Nostalgia Made Into Puzzles


Game: The Gardens Between Platform: Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows, Linux, Mac, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Rating: E for Everyone
Price: $19.99

With companies constantly looking to exploit people’s nostalgia with remakes and reboots, it can be genuinely hard to remember what the “good ol’ days” used to feel like. The Gardens Between is a gorgeous game that conveys the feelings of being a kid and growing up with a friend by your side.

The story focuses on two close friends named Arina and Frendt who get sucked into a magical dream ocean during a rainstorm. After that, they sail to various islands in order to light the portals that lie there. The setup may seem strange but, it culminates in an extremely heartfelt story about how the two grew up and became friends despite their differences.

This game’s visuals play well into its storytelling. Arina and Frendt showcase their personalities through the animations that play throughout the game. Arina’s bold, outgoing nature is shown by how she is willing to rush ahead into unknown situations while Frendt’s meek, curious nature shows how he is willing to stay back and tinker with the junk that is on the islands. The different elements of each island revolve around common occurrences like seeing the autumn leaves fall, playing on a seesaw and staying inside to play video games. Although the visual style is rather simple, the aesthetics packed into each environment make it a pleasing visual experience.

The core gameplay focuses on solving puzzles to carry a light to the top of each island. Instead of directly controlling Arina and Frendt, the player controls the flow of time that surrounds them in order to make them back and forth. This may seem like a simple gimmick at first but the later puzzles really force you to pay attention to the environments and the way that the flow of time affects them. The puzzles are generally easy, but they excel in how creatively they weave the aesthetics of each level into the puzzle solutions. The superb sound design makes each action impactful and strings the player along to make the journey more whimsical.

As a puzzle game, the game lacks replayability and sadly only lasts around 3 hours. This makes for a short and sweet ride, but also leaves the player longing for more. Despite its short length, The Gardens Between is a beautiful exploration of the feeling of being a kid, growing up, and having a friend to help you along the way.