At PAX Australia this year there are about 80 developers showing their game to the masses. Six of these titles have been selected out to be part of the PAX Australia Indie Showcase and The Gardens Between is a perfect example of why these titles got selected above the rest. I really know going in that the number of Indie titles coming out of Australia had increased but this year showed off how much the quality and diversity has increased too. The Voxel Agents have really got a fun, challenging, simple and beautiful game on their hands with The Gardens Between.
Let me just touch on how simple this game is to play. Henrik Pettersson explained to me how he wants to make a puzzle game that even his mother was able to get in and play and enjoy. The controls for this game are a masterstroke for that. You use the thumbstick to control time and other than that there is a single interact button to help you get through the puzzles in The Gardens Between. With just the two inputs it really let you concentrate on the puzzles, the sounds and the visuals of this stunning world.
The demo had me jumping through different memories as the two main characters, Arina and Frendt, work their way around small island worlds. The puzzles start off simple but as I progressed through the demo they quickly jumped up in difficulty as the demo skipped forward over levels. Multiple times in my play I could see what had to be done and just had to work out how to do it. It got me frustrated in all kinds of good ways until that lightbulb moment hit and I got past the puzzle feeling like I had really accomplished something.
Finally, the sound is simply amazing and fits the world perfectly. The soundtrack is described as a meditative and ambient which helps you get through those puzzles you just feel are going to be impossible and with the short world designs combine with this, I feel like this game is perfect for a stress reliever at the end of a long day. This works directly in with the Vibrant, Storybook like art style that has been used in the game.
Overall I found this game really enjoyable in the limited hands-on time I had. I could see there was a story there that I wanted to get to the bottom of. The game has no written or spoken dialogue, so the fact that this story is pulling me in, is a testament to the design of the game. I couldn’t help but smile when I saw levels designed around dominoes and wheelie bins that just took me back to being a kid straight away. The Gardens Between is aiming for a release in third quarter of 2018 at this stage so please mark this down as a game to keep an eye on in the future, especially you puzzle fans out there.