Developer: William Chyr Studios
Platform Played On: Base PS4
Available on: MacOSX and iOS (Via Apple Arcade), EPIC Games Store, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and a Steam release planned for October 2020
Manifold Garden is a mind-bending puzzle game where you have to shift perspectives and adjust colorful cubes to progress. The above sentence, while defines the core gameplay loop of Manifold Garden, is also the nastiest way to undersell this game. Manifold Garden is much much more than that.
Let’s start with the level design; it’s one of the smartest I’ve seen in any game. With no concept of a fail state, the levels extend to infinity in all the 3D planes and couple that with masterfully architected structures, each of which is a different puzzle in their own ways, you get a game where exploration is genuinely fantastic. Tho don’t let the notion of no-fail states being there fool you as there is absolutely minimal handholding, and as the game goes on and on, the puzzles become more and more complex, requiring all your perspective-shifting and cube rotating mastery to come into play. I am not exaggerating when I say that overcoming these puzzles gave me a similar dose of an adrenaline rush than defeating a multi-staged boss in a hardcore action RPG as some of the later puzzles were the definition of devilish and stumped me real hard. But solving them also made me realize how well the core gameplay mechanics are intertwined with the level design.
It wasn’t until the second playthrough that I came to appreciate the mastery of the world-building of Manifold Garden. The second playthrough requires you to beat the game without placing a single god cube(aka the final cube unlocked at the end of every stage). The way this world is put together from start to finish with interconnected routes and paths is probably the best I’ve seen in any game since Dark Souls 1.
Manifold Garden doesn’t really have a story, but you will be rewarded with a beautifully crafted and hallucination inducing cutscene for reaching the ending, and you will get kind of an alternate ending if you do the No God Cube Run.
A side note for completionists, you will get most of the trophies naturally on your first playthrough. Though you’ll have to use a fast travel room once for an achievement/trophy, and these rooms are very well hidden. Though fear not since it’s not missable and you can come back to get it even after beating the game. The remaining two achievements will be unlocked as soon as you beat the No God Cube Run.
I would be doing this game a grave injustice if I didn’t talk about its visuals. They are the star of the show, and they are the reason why the minimalist gameplay of Manifold Garden works so well as combined with the beautiful trippy visuals, shifting the perspectives and falling into infinity provides a sensory experience like no other game out there. I don’t feel that I have enough words in my vocabulary to appreciate the art style of this game. It is something you have to see for yourself. Take a look at these screenshots.
By the way, the game also comes with a robust photo mode for all the virtual photography enthusiasts out there, and I am sure they will have a field day with this game.
Coming to the music, the soundtrack of Manifold Garden by Laryssa Okada does a brilliant job of encapsulating the feeling of isolation, enchantment and perfectly accompanies the mood set by its trippy visuals and all the exploration-focused gameplay. The music at times legit made me feel like a space explorer discovering new planets brimming with the possibilities of a new life each time I discovered a new area.
Coming to the technical aspects, I am not Digital Foundry, so I can’t crunch the exact numbers, but if I had to make a rough guess, it would be 1080p and 60 FPS. The game didn’t have any noticeable frame rate drops from what I experienced. Though it crashed two times, the game is generous with its autosave, so only a progress worth a minute was lost each time.
Coming to a conclusion, I think Manifold Garden is a genuinely incredible and unique game that should be experienced by everyone. Puzzle games were never my forte, and I had my share of trepidations of going into this game, but as I played more and more, all of them vanished, and soon I was on the other side of the credits filled with genuine awe and restarted the journey to experience all of it once again.