The Gardens Between sounded more like an obscure Shakespeare or Bible snippet someone thrown into the title to make it sound more clever than it is (Re: Infinite Jest), but the title does soon become apparent. Don't judge a game by it's thumbnail, right? But hey, we're getting ahead of ourselves. Let's see how it holds up.
You are Arina and Frendt, two friends who have parents who really wanted to punish their children by naming them that. You're spending the day together, and what better place than this weird island chain void of oversized objects and puzzle solving! And, and you have the power to reverse time backwards for about 15 seconds. It's definitely a unique spin for a game, but a little ore story could have added a bit more context too. Not bad though all said.
On Steam controls are fairly direct. I personally had a few issues rewinding time, since it was a bit hard pinpointing when exactly you wanted to stop sometimes, but it's pretty straightforward, even when you're controlling two characters.
The graphics are pretty amazing. It's like a slightly lesser resolution of Kung Fu Panda, especially those island scenes. The fog, the nature and the textures are pretty gorgeous. Character design could have been a bit more creative (Arina literally wears clothes with a giant letter A on it), but it can be forgiven. You really feel the familiarity and the otherworldly clash here.
In terms of gameplay, there's a few things around you do. First is general walking around and puzzle solving. No fighting or anything here, just going around and figuring things out to a unique childhood-themed area. Then it gets all Prince of Persia when you can rewind time to help with the puzzles. It's a unique element and adds a wrench into the puzzles a bit. I like games that have more than one layer in terms of playing, and this definitely does.
The music is calm and childlike, which is fitting, but it also rings of Brian Eno songs you kill yourself too. There's a weird line there. Overall it's calm and unsettling – it could have been worse, but it could have been a lot better too. Sound is good though. There's not much too it, but it doesn't sound too repetitive and it adds to the other-worldliness too.
I had no real frame rate or glitch issues. Some puzzles I swear there was a glitch to get over a certain part and not come back, but it turns out I simply missed something and wanted to blame the game. There was a glitch in a few backgrounds where something moved and one of the rock outcroppings stayed in place, but it fixed itself off screen by my characters moving around. That was it.
The Gardens Between is a nifty little game that explores growing up and childhood themes with creative visuals and challenging puzzles. That said, there are some not so great things too – the music was oft-putting for example, and some things don't make too much sense, even within context of the game. But I will say, it's good for what it is, and I'd say it's worth playing.
Final Score: 8 out of 10
A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of review.