The Gardens Between is a puzzle game that using the metaphor of stars and light to tell a bittersweet, nostalgic story about friendship.
Through protagonists Arina and Frendt, players explore surreal garden islands that are peppered with nostalgic objects, each representing a shared memory between the two friends. In each level, the pair must deliver a lantern to the peak of the island by solving time-warp puzzles. When the puzzle is solved, the light from the lantern shoots up into the sky, and the memory that the island represents becomes a star in a broader constellation of memories above. Each level is full of objects that tease out shared memories and moments in time.
These constellations provide a metaphorical and literal background to their adventures, and are also waypoints in the darkness. The friends sail between memory islands in a floating treehouse – like seafarers of old, they are guided by the stars. Their memories together are bright points in an ocean of fog, guiding them as they learn to deal with change.
Players don’t control the characters per se, but they instead use the game’s time-based mechanic to fast forwards or backwards. Rewinding to the development of the game, that time mechanic was first explored here with us at ACMI during a game jam.
All the games curated in the Games Lab have a connection to broader moving image properties, but one that’s not as obvious is The Gardens Between. It’s represents an entire genre of films about kids on the edge of adolescence and adulthood, and explores those relationships you have at about age 13, which are unlike any other relationship you have – as they say in Stand By Me. In the game, you control two friends in an abstract environment, use time to control the game and, despite the characters being male and female, it's not romantic, it’s about friendship and that reminded me of films like Moonrise Kingdom.
– Assistant Curator Arieh Offman
The Gardens Between ambient trailer via The Voxel Agents' YouTube channel.
Not in ACMI's collection
On display until
10 August 2023
ACMI: Gallery 1
The Story of the Moving Image → Games Lab → GL-01. Cluster 1 → GL-01-C01