Developer: William Chyr Studio
Publisher: William Chyr Studio
Genre: Action, Adventure, Puzzle, Trivia
Platform: Xbox One
Age Rating: PEGI 3
Release Date: 18/08/2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
After finishing my play-though of Manifold Garden, I’ve been left with a strange mix of elation and melancholy; a longing for just one more of those beautifully crafted, wonderfully challenging and intensely peaceful levels. Yes, it’s fair to say that I loved playing this game.
Everything about Manifold Garden is right up my street; it has a unique concept, a compelling soundtrack and it’s full of intriguing puzzles and impressive visuals. It fills your mind with the experience it creates so that it’s easy to lose yourself in the game without feeling time pass. All of this combined is my equivalent of gaming catnip.
What’s Down Is Up
Forget the physics you know. If gravity isn’t working out for you, you can change it to suit your needs. Structures repeat infinitely, so that leaping off one of them doesn’t mean that you’ll end up miles from where you started, but rather on a different part of that same structure. The resources you need to solve a puzzle may be in another plane of gravity, or perhaps only accessible by taking a leap of faith.
Things become a little more complicated in the Dark World. You’ll find yourself in the Dark World near the end of each level after picking up a Dark Cube. It rains and storms constantly here and you can no longer change gravity. Also, it’s, well (as you’d expect quite frankly) dark – in a Stranger Things, the Upside Down alternate world kind of way. The music here takes on a bit of an 80s feel too, also reminiscent of Stranger Things.
The first time you jump (it’s more like a fall really, since there’s no jump button) off a building is both breath-taking and confusing. It feels like a mistake, as if you’ll never be able to find your way back. Yet, once you acclimatise to the physics of the game, freefalling becomes a joy. Sometimes I found myself walking off the edge of a platform just to hear the whoosh of air as you fall and watch the endless repetition of sections of building passing me by.
The basic controls are very simple. Apart from being able to move/look around, you have a button to change gravity, one for run and another to interact with buttons and cubes. Cubes come in a variety of colours – blue, red, yellow, purple, orange – and you use them to open doors and help solve puzzles. When you finish a level, you use a God Cube to grow the next one.
You don’t control a character as such. You hear footsteps when you move around, you hear a thump when you land on a surface, you use a dot/crosshair to select buttons and cubes to interact with but you never see a physical body behind any of these interactions. In fact, in one part of the game where you can see the level repeating infinitely, you can see the cube you’re carrying, but there is nothing there holding it. Perhaps you are invisible? I don’t think it’s important.
A Route She Wrote
Your path through the game is not obvious, I like this. You have to investigate the area you’re in, test out ideas; hypothesise. Whilst some of the puzzles are significantly more challenging than others, I never found myself feeling stressed out or overly frustrated by them. Manifold Garden seems to have this way of keeping you entertained even when your attempts to solve a puzzle are fruitless.
I’m not sure I’ve played another game as satisfying as this. It comes from simple things like the noises that cubes make when they hit the stairs, to the feeling when you solve a puzzle that at first seems impossible, to impressive displays of worlds organically taking shape from scratch accompanied by peaceful music flowing to your ears and multicoloured birds flocking about the screen.
I am genuinely in awe at the thought of how much work must have gone into planning each level to gauge the perfect combination of all the game’s elements. The level designs are somehow both simple and complex. There is an absolute synergy between the sights, sound effects and music that creates an overall atmosphere of peace and tranquillity.
Although I haven’t played another game quite like Manifold Garden, I did find myself reminded of a couple of other games; The Talos Principle and Portal. I think it’s the quiet contemplation of puzzles without interactions from other characters that caused my mind to draw a link between these games.
Get Your Extra
Most of the achievements are for following the natural progression of the game. However, there are a couple of extra ones which might encourage a second play-through. One of them is for completing the game without placing a single God Cube. I’m curious to see how this could work so I can see myself revisiting Manifold Garden.
I didn’t spend much time in photo mode, the game itself absorbed my attention, and to be honest I found the visuals so beautiful as they were presented to me that as I progressed I forgot about this mode. It’s something I might be tempted to revisit on a second play-through though.
In the End
The ending is something else. It’s a proper reward for finishing the game. No spoilers here though, I’ll leave that for you discover if you decide to play. It’s an absolute gem of a game. If you want something to broaden your way of thinking, something to challenge your mind but also treat it to a visual and audio feast, play Manifold Garden.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can buy Manifold Garden for the Xbox One from the Microsoft Store.