Review – Manifold Garden

Manifold Garden was actually not a game I intended to review as I’m, admittedly, not the typical audience for it. Not that I don’t like puzzle games, but they aren’t something I actively seek. With that said, I was actually very impressed with this title since it offered something unique to me. It didn’t blow my socks off, but what’s here I think a lot of puzzle fans will really enjoy. Let’s take a deeper look into this strange and beautiful game.

It’s hard to write about a game like Manifold Garden since there is no direct narrative, characters, or missions other than the puzzles presented. It also dumps you right away into the game with no opening cutscene or idea of what’s going on or even much of a tutorial. From what I can gather is that a darkness or disease has spread among your world and you need to re-cultivate the garden to rid the infection. Or you can interpret it completely different since there isn’t actually any indication of a narrative.

Manifold Garden

Restoring beacons allows you to wipe out the corruption.

This actually brings me to my main issue with Manifold Garden. I’m not really one who needs a direct narrative or any hand holding. I absolutely love the Souls series which doesn’t guide you through a main story narrative, but there is one if you want to dig deep. Manifold Garden doesn’t have any of that. You’re plopped into the world and that’s that. There aren’t hidden things to find that help you infer what is going on, and even the ending itself offers no closure. This often left me kind of bored going from puzzle to puzzle as there wasn’t much of a reason to continue other than the gameplay itself.

Luckily, the gameplay is pretty dang addictive and it does some new things that left me very impressed. The main theme is manipulating gravity to eventually use color coded blocks to unlock paths. You have the ability to completely alter gravity to walk on any surface and each cardinal direction has a specific color code. However, you need to directly touch a wall before you can switch to walking on it. The blocks are color coded to a specific cardinal direction and you can’t move them unless you’re within that direction. It sounds a whole lot more complex than it actually is, but everything in motion is impressive.

Manifold Garden

New gameplay mechanics are introduced at a nice pace.

What adds to the gameplay even more is the idea of a never ending universe. As you walk out into open areas, you will notice that in every direction there is an exact copy of the landmass you’re in. Which means if you fall off the map, you can easily aim yourself to fall exactly where you dropped from. This creates a entirely new dynamic to puzzle solving where you’ll often have to jump off the map in a different direction to access a location you couldn’t get to normally. All of these systems not only create some brain teasing puzzles, but it forces you to really think outside the box. If you’re confused, I apologize as it’s not the easiest to explain through words, but I’ll have a gameplay video below. It’s much simpler and easier to understand when seeing or playing it yourself.

The visuals are purposefully minimalist, as I said each of the six cardinal directions are color coded. So you’re really only seeing these six colors throughout the game. When you switch to a direction the floor will turn the color of that direction. It doesn’t sound impressive, but the overall art design is very reminiscent of an M.C. Escher painting. There is always a lot going on within each area, and figuring out where to go can be cool. With that being said, since everything is pretty much an outline and has sharp edges there are some weird visual pop ins at distances.

Manifold Garden

There is some really nice artistry through out the game.

Sound design is almost as non existent as its narrative. There are only so many sound effects, mostly when interacting with objects. The soundtrack is also very mellow except for when it needs to ramp up after solving main puzzles. The musical pieces, when they do arrive, are very well done and offer that moment a lot. I did enjoy the limited sound design as it would be strange to have a lot going on audibly when everything else is so pulled back and simple.

Manifold Garden is unique and I am glad I got the opportunity to play it. If you enjoy a game with at least an inkling of a narrative, then this title isn’t for you. However, if you’re looking for a unique puzzle game that lets you enjoy its world without an overarching story, then I absolutely recommend Manifold Garden.

 

Graphics: 8.0

Minimalist look with splashes of colors to identify orientation and puzzles. The whole game looks like you’re inside an M.C. Escher painting.

Gameplay: 9.0

Gameplay is simple to understand even without much of any tutorial or direction. Difficulty ramps up appropriately as you go.

Sound: 8.0

Not much of a sound design or soundtrack, but what is there is used well and adds the world.

Fun Factor: 7.5

There are some very unique ideas here that work well. However, without any idea of why I’m doing the puzzles, I sometimes felt bored.

Final Verdict: 8.0

Manifold Garden is available now on PC and PS4.

Reviewed on PC with a GTX 2070, i7-9700k, and 16gb of RAM.

A copy of Manifold Garden was provided by the publisher.

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