first played through the classic game Journey, years ago.

Controls & Gameplay

I’ll keep banging this drum of simplicity until my arms are sore. At its core, The Gardens Between is a puzzle game with a twist. As most puzzle games do, they start out fairly easy and progressively become more complicated as you move along. Never did I feel that the puzzles were too hard or unfair. I would just slowly move throughout the level and the solutions would eventually come to me. As the game never serves to punish you, it instead wants you to come to realize that only when you work together as friends can you make it through.

The game only uses the forward and backwards motions and a single button for interacting with objects in the environment. The male character is the one who interacts with the environment, like ringing a bell or activating a button that can fast forward or reverse things in the environment. The female character usually leads the way carrying a white hand drawn lantern. You must capture an illuminated ball in the lantern and use it to either move through objects or cross bridges. You have to end up at the top of the hill with one of the balls of light in the lantern to move forward to the next level. Overall, all controls felt tight and spot on.

Audio & Visuals

I can now switch gears and tell you something that’s not at all simple and that’s how incredibly gorgeous this game looks and sounds. While floating in the solace of space you hear tiny background sounds and the somber music played while you load into the next level. Once in the level, you see beautifully well designed environments that will make you just stop and stare. The music is sometimes somber and melancholic, but it wasn’t off putting as it always felt majestic and magical. It felt perfectly paired to the tempo of the game. Sometimes the music would speed up as a big moments would unfold mixed with amazing sounds. The Gardens Between looked and sounded flawless both docked and handheld.

Wrapping up

As more and more games are added to the eShop every week, it becomes difficult to weed through the dense library to find games that truly offer something new to the consumer. With The Gardens Between, The Voxel Agents take a simple idea and make something magical that is a must own title for your Nintendo Switch.

Final Score: 10/10

Download The Gardens Between from the Nintendo eShop here.

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*Review Code Provided by Stride PR

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