Thanks to William Chyr Studio for the review code
Title: Manifold Garden
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 08/18/2020
Taking place in a first person perspective, this clever puzzler tasks the player with exploring buildings and manipulating the environment in order to open up new paths. Usually, first person games tend to get me confused or lost, but I’m happy to say Manifold Garden manages to mitigate a lot of the problems I suffer from games like these due to a great field of view, making the perspective something anyone could easily adjust to, much to my joy.
Combine that with a clever use of color schemes in the puzzles and great sound design, and you have a first person puzzler that anyone can play, with some great atmosphere to boot. The monochromatic parts look like they were drawn with a pencil and overall the game just looks outstanding and controls smoothly, even on the limited hardware of the Switch.
In fact, one aspect of this version I somehow didn’t even notice until looking up a walkthrough of the PC version to get unstuck, and that’s the cut from 60FPS down to 30FPS. Here on Switch, it’s at 30, no more, no less, and the great news is that it’s locked super tight and seems to have been reworked to play fine at this framerate. Granted, since this game uses a very basic control scheme, a reduced framerate wouldn’t make too much of a difference anyhow, but it’s still something to note for those who are picky about higher framerate, since in this case the devs traded a super high framerate in exchange for the port looking pretty, and I do still wish the option was there to swap to a performance mode, even with it not mattering much here.
Manifold Garden is a first person puzzle adventure game, with a control scheme so basic it only manages to use two buttons: the ZR button for flipping gravity, and the A button for interacting with items. You do have a dash button and some other minor commands to mess with as well, but otherwise those two buttons will be your go-to during the entire game, and it leads to a very simple pick up and play feel.
You start off in a basic area at first, going from room to room and learning the ropes of gravity manipulation. Basically, if you look towards a wall and press the ZR button, the entire world shifts like a cube. While you can move around like normal regardless of the angle, you cannot jump, so you’ll have to know where to change gravity in order to position yourself on a higher platform or area.
Some angles will light up colored blocks, allowing you to pick them up and rotate them, and most puzzles will require you to connect them to an exit door in order to progress. However, if you change to a differing angle, the colored block will drain, and you won’t be able to move it, but it’ll be frozen in place until the angle is restored, and if you think really hard, you can use them as mini-platforms and solve the puzzle. This is where Manifold Garden gets really fun, since these puzzles may seem nigh impossible at first glance, with lots of hours burnt on trying to find just how to position a block in a certain location: yet, it turns out in the end you didn’t have to position it where you thought, and instead you have to get clever with angles to make yourself a path.
After the opening area, the game opens up a bit, each new section of the game offering more challenge than the last, with these gravity-bending puzzles growing more and more difficult. In all honesty, you may end up getting stuck quite a lot, and it’s OK to look up a walkthrough if you need to get past a certain part, but Manifold Garden feels the most satisfying when you solve a tricky puzzle after a half hour or so of mindless attempts, though I do feel that a hint system wouldn’t have been too much to ask for here.
The fact that the game’s world gets more and more trippy as you progress, with the music and environment acting up in the process, also helps with this game’s sense of progression, giving the game’s world a story told through the environment, and one that feels natural to boot. It may be a simplistic game to control, but as a guy that tends to struggle during first-person experiences, I’m really happy that Manifold Garden is easy to pick up and play and enjoy despite my usual struggles with these perspectives, and it’s a game I can definitely see myself purchasing again if it gets a physical release, as the puzzles are tricky and engaging, the world is intriguing, and the whole ordeal is just a good fun time.
In the conclusion, I’m happy to say that Manifold Garden is one of the few first person games I found myself enjoying immensely with little fiddling required. The puzzles are tricky and the lack of hints is definitely not for everyone, but the gorgeous world, tight controls and ease of access make for a fun experience worth playing to the end if you can.
This Switch version may be at a downgraded framerate, and I definitely feel an option could have been added to make a higher performance doable, but all in all this is a puzzler that you should definitely try out, though the high price of entry may be a turnoff for those uncertain on if the difficulty level is right for them, or if such a simplistic game warrants such a price. (even though there is a good amount of fun to be had here, and you’ll get your money worth in that sense for sure)
I give Manifold Garden a 7 out of 10, and you can find the store page for the game here.