Indie Radar: The Gardens Between – Traversing Nostalgia

Feature article

Title:                                The Gardens Between
Developer:                 The Voxel Agents
Publisher:                  The Voxel Agents
Release Date:           Q3 2018
Platforms:                 Switch, PS4, PC, Mac

Nostalgia is a powerful thing. More and more we see games that use 8-bit graphics to evoke a feeling of familiarity. But very few games use nostalgia as a centerpiece for the game. Few narratives explore the nostalgia of the characters. Even fewer try bringing it into the gameplay.

The Gardens Between is a game with an… interesting control scheme. See, on one hand, it is disarmingly simple. You push the stick right to go forward, left to go back. But here’s where things get a little oblique. See you aren’t walking forwards and backward. You’re moving forwards and backward in time. So, the puzzles seem straightforward, but all this time stuff complicates affairs. However, from my time with this at PAX, I can say this game totally has the balance. It’s fairly intuitive in teaching the player what needs to be done. But it’s perplexing enough that you get that great “A-ha!” moment as the pieces fall into place.

The story and general feel of the games is very on point. The framework seems to be two friends traversing through their nostalgia. Each level is an island, representing a memory of some kind. A TV and old-school game console fit naturally into the contours of a craggy isle. Another is surrounded by planks being cut with disembodied saws.

All the elements are here. The odd gameplay and the dreamlike narrative framework. They combine to make this wonderfully ethereal puzzle game. Makes sure you don’t sleep on this game. Be on the lookout for The Gardens Between, dropping sometime this quarter for Switch, PS4, PC, and Mac.

Still pining for some indies? Check out the previous indie radar on Unavowed, an urban fantasy point and click that brings all manner of demons and malevolent forces to the streets of New York City.