The Gardens Between | Switch Review

The Gardens Between is a title that crops up quite a bit. It often has glowing reviews on it being a beautiful and even meditative game. Well, it is. It’s also relatively short. I should know as I finished it in two brief sittings. Yes, I tend to sit when I play my games. I’m a bit of a maverick.

There is a garden in The Garden Between that separate two childhood friends’ homes. Within their garden space is a communal treehouse which is quite possibly the epicentre of their imagination and memories. The treehouse somehow transports them to an enigmatic series of isles featuring their memories. Everything from dinosaurs to oversized dot matrix printers appears on the shores and peaks. No drawings of poo though – we all drew them right? Some of us still do…). Each isle refers to a moment in time, sort of. And, that is one of the key themes of The Gardens Between: time. We’ll get to that in a minute. Time can wait.

The opening level of The Gardens Between

When Frendt met Sally

The girl is Ariana and the boy is Frendt. I know this as I found them on Facebook. At the start of each level/isle, Ariana is carrying a lamp that transports orbs of light found on their paths. The orbs unlock bridges made of light and remove small clouds of purple fog that hide switches. More importantly, they open the portals at the summit of each isle so the friends can progress. Frendt doesn’t have anything to hold other than his shame. His role is to activate these switches when Ariana can’t always access them.

Holding a lamp while the other has their hands in their pockets doesn’t sound that challenging so there are a few obstacles, so to speak, that halt your progress on their journey. There are these purple orbs that absorb the light. There isn’t a way to retrieve the light orbs other than returning to where you collected it from and then finding a way to bypass the purple orb, activate a switch or nudge an object so that the two friends can continue.

So this is where I finally get to the time aspect. You don’t control the character directly but advance time back and forth. You then have the A button to activate switches and other objects along the way. In the example above, you will have moved the pair forward by holding right. If you make a mistake working out a puzzle, just hold left and move back in time.

An old computer screen lies piled up on one of the isles

At your own pace

This is all done at a leisurely pace and beautifully done in The Gardens Between. You literally can take your time to solve a problem through trial and error (you can’t die or get injured – there is no game over here) and the level of challenge is spot on. If this sort of game appeals to you, why not try The Bridge, brought to you by my sponsor. Me.

Back to that talk about time, I would say this can be completed in a couple of hours or so, but I’d encourage you to not rush it as you’ll be wanting more once it’s finished. The challenges aren’t that taxing – you are there for the ride going through the motions but in a pleasant way.

There was a rare moment when I was stumped – that’s not because I’m clever, the puzzles are just well designed. One example where I got stuck in The Gardens Between was resolved by paying more attention to the surrounding areas when going back and forth in time. Sometimes I just needed a little spark to get things moving.

The Gardens Between: Spark joy!

The Gardens Between reminds me of Fez. Climbing to the top of each mountainous terrain while slowly corkscrewing around on the ascend, littered with objects like dot-matrix keyboards, beachballs and chicken wings. It’s a mini journey for our duo eagerly making the transition to the next isle – unlocking a memory associated with their playtime together. Making dens, building spaceships and splitting the atom. Things that kids do. Well, used to. Now it’s all iPads, selfies and holograms.

I’m going to make up a graphic (I’m not) that is a stamp of my approval – my vulgar endorsement to say whether a game is great or not. Yes, The Gardens Between is a great game. I think it would benefit from some DLC (rather than a sequel – not to ruin the ending) that ties in with the general aesthetic and mood that the game evokes.

Sure it’s short and the actual narrative is a bit redundant but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a definite for your collection. I bought this on the eShop for a good price but to be honest, if it was released as a physical, I’d buy it. Is that good enough? There’s my approval and because it’s vulgar, my stamp is made of snot. Oh, grow up.

A game within a game, an old video games machine shows up in the kid's imaginations