The Gardens Between is a weird and beautiful little puzzle platformer, where instead of controlling the characters (two small children) directly, you control their movement through time. Similar to some parts of Braid, your main character is just a tool you indirectly control to interact with the world.
Billing itself as an abstract story of friendship, life and growing up, The Gardens Between’s demo was fairly light on story, focusing more on gameplay. That said, emergent storytelling via gameplay and mechanics would fit very well with the rest of the game seen so far. The mechanics are very simple — you simply scrub through time with two buttons, going forward and backward, with a third contextual button to interact with objects in the world. The crux of the game comes in that, while most objects change over time, undoing themselves if you reverse time, some are persistent through the timeline. This lets you interact with them, go back, then interact with them again in their interacted state. This makes for some really interesting puzzles, my favouritebeing making one of the children repeatedly jump on a saw then rewinding time, slowly cutting through some wood to create a bridge.
The mechanics showcased worked spectacularly well, simple but elegant and not distracting from the core mechanic of time moving forwards and back. Navigating through levels mainly consists of moving energy orbs from one place to another to activate other things. Evil ball traps, if activated, will steal the energy you must transport and are persistent through time. To avoid your energy orbs being stolen by the evil fly trap things, you can set up a route around each level (a mishmash of different items scattered on an island) to successfully get the energy orbs to the right place. The Gardens Between gets rather strange at times, at one point putting me in charge of a small monster wandering around an N64 platformer to get to the next area.
The demo at PAX AUS was fairly short, coming in at around fifteen minutes, but it’s clear to see that much more can be done with the ideas, even before coming up with new mechanics and items. I very much look forward to what the team comes up with, especially looking at what has happened so far. Overall, The Gardens Between is a beautiful and interesting game, with a slightly hand-drawn art style reminiscent of games such as Monument Valley.
The Gardens Between is slated for release in 2018 for PS4 and Steam.