Reminiscing about past memories can be a strange feeling, certain things can stand out and scare you. Or they can bring up happy memories, but some of those instances can be surreal to imagine. Being in control of these memories is also something which seems new, and strange. The Gardens Between is a reimagining of two friends memories, and their experience is surreal. A boy and a girl find themselves waking up at a beach as if they were lost in time. Revisiting the memories stir up the fires of friendship creating something special and treasured. The team at The Voxel Agents have created an experience unlike none other.
Each memory is a small secluded island, which has different objects in the background. The objects range from moving trucks, windows, rubber ducks and other miscellaneous objects. The objects you typically interact with are enlarged. These objects make the mind curious about what the memory is, leaving you wondering about the nature of the original memory. Something is extremely special about this, combining the player’s experience with the protagonist’s. It’s something which can bring you out of the game, and make you visualize something about your past. Another thing which felt unique is the camera tracking you through the environment, almost following a corkscrew motion.
The islands themselves are a treat. Feeling both small enough to feel special, but not big enough to feel grand. They felt bite-sized, and each has their own unique vibe to it. One thing which stuck out during my time with the game was this strange sense of verticality, and this made sense as you were climbing the islands more and more. The noises typically vary on what they are trying to evoke from you. It is something which can be ignored and it is something which you have to really pay attention to. Walking around an island and hearing a child’s laughter makes you think of a happy memory, and the things in the environment represent this.
Later in the demo, you unlock both of the powers for the characters. The girl, who typically leads first, has a lantern which is necessary to move on in the levels. The boy is able to control time, but only with certain objects. There was one level which helped showcase each power very well. The characters found themselves on an island which was themed after a picnic. Except due to the secluded nature of the island, it felt like it was left behind. I found myself rewinding more, and having to use each character one after another. Every interaction in this level felt like a Rube Goldberg machine, and that something had to happen for another thing to happen. The tandem nature of these interactions is very different.
The controls are one of the most unique things about the game, and when you move everything in the environment moves as well. The only time when the characters would act scripted was when you interact with an object. It grants you a very strange sense of control, but it is something which works as if you were scrubbing the memories of the characters in your control. I spoke to Matt Clark, the title’s director, about this specific aspect. He said he was inspired by a scene in Minority Report when Tom Cruise’s character, was scrubbing the memory of a murder scene. Being able to rewatch, and think about what was going to happen helped make him fully realize his vision for the game.
The Gardens Between is something very special, and the aspects of the game truly exemplify this. The memories of the two characters evoke powerful memories from the player, and this feels like no other game I’ve played. Being able to control time makes it easy to solve puzzles. And having the environments which tell a story in and out of themselves. The game focuses on this ambiance, and it is something rather extraordinary.
The Gardens Between is slated for release in Q3 2018, and it will be avaible on Steam and the PlayStaion 4.