Following the triumph of the Portal-like Superliminal, it’s a treat to have yet another abstract puzzle game to sink your teeth into. Manifold Garden is wonderful, with its gravity-based puzzles, sublime scale with its eery echoing footsteps and gorgeously unique visuals. If complex, mind-bending challenges are your thing, then you’ll find Manifold Garden to be buckets of fun, rarely faltering in execution.
Lying on your bed as a kid, head upside down, tilted to the side, making the walls out to be the floor and the floor the ceiling was always a trippy but satisfying sense of wonder and Manifold Garden takes that concept of shifting perspective in a truly Inception esc manner and runs with it; alter the gravity of your surroundings to complete puzzles which are, in description, fairly simplistic – plop a block onto a button and you’re golden. The catch? Getting said block to match your orientation whilst also dodging obstacles. Given the twisty turny nature of your perspective, this can be a tough nut to crack, but getting it down to a science is oh-so rewarding.
However, it’s not just an arts-y puzzle visual extravaganza as there’s a slither of story tucked neatly behind the bending world of Manifold Garden. There’s this strong notion of rebuilding, bringing back something once lost. What exactly is unclear but that feeling of revival calls back to indie classics like Flower, albeit with far more engaging gameplay. That mysterious layered narrative that’s not blatantly hurled into the player’s face is what works so well as it serves to act as a reel, continously pulling you deeper and deeper into the abyss. It’s calm, but the distinct bleak palette and abstract art direction serves to add eerie overtones to the otherwise surreal landscape.
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Thankfully, it holds up on the less-powerful Switch with crisp visuals and smooth gameplay. Controls are responsive and, whilst boasting a complex concept, getting into the rythm of this graceful puzzle-based adventure is easy enough given the intuitive design and welcoming introduction. Those first few moments in William Chyr’s world aren’t just a glance at a brilliant imagination, but a true reel.
The game spans four-hours which isn’t too long – that would be all fine and dandy if the puzzles ever amounted to more than their initial premise but, unfortunately, moving cubes is about the extent of the ride. Once you crack that first egg open, there’s few twists and turns when it comes to the actual gameplay mechanics which can get a little on the repetitive side.
Final Score: 82%
There’s something sublime in the scale of Manifold Garden‘s concept, in its reality-distorting architecture that spans all the way from gigantic towers to stunning churches with grandiose designs. Throw in captivating gameplay to boot with its excellent atmosphere and you know you’re in for a good time.
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