The Gardens Between is a puzzle game about two friends, Arina and Frendt, who find themselves on a series of islands where time flows in both directions. Each island represents the pair’s memories of their time spent together, and the two must work as a team to reach the top of each island, all culminating in a bittersweet story that probably anyone can relate to.
Like any good friendship, our pair each have their own abilities that compliment the other’s. Arina holds the lantern, which not only carries the light required to complete each island, but can also be used to banish any fog in their path. Frendt, on the other hand, interacts more with the environment and can ring bells that open and close flowers (which either contain a light or a black hole that extinguishes the light), or he can use these items that can adjust time separately.
Gameplay is pretty simple and largely requires you to hold left or right to move your characters forward or backward as time flows around them, though the way you can manipulate time makes for some rather challenging and clever puzzles that really made me think without being too difficult or unfair. Frendt’s time manipulation is especially interesting. For example, one particularly memorable island has you rebuilding, or deconstructing, a huge dinosaur fossil in order to use its bones to climb up the island. Or he can control objects flowing upon rushing water in order to safely cross them. And sometimes, you simply need to hold time still at just the right moment for other helpful results, such as in a rather…electrifying puzzle towards the end of the game.
The Gardens Between was a really great experience, and my own meager explanation can’t really do this unique puzzle game justice. My one and only complaint is that I wish the story was a little less…basic. It doesn’t really hurt the game, though a more interesting story might have elevated this game from really good to sheer perfection. Nevertheless, I would highly recommend this game to anyone looking for a fun, but challenging puzzle game with unique mechanics that haven’t been overdone in countless other games. If you’re looking to play this game for yourself, it’s normally $19.99 on consoles and PC and $4.99 on mobile. Keep in mind that it’s only about three hours long, though I got it on sale for $3.99, making it a steal!