A game for everyone

On playing The Gardens Between, you may find your own self in the game. Being a child, if you want to make friends, then proximity is the key. When I was 5, my family decided to move to this place where I had made a new friend – an outgoing girl, who happens to be my neighbor. Afterward, I then realized that her character is nothing like mine. She is unashamed and loud, while I’m kind of meek and quiet. But that did not interfere with our friendship, for we have been friends for years, even when I had to move again 7 years later. My past can be seen clearly in The Gardens Between (which is currently on sale at the price of $4.99). The game tells a story of 2 friends looking back on their last day being neighbors.

The Gardens Between has a basic yet meaningful plot

In the story of The Gardens Between, Frendt and Arina are kids next door who happens to have a profound friendship when they spend time at each other’s places – and also in the gardens placed between their houses. They grow up together for years, but then Frendt has to move, and this game tells the story about their past. Arina appears to be stubborn while Frendt is seen as a cautious boy. While Arina is bold and enjoys moving forward with no hesitation at all, Frendt likes to use his skills to explore and to find items that are important for their aim – to change the affected timeline. These two are certainly a match made in heaven.

There is a number of islands, each tells a different memory of the time they spent together. However, these islands isolate those kids from their reality and put them under a spell of their own imagination. All of the islands have specific themes for specific events or memories. Childhood items like kiddie pools, garden hoses, and playing cards are often found on these islands, but in a gigantic size. And different groups of islands tell different parts of the original story. Neither voiceovers nor text is found in the game, yet the narrative is still clear.

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A touching story about the friendship between two neighboring kids

The game can be played on multiple devices

The Gardens Between is based basically on time traveling. You can swipe right to go forward in time, swipe left to go backward, and of course, tap to carry out actions. Those moves are the only thing needed in order for one to handle The Gardens Between. Simple yet genius. It’s so smooth that you might think that rather than being ported from other platforms, it was designed for mobile from the very beginning. In a mobile space, this game also performs well, since it is more suitable to play in short sessions than to sit for a while.

The game also supports cloud saving, allowing one to play it on multiple devices. This is certainly is a beneficial feature that will benefit a huge variety of games. I personally enjoy playing The Gardens Between on the iPad because by then, I can immerse myself in the graphics. But I still want it to be synced with my phone so that I can complete my levels even when I’m far away. The original version of the game was designed for consoles and PC, so it was presented in a horizontal orientation. With the mobile port, however, you can choose to play in either landscape or portrait mode. Moreover, since the islands keep moving upward, sometimes it's better to play in portrait. Just like the aforementioned cloud saving, a minor detail can mean more than just that.

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A screenshot from the game

Amazing soundtracks encourage players to immerse in The Gardens Between

The Gardens Between's purpose is absolutely straightforward: On each island, you will need to get a ball of light and later put it into a statue made of stone located at the top the island. Sounds easy, right? But that’s not everything. More and more elements like bells and black holes will be added in to level up the difficulty of the game. When I mention the bell, I have a purpose. On ringing the bell, it will freeze the two characters and so instead of controlling them, you'll be able to move objects through space and time. It’s definitely a fascinating feature, yet be careful, for messing up with those objects may create a whole different timeline.

The soundtrack is incredibly ambient, and it surely deserves a shoutout, given the fact that it actually embedded into the game’s background, not to mention its contribution on players’ concentration. You should wear earpieces (or volume up to the maximum, but not highly recommended) to fully enjoy The Gardens Between. The ambient effects of the sound suited specific environment perfectly. For instance, when dealing with a level that is equipped with a huge TV on the top of the island, the closer you get, the clearer the noise from speakers will be. It’s so realistic.

The Gardens Between
Interact with various objects

But it still has some drawbacks

The game is pretty short, even by short games' standard. You won’t have to spend more than a few hours to get through everything, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing. The story is clear, with extreme cut down of unnecessary elements.

There are two things that I am not actually satisfied with The Gardens Between. Number 1, there are dark bars at the bottom as well as the top of the screen when there is a cut scene, which makes me feel kind of left out while watching how the story unfold. I personally find those dark bars unnecessary. Number 2, whenever you are stuck, not knowing what to do next, there are absolutely no hints. You will have to figure your way out.

A screenshot from the game

The game’s ending might mean that the characters are no longer neighbors, but it doesn't mean they'll stop being friends. Frendt and Arina spend lots of time together, from playing in kiddie pools to going out and exploring drains. Much as they are separated and live far away, it does not mean that they will no longer be evolving together. And as far as I'm concerned, they will always be friends through the hardship of turning into adults.