The Gardens Between review – a miniature meditative masterwork

PC, PlayStation 4, Mac, Nintendo Switch; The Voxel Agents
With only three buttons, this time-bending story is an impeccably crafted minimalist model of video game and puzzle design

A calm, beautiful game that rewards patience, curiosity and wonder, The Gardens Between tells a bittersweet story with no script and only three buttons. While this time-travelling puzzler does not revolutionise the swelling wave of “chill out” games, it is essential playing for the genre. It will no doubt become a reliable go-to for enticing people of all ages into video games, but it’s also a pleasure for regular players craving something original.

The Gardens Between’s child protagonists are neighbours who escape drab homes using a rope ladder and plastic chair to get to their favourite play area. Here they flee rainy suburbia for adventures in a beaten-up treehouse. Soon, with their wooden hideout deployed as a boat, the duo are whisked on a journey into their own memories. Giant relics of their friendship – a lake-sized paddling pool, a towering bowl of popcorn, a paintbrush taller than a person – are perched on top of islands that sit in boundless bodies of water.

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