Time manipulation was a pretty groundbreaking game mechanic when I first encountered it in Blinx: The Time Sweeper on the original Xbox (now there’s a game that deserves a remake, Phil Spencer). Since then, the gimmick has become pretty popular with games like Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Singularity, Super Jump Force, Braid, and the Dishonored franchise utilising it to life themselves to new levels, sometimes literally. Indie darling, The Gardens Between, has just arrived on Xbox One (and Game Pass) and is a game almost entirely about controlling time. So, how does the game fare on consoles?
The Gardens Between tells the story of Arina and Frendt as they navigate a series of garden islands. There are only two inputs you use on your controller. The left thumbstick controls time (forwards and backwards, mapped to left and right) and the ‘A’ button interacts with specific objects. These basic controls may have been instigated from the game appearing on mobile platforms. In simplifying the inputs, though, it focuses your mind on the puzzles. And you will need to focus as some of the puzzles on offer here are quite devious and challenging.
Each new set of islands adds a new element to the puzzles. Your ultimate aim is to get light in your lantern and then take it to the top of each island. This is made trickier by things being in your way, needing to find a light and mini black hole type things which will steal your light. The game starts off quite straightforward. Later on, though, you will really be scratching your head as you figure out the way forward. The puzzles are never unfair or require great reflexes. You will, however, sometimes need to think outside of the box and keep an eye on all of your surroundings.
Visually, the game looks gorgeous. The art style is great, and the colour palette adds to the charm. The design of the islands brilliantly reflects the story that the game is telling while the characters reminisce about their lives. More mature gamers will love some of the references to things like a VHS player and some of the old school gaming references. It all adds to the warm fuzzy feelings that the game evokes. This is also helped by the music which never gets in the way while helping to enhance the mood.
I had heard positive things about The Gardens Between, and the game totally delivers. The setting is lovely. The story is great. I loved the visuals of the game. And the puzzles were challenging enough to make me scratch my head at times but never too much to make me consider turning it off. It’s a fairly short game; I completed it in a couple of hours. The pacing is spot-on, though, and I was left wanting more rather than it overstaying its welcome. If you like puzzle games, then this is something you really should check out. Alternatively, if you have a Game Pass subscription, then The Gardens Between is a title you should download straight away.
Founding Xbox Enthusiast member and serious guitar player. Basically, Steve rocks. Need we say more?