I’m here to say that The Voxel Agents’ The Gardens Between has flown under Cliqist’s radar for far too long. First announced years ago on the developer’s website, The Gardens Between was featured at Indie Megabooth at PAX East and at PAX Australia. A trailer at yesterday’s Sony conference at the Paris Games Show revealed it’ll be coming to the PlayStation 4 sometime next year.
So just what is this magical, mystical game? Is it a gardening simulator? Is it a Plants vs. Zombies rip-off?
A Silent Story
The Gardens Between is a 2D narrative-driven puzzle adventure game. The game follows the surreal adventure of best friends Arina and Frendt. They’ll discover stories of growing up, friendship, and mystery, all with the power of time travel. Anyone else getting a Life is Strange vibe out of that?
There are a few things that The Voxel Agent’s game apart from the Adventures of Max and Aloy, however. It’s a 2D game, for a start, but it also has a bigger emphasis on puzzles, as well as the ability to move time forward. Perhaps the biggest difference though is this is a game free of dialog. According to the game’s press page, The Gardens Between is “Free from language, designed for accessibility.”
Accessibility is great, and is essential for games to thrive these days. Gaming has long been a gated community, and going out of your way to make games like this goes a long way in tearing those walls down. More and more games are going the dialog free route. There are indie classics such as Journey and Limbo, or newcomers like Virginia and Inside. Who could forget Team Ico classics Shadow of the Colossus and Ico?
I’ve always been dubious of these silent games, however. Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve always found myself more invested in games with big, meaty scripts with voice actors leaking out the wazoo. Maybe that’s my love of Metal Gear shining through. Something about characters that don’t speak, that communicate entirely through facial or body gestures, if that even, just puts me off. I don’t find it realistic, and while I don’t mind the time travel or the fact that a large percentage of these games bolt its cast to a two-dimensional plane, something about everyone being mute feels otherworldly to me.
Like Walking Around in a Painting
There’s nothing mute about the game’s art style, at least. The Gardens Between is drop dead gorgeous. You won’t find any pixelized blobs here. Instead, The Voxel Agents opt for a beautiful, almost hand-drawn looking art style that gives the game a spark.
As the name implies, you’ll spend your time in the game exploring gardens, but these aren’t your mother’s garden full of weeds and dead sticks. Or maybe that’s just my mom? These gardens are full on worlds, full of plant pots as big as people, mountains, and soda bottles. Each world is given a different primary color palette, giving the levels each a unique feel. However you ultimately come down on the story, you’re at least going to be in for a visual treat.
I’m not sure how well The Gardens Between will ultimately do. It seems like it has the full backing of Sony behind it, being shown alongside heavyweights like The Last of Us Part II and Spider-Man. On the other hand, Sony showcased The Swords of Ditto at E3 this year to the applause of pretty much no one.
I think The Voxel Agents might have a big hit on their hands, given how great the game looks and sounds. Whether that translates into a great game, we’ll have to wait and see.