I reckon, by now, I’ve probably offered up a varied enough selection of GOTY candidates to justify throwing in another premium, story-based title. I’ve got a racer, a runner, a couple of roguelikes, another runner, two platformers, and some that don’t fit quite as tidily into any of the above.
The Gardens Between
The Gardens Between tells the story of two kids who escape the mundanity of their suburban setting to head out on an adventure through their own memories. It sounds almost too painfully twee on paper, but part of the appeal here is that very precarious balancing act.
The player takes on the role of a nameless, omnipresent being floating above and guiding the two young friends through a series of diorama-like stage. It’s a fairly straightforward puzzle game at heart, though poring over every level for hidden details and smart visual designs is its own rewarding challenge.
The childhood memories explored here come bearing the baggage, half-truths, and exaggerations that oft-repeated tales inevitably pick up over time. Household objects become towering obstacles, and the friends are frequently dwarfed by their fantastical surrounding.
Playing around with, and attempting to visually represent, how children view the world might have been done to death a little – but, again, The Gardens Between rarely comes across as tired. Ultimately, it succeeds as a calm, meditative, and eventually bittersweet tale that embraces our love of reminiscing on the past while reminding us never to lose sight of the future.