Hailing from Australia, developer The Voxel Agents are prepping their upcoming indie title The Gardens Between for release later this year and we got hands-on time this past PAX East with the game alongside the developers.
Dropping players into the roles of Arina and Frendt, players primarily control time itself, along with key interactions with the environment by Arina and Frendt. The pair are traversing through a variety of mysterious and surreal gardens, which look like islands build out of objects from their memories merged with lush greenery. What caught our eye about the game initially was the beautiful visuals themselves that play with a lot of detail and interesting design, however the gameplay it’s built around is itself interesting too.
During our demonstration time with the game, we took Arina and Frendt through a few different gardens to check out the increasing difficulty available. Initially we were simply either moving time forward, which automatically makes the pair walk forward along the linear path that circles each garden all the way around and up to their summit, or moving them back in time to retrace their footsteps. Within the gardens are select spots where the player can pick up light-orbs, which are not affected by the movement of time and instead hold their position wherever players place them. This was the main aspect of the gameplay challenge we were presented during the demo. Arina and Frendt will often come across an obstacle blocking their way, and by placing a light-orb on objects moving forward and backward through time, they can connect a path together for these light-orbs and trigger switches needed to progress.
What makes this challenging is that there are other elements in the gardens moving as time moves, including plant-like objects that snatch away light-orbs. While moving forward in time and circling around the gardens, it becomes difficult to predict how these different moving elements, combined with the different switches involved, will cross paths, making for puzzling and interesting obstacles to overcome. A good amount could be solved through enough trial and error, however the fun was trying to figure out the puzzle before it tripped us up and stole away the light-orb we were carrying to a switch.
The storyline of the game itself involves the pair making their way through these various gardens, and as they reach the top of each garden they ignite stars to form constellations. In the full game these constellations will show different important moments from their friendship. The mood of the game and its story came through the tranquil gameplay itself, and we look forward to seeing more from developer The Voxel Agents.