The Gardens Between is a puzzler that warps time in the name of friendship. It’s Australian indie studio The Voxel Agents’ latest game, and in addition to launching on PC and PlayStation 4, it will arrive on Nintendo Switch. It’s slated for a Q3 release later this year.
Last month, I tried The Gardens Between at Brazil’s Independent Games Festival, where the game was up for the event’s Best Art award. It has a dreamy aesthetic, its surreal landscapes drenched in soft colors, and a fitting and quirky mechanic. Rather than move main characters Arina and Frendt in the usual manner, you instead fast-forward and rewind time and watch as they proceed in a predetermined path. Many of the puzzles play with loose causality, requiring you to jump ahead in time to make a change, then return to the past to let things play out in new ways.
The Gardens Between is The Voxel Agents’ newest game. Though its previous titles were quite different in style, they were also puzzlers — like the track-laying Train Conductor and Train Conductor 2 USA as well as the minimalist Puzzle Retreat.
Each of the levels of The Gardens Between demo appeared as an island, scattered with familiar objects and representing moments in Arina and Frendt’s friendship. These items are often scaled up, appearing larger than life — like a comically huge TV or an enormous moving truck — and showing how important these little snippets are to the main characters.
The Voxel Agents cofounder Simon Joslin says that the story that winds through the game is based on the team’s childhood friendships, ones that felt “so impossibly large that the bonds could never be broken.”
“We took inspiration from our own childhoods when building the narrative of The Gardens Between. We wanted to tap into something relatable, familiar and nostalgic,” said Joslin in a release. “The magic of being a kid is fleeting, but the story of Arina and Frendt captures that enchantment in a beautiful package.”