Apple’s claim that the latest iPad Pro (3rd Generation) is as powerful as an Xbox One S held up during my time with The Gardens Between. A beautiful puzzle game that merges time control with a stunning environment to create a unique flow experience on the go. It is almost as if the game was meant to be on the iPad the whole time as every pixel of the gorgeous display, was filled with the game’s gorgeous visuals.
The idea behind the game is simple. You swipe left and right to fast forward and rewind time. While doing so, you will interact with objects and carry orbs of light around the level in order to safely get it to the end and activate the portal leading to the next stage.
The game follows two friends as they journey together through broken memories now scattered across an interdimensional world. Every level is a collection of objects put together in the utmost care to deliver a unique visual experience while at the same time using these objects as part of the puzzle.
One of the friends carries a lantern that holds the orb and the other can interact with lamps that fast forwards time but only for specific items such as a lift and little robots that can carry the lantern higher up in the stage.
Manipulating time and making sure to use the ability to control objects is key to passing every stage. Most of the game’s levels include the same rinse and repeat method but it works. Along the way, things get a little more complicated as you need to watch out for dark orbs that absorb the other orbs of light. I also came into contact with mist that blocked the way and I could only pass if I had an orb of light to clear it.
It is also important to know that you cannot directly control the two friends in the game at all. They walk on a pre-determined path the whole time and by controlling the time flow, you change and adapt these paths by moulding their timelines. It is as if you are predicting their past and future. These few elements all combined together to deliver a challenging yet satisfying adventure.
It is not overly complicated at all and the magic of the simplicity just oozes charm out of every stage. The level design is excellent as the objects all collide under a specific theme to deliver a visually outstanding game. The friends also tie some emotional connection to these objects as they interact with them throughout the stage. These smaller details then give you a personal connection to them as you sit and imagine where they placed in their daily lives. At the end of the stage, it then becomes clearer as the game combines all these objects to create a scene depicting a past memory of their lives.
It is quite a marvel to sit back and watch these levels move around as you fast forward and rewind time. Some of them are simple but later in the game, they get very busy. One particular stage was made of dinosaur bones which broke apart and remade themselves as I controlled the flow of time. It was eye candy, to say the least.
Running on the new iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd Gen) model, the game was magnificent. For a mobile game, it pushed the hardware to its limits running at a native 2732 x 2048. After prolonged gaming, the iPad even got a little warm which is a first for me. Even video editing and heavy daily use kept this device cool so it goes to show how this game visually pushes the limit for mobile gaming. It is beautiful and on a portal display, even better.
In the end, I wanted more. The game has just the right amount of worlds to complete but I never wanted it to end. Laying in bed and playing through a few levels before my eyes dropped became a habit and now that I am done, I just want to replace it with a game of the same quality. Hopefully, there is something out there. The Gardens Between makes for a perfect iPad adaption and one that just works so well on the go.
This review was based on an iPad copy of the game sent to us by The Voxel Agents. The Gardens Between is now available on the App Store for R79,99. It supports iOS 11 and up and is compatible with iPhone 6S and up, iPad Air 2 and up, iPod Touch and iPad.