The Gardens Between
|The Gardens Between|
Cover art for The Gardens Between, featuring the characters of Arina (left) and Frendt
|Developer(s)||The Voxel Agents|
|Publisher(s)||The Voxel Agents|
|Producer(s)||Simon Joslin, Brooke Maggs|
|Designer(s)||Henrik Pettersson, Josh Alan Bradbury, Simon Joslin|
|Programmer(s)||Matt Clark, David Little|
|Artist(s)||Jonathan Swanson, Jessica Brett|
|Platform(s)||Linux, macOS, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, iOS|
The Gardens Between is a puzzle video game developed by Australian studio The Voxel Agents, released in September 2018 for Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
The game centers around teenagers Arina and Frendt, a girl and boy who live next door to each other and have become close friends since Arina's family moved into the area. One rainy night, the two sneak out and hide in their treehouse, built on a small garden square next to both houses. In the midst of a rainstorm, they see a light sphere form in front of them, which suddenly causes the treehouse to fall into a vast dream ocean with small islands made up of their shared experiences. They sail between the islands in the treehouse to light each portal at the top, and finally to a central island and a large portal, together; as they progress, the weather of this dreamspace becomes overcast and then rainy. Once lit, the islands all collapse into the ocean, leaving them in their treehouse. When the next morning comes Arina and Frendt are hugging each other, as Frendt's family is now moving out. The two say their final goodbyes as Frendt's family drives off.
The game consists of about twenty abstract levels, grouped into sets of two or three levels each, each influenced by memories of Arina and Frendt's friendship. Arina gains control of a magic lantern that is able to carry a sphere of light, which is needed to activate a portal to the next level, while Frendt has the ability to sound wind chimes that open or close flowers that provide the light for the lantern, as well as interfacing with a device that manipulates the flow of time for some objects. Obstacles in the environment include small cubes that jump about the level, but which can also carry Arina's lantern past obstacles, flowers that emit a black light that steals spheres of light that come close, and purple fog that is solid when the light is not present but becomes intangible when the light is close.
While the path to the portal at the top of each level is straight forward, the game is about manipulating the flow of time. The player does not directly move the characters but instead has their process move forward or backward in time, which will have the pair move forward or backward along the path. However, Arina and Frendt's interactions with the environment remain mutable with time. For example, the player may need to have Arina work forward in time to grab a sphere of light for the lantern, move time backward for her to place it on a jumping cube, and then continue to move forward pass a fog bridge to recollect the cube later. The player cannot move time forward or past a point where either Arina or Frendt cannot progress. Separately, Frendt's ability to interact with devices that control the flow of time for objects in the level may be needed to create paths previously blocked, bring falling light flowers into close proximity to Arina's paths, or similar motions. Other solutions may require lateral thinking that recognizing how the various time stream manipulations can work.
Once the player has completed a set of levels, they are presented with a short scene of Arina and Frendt involved in these activities, where a hidden jumping cube can be found using similar time manipulation controls. This completes a constellation, which once the final level is completed, merge into a final memory.
The Gardens Between was developed by the Australia studio The Voxel Agents. Lead designer and animator Josh Alan Bradbury stated that the game was meant to be an allegory for how one looks back at childhood friends when they become older. Bradbury described how Arina and Frendt are not necessarily the most compatible friends - Arina is shown more adventurous and outgoing, while Frendt is shy and seeks intellectual pursuits - and as an adult may make little sense how they developed a friendship, but through the lens of their shared childhood memories, one is able to see how their friendship developed. The time manipulation mechanics was representative of trying to relive these childhood memories, running through them back and forth in order to recall them correctly. In another interview, executive producer and level designer Simon Joslin revealed that the time manipulation mechanics started with the idea of turning the timeline interface of the movie Minority Report into a game. "The experience of using a timeline to review and inspect scenarios felt fascinating, and embryonic of intricate, quizzical experiences."
The game's soundtrack was composed by Tim Shiel.
The game was released on Microsoft Windows, MacOS, Linux, Nintendo Switch, and PlayStation 4 consoles on 20 September 2018, on Xbox One on 29 November 2018., and for iOS devices on May 17, 2019.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (September 2018)
The Verge's Michael Moore considered how The Gardens Between presented a type of theoretical physics related to different points-of-view when discussing the potential of time travel, as what Arina and Frendt would witness would be drastically different from what the player witnesses or other potential perspectives in the game.
The Gardens Between won the award for "Game of the Year" at the 2018 Australian Game Development Awards, and was nominated for "Australian Developed Game of the Year" at the Australian Games Awards. It was also nominated for "Gamer's Voice: Video Game" at the SXSW Gaming Awards, and won the award for "Puzzle Game" at the 2019 Webby Awards, whereas its other nomination was for "Best Art Direction". It was also nominated for "Best Audio/Visual Accomplishment" at the Pocket Gamer Mobile Games Awards.
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