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Manifold Garden Review

You are in a room, and the floor is the ceiling, or maybe it is the other way around? No, everything is the floor, and you fall through the infinite. Welcome to the Manifold Garden, a game in which you need to prepare to be distorted by the beauty of repetition and some seriously exciting puzzles. It’s an Escher-inspired fever dream of a game – you can assign gravity to any side of an environment at any time. This is our Manifold Garden Review.

It’s surprising how many different puzzles the game manages to get out of this concept, with new elements gradually introduced at just the right pace to confer further complexity without being downright daunting.

Manifold Garden Review: About

  • Platform: PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Linux, Mac OS, Macintosh
  • Developer: William Chyr Studio
  • Publisher: William Chyr Studio
  • Genres: Puzzle video game
  • Release Date: October 18, 2019

Manifold Garden Review: Official Trailer Video

Manifold Garden Review: Gameplay

For starters, there are color-coded cubes that must be placed on switches to open doors or other mechanisms. It doesn’t take long to discover that these colors are also relevant to their gravity, and as such, cubes can only be moved when the world is in that orientation. Add stairs that go in different directions, switch combinations, and staggered environments, and even these relatively simple puzzles take a little getting used to, making for further payoff as solutions come.

It takes a while to adjust to the changes in orientation, so for the first few hours, I noticed that I often got lost and even felt a little nauseous and headache. I found that the more I started to understand the concepts, the less this happened because my mind stopped fighting what it saw. By the end of the game, I was able to make these changes quickly; I could almost hear the click in my head when everything started to become intuitive and second nature. Things that weren’t immediately obvious, such as the realization that one block’s gravity can be used to keep another from falling to trigger a seemingly impossible switch, went from the edge concepts to the instinct.

There was a particularly devilish puzzle where I had to use different cubes to keep a single vital cube in place. It had to be done in a specific way and in a particular order to take advantage of their specific gravity. When I first approached this issue, it never occurred to me that this was even possible, and I remained stumped for centuries. However, the reward of working it out was not only hugely satisfying but also helped me open up to further puzzles.

The aesthetics of Manifold Garden are comfortingly beautiful as they are both stark and complex. The music is minimal but builds up at peak times with intense synths that seem to reflect the environment. There are practically no textures to speak of, and almost everything is made of simple polygons; the backgrounds are dotted with stairs that seem to go in all directions, whether you know it or not. Some environments are simple, such as a beautiful block tree with running water in some Japanese garden aesthetic. Others are incredibly complex with multi-directional moving parts. If you look closely, it can look dull and barren, but stepping back will often reveal the psychedelic beauty in larger patterns.

The physical stages themselves repeat endlessly in the emptiness of the world, and this is more than just an aesthetic choice. It allows you to fall off a ledge forever and then land back in otherwise unreachable areas, leaving another obtuse mechanic arises that comes in play during later puzzles. In all respects, the world of Manifold Garden challenges you to think differently while claiming that you are always safe – there is no form of death or fall damage. This allows you to explore without fear while also taking the time to internalize the logic of the game.

As you progress through the increasingly layered architectural stages, you will find little to no hand-holding, and for the most part, this is fantastic. There is just enough direction to get the satisfying feeling of working things out on your own, accompanied by a deep sense of accomplishment. Even when new, unexpected elements are added, they are based on sufficiently familiar images to decipher new solutions with minimal prompts ultimately.

There is also an incredible density of puzzles. Sometimes even moving from one room to another presents a new obstacle to reconcile your way. Very rarely did I have the feeling that Manifold Garden offered a lot of respites. Instead, it keeps your mind constantly thinking, always looking for new angles and firmly on the tips of your toes. But there’s also no pressure – no enemies, no time limits – making Manifold Garden feel like an intense cerebral experience from start to finish.

The game doesn’t always do enough to give you directions to fix the issues – on this one occasion; I might have wasted over an hour looking for a solution that wasn’t there. There were a few other times when I felt that a little more direction would have been welcome, or that I had solved a puzzle in an accident and missed a valuable lesson. However, since I was forced to work out every other problem in the game for myself, it was so satisfying that in the end, I felt it was worth the hours lost through oblivion.

Conclusion

When I entered the impossible world of the Manifold Garden Review, I felt tried and worthy. The puzzles are incredibly satisfying and offer a brilliant mix of step-by-step knowledge building with increasingly challenging solutions. The environments are awe-inspiring in their endless repetition, but repetition is not a feature reflected in the game’s challenges. There is always something new, or a new way of looking at something old, as you travel through the infinite horizon. Manifold Garden is a feast for the eyes and the mind as long as you can wrap about what it has to offer.

The Surge 2 Review

9 Total Score
Our Verdict

It’s surprising how many different puzzles the game manages to get out of this concept, with new elements gradually introduced at just the right pace to confer further complexity without being downright daunting.

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