Manifold Garden (Switch) – Review
Follow Genre: Puzzle
Developer: William Chyr Studio
Publisher: William Chyr Studio
Platform: Switch, PC, PS4, Xbox One
Tested on: Switch

Manifold Garden (Switch) – Review

Site Score
7.0
Good: Innovative mechanics, Great graphics and sound
Bad: Obscure puzzles, Bad navigation
User Score
7.5
(4 votes)
Click to vote
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Rating: 7.5/10 (4 votes cast)

Arthouse games are a very special thing; while not a genre per se, all games that fit this description have something in common: a focus on design and experiences. Some choose to combine this focus with great gameplay, while others do so in spite of it, Manifold Garden arguably being one of the latter. Its focus on awe-inspiring visuals and gigantic structures ultimately leave the puzzles as a side note.

Story

Pure puzzle games usually have little in the way of a story, instead, focusing on the puzzles themselves. At the start of the game, players appear in a room and are shown the controls, after which no other text appears ever again. The game’s store description states “Master the rules of the universe and restore a barren world with vegetation and life.”, this being the only official hint at a story for the game.

Graphics

As previously mentioned, Manifold Garden goes for eye-striking visuals accompanied by monolithic constructions. Every area the player traverses has a tremendous size which at first seems like a visual choice and later on reveals itself as actual terrain. Appropriately enough, the game’s architecture is described as Escher-esque, a statement to which it lives up to.

The game combines its overall monochromatic setting with changes in color to indicate the player’s position as well as to mark important events. After every area completed a cutscene will appear showing an explosion of color, in beautiful contrast to everything else. Both the colors and structures give Manifold Garden a dream-like appearance which is used to full effect on most areas.

Sound

Manifold Garden’s visuals are accompanied by a gorgeous 27 song soundtrack which perfectly conveys the feelings of the game. All of the game’s songs flow into one another making it more of a single, longer song than a set of individual tracks. The SFX also match the tone of the game with their minimalism, they are there but only come into effect when necessary.

Gameplay

As a puzzle game Manifold Garden has been forced to innovate, it cannot rely on classic puzzles without just upping their difficulty for uniqueness. To do so, its main mechanic relies on gravity shifting: by going near a wall players can change the gravity to make it their floor. This mechanic is used to its full extent with the existence of blocks with their own gravity, which can only be manipulated when said gravity is matched. At times players will have to manipulate a block to stop a different one from falling after the gravity is changed.

Most areas rely on this to make players create bridges in order to press buttons or carry said blocks to the equivalent of pressure plates. Luckily, this is not the only thing the game has under its sleeve, adding running water, growing trees and other new mechanics to the mix.

Sadly, this is where the good parts of the game end, and the flaws start. Due to the previously mentioned grandiosity of the buildings, players will often find themselves walking for long stretches of time, when not completely lost. A good example would be sections with identical staircases, which may often make players wonder if they are actually progressing due to the existence of actually infinite areas. Certain areas make it even easier for players to get lost, consisting of several identical structures easily reachable with a wrong gravity shift.

Another factor hindered by the sheer size of the architecture is the exploration of areas. Players lack a jump button, having to rely on gravity shifts to move around instead. This is combined with the repetition of areas after falling; whenever the player throws himself off a ledge, the world just loops around, allowing them to land atop the place they were. These mechanics make certain puzzles a struggle to figure out, being completely impossible to see all their parts at once. There is arguable no worse sensation than trying to figure a puzzle only to find the missing piece was half a map away in a seemingly empty area.

Perhaps the most glaring issue would be the obscurity of most puzzles. Players are left without direction to come up with their own way to solve a puzzle, often resulting in underwhelming and unsatisfying puzzles.

Conclusion

Manifold Garden is a beautiful game with interesting mechanics and good ideas, though certain things become very old very quickly. It is nonetheless a worthy recommendation for puzzle game lovers, though its length at around 6 hours and the $19.99/17.99€ price tag may make waiting for a sale a good idea. As a side note, the soundtrack can be found independently here at https://laryssaokada.bandcamp.com/album/manifold-garden-original-soundtrack .

Personal Opinion

“Manifold Garden is a very pretty game and has a lot of good ideas, but making buildings huge wasn’t one of them. Navigating huge maps without any mobility other than a sprint and rarely changing gravity to fall becomes very tedious. It is also a, forgive my French, pain in the neck to not be able to see a whole puzzle without throwing myself off ledges continuously to see all the pieces. The puzzles themselves are not difficult, most are quite straightforward once you notice “Oh! There was a block spawning tree down there all along hidden by the tons of visual noise!” or “Oh, there was this differently colored ground where I can make a tree grow which I can’t see without being at three meters from it”. Forgive the sarcasm, but after all, this is a personal opinion and after a while I found Manifold Garden tedious; again, it is very tiresome to move through a gigantic map with basically no mobility.”

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Rating: 7.5/10 (4 votes cast)
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Manifold Garden (Switch) - Review, 7.5 out of 10 based on 4 ratings

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