Manifold Garden - Review
THE REVIEW IN BRIEF
Often the puzzle games are born with the idea of letting the player out of his comfort zone by proposing impossible situations in reality. Manifold Garden is no exception. This is what happens with the Portal portals, with the dimensional and gravity changes of dozens of games (including the very recent Etherborn , with very similar intentions to Manifold Garden ), with the impossible geometry of Antichamber and the impossible physics of the game of which we are writing, the brainchild of William Chyr and finally landed on Epic Games Store after seven years of development (it is also coming to PlayStation 4 later this year).
The mention of games such as Etherborn and Antichamber is by no means accidental, because Manifold Garden , a first-person puzzle game with many exploratory elements, bases its design on two very particular mechanics.
Gravity, I'm not afraid of you!
The first mechanic of Manifold Garden is that of the change of gravity and allows our protagonist to move through any wall as if it were the floor. This system allows you to create puzzles (mainly designed on closed structures in which therefore you can take advantage of all the walls) that take advantage of the positioning and manipulation of objects that can only be moved when gravity points in the right direction. If a cube has to stop on a platform located on a wall (and therefore on a different "gravity") you will be forced to use another cube which, compared to that new gravity, is not suspended in the air, and the mechanics become little little complex enough to always be able to offer fresh and varied puzzles.
The difficulty curve grows fairly sweet, never leaving the player in frustration and rather accompanying him in a constant (and growing) feeling of ingenuity and skill. Even when those puzzles move outside or begin to exploit more complicated mechanics with cubes that change color and even objects with which we cannot interact directly, but only by exploiting gravity itself.
Manifold Garden is not particularly long-lived and if you have a little experience with puzzle games in three hours of good puzzles you will easily get to the end of the experience , and it is no coincidence that you use such a term. Between a puzzle and the other you cannot help but get lost along the wonderful architectures proposed, the sumptuous graphic design, the cleanliness of the geometric designs and the intense colors capable, everything is capable of giving the game a strong personality, which makes indirectly think of the graphic style of Antichamber .
Euclidean geometry is a bit tight for us
The ideas for the second mechanics on which the game design of Manifold Garden is based seem to come from Antichamber and NaissanceE . The game world, in fact, is not Euclidean and not only because of the change of gravity available on any surface.
In all respects, these are impossible geometries, portals that allow access to different structures and architectural patterns that develop in an impossible way. The whole game world is built through the infinite repetition of the same places that make the structures simultaneously find themselves in every direction and place. So falling off the bottom of a block makes our character land on the top of the same block. Not an identical block, but exactly the same, allowing exploration and puzzles to reinvent themselves at the same time by exploiting the concept of infinite expansion.
You can get to any point from any other point and falling from any direction along any gravity, destroying the sense of Game Over (and therefore directing the player's entire attention towards solving the puzzles). Exploration in this way becomes much more stimulating because it is never punitive and, although sometimes it is an end in itself, it is well integrated in the perspective of research and curiosity.
Thus, structure after structure and "room after room" Manifold Garden presents us with an adventure that lets you play exactly for what it is, without ever offering additional stimuli or reasons to excite those who are not interested in basic mechanics.
But why am I continuing?
In Manifold Garden you do not find the existential meanings of Etherborn anywhere , nor the narrative cues of games like Myst like Kairo : it does not keep you glued to the screen (if not through the beautiful aesthetic style) and does not hide even for a moment that the sense of progression - even logical - is, in some way, the only real engine to push the player to continue. I would have personally liked a greater narrative sense, or at least a feeling of progression: it is difficult to guess a sense of progress by playing, leaving aside the (stylistically beautiful) final section.
A technical note: in Manifold Garden I found no bugs of any kind and it was extremely precise both playing with a controller and using the keyboard. The cleanliness of the environments goes hand in hand with the cleaning of the models, and perhaps only the audio sector seemed to me poorer and not up to the care of the rest of the game.