Intro ( Establishing Rules – Feel free to skip to the game part below)
I thought I would just put my thoughts to this little indie puzzler for anyone kinda interested but not sure.
I've been on a run in the past couple months of completing various games in this genre. The Talos Prinicple / Road to Ghenna, Superliminal, The Turing Test, ChromaGun, Qube 2, and now Manifold Garden.
When these games work ideally they compliment the players intelligence rather than hold your hand. Each puzzle should feel like your JUST on the edge of being stumped but then you try one last thing and it works. The best rhythm to maintain is a perfect linear ramp in difficulty where every challenge is just a Tiny bit more challenging than the last. Huge spikes in difficulty are frustrating / and when it's easy it's boring. You will feel cheated if the game "plays a trick" on you and the solution to a puzzle was something never taught to you, but its reasonable for end-game challenges to be quite complex.
Now that the rules are established let's get to Manifold Garden.
MC Escher would love this. Staircases in all 3 axis, spaces that seem paradoxical, rooms that continue infinitely in every direction, impossibly endless caves of fractal architecture. It's puts you in spaces so vast it almost evokes agoraphobia in the player. A feeling that you're trapped in some geometric purgatory. Texture-wise the game has a super-minimal visual aesthetic, flat colors, and only black outlines along edges. It looks like you're in a 3d blueprint. Personally i'm attracted to minimalism and I think it works nicely. First off it forces the player to focus only on the elements of the challenge at hand, and doesn't accidentally bait you with curiosities. It makes it very clear what you should be focusing on. Color becomes important and the minimalist approach worked in my favor, i am color-blind. There are highly impressive moments in the game from a visual standpoint late game which are worth the challenge to get there.
You can't jump, that pissed me off kinda. But i got over it eventually lol. The Gameplay is clever, the hook here is that you can change any surface to be your "ground", so it forces you to think about space differently. The ceiling and the wall can become the floor if you desire. It's interesting, and the first 2 thirds of the game it's fun fooling around with this gimmick. One thing to note though, is that as I progressed through each section of this game, i felt like they would abandon previous elements they didn't combine them and layer them as cleverly as I would expect. For example,This level is about playing with water/ this other level is about a cube puzzle/ but they rarely combined the different elements in compelling ways. Late game there were challenges in particular that I felt were needlessly frustrating due to the repeated/tiled visuals, For example, most levels repeat infinitely in every direction, so if you jump off a structure, you'll eventually land on it again as you fall through space, (think the "side doors" in pacman). In this particular level their were four towers that looked identical, so i figured they were the same tower, but they were not, and they all presented a different set a challenges based on cubes of different colors and each tower had to be completed in sequence. This was massively confusing because even the insides of the towers looked very very similar, so i thought I kept going into the same one, when in fact it was different. It was one of the largest challenges of the whole game and a good chunk of it I had no idea what the game wanted me to do. It's also worth saying that in the very last segment of the game, there were some extremely easy challenges and I was starting to feel the developers ran out of ideas, haven't I already done this like 3 or 4 times?
The game contains no story elements. no dialogue at any point. You do the puzzles, that's it. Although the is an attempt at some payoff at the end, it was visual interesting but had no emotional impact. If there was an implied story or "interpretive meaning", I clearly missed it.
The sound design is satisfactory, and the soundtrack is primarily textural and ambient. Nothing particularly remarkable or memorable, no melodic motifs which I could discern, although its worth saying the end credits theme is quite beautiful.
I'd strongly recommend it if you're into this type of game, The main thing that sets this game apart from the competition is it's endless space/repeating universe aesthetic it can be really mind bending sometimes, and i felt satisfied with the solution to most puzzles. It does force you to think about space different and it is a real challenge. Over the entire run it only made me frustrated once or twice. The game took me about 5-6 Hours to complete. It's also worth saying again, I have been on a long game-play run of very similar titles, so this title could possibly more challenging than someone less seasoned.
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