Manifold Garden review for PS4, Xbox One, Switch

Platform: PS4
Also on: Switch, Xbox One, PC
Publisher: William Chyr Studio
Developer: William Chyr Studio
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-4
Online: Yes

There are two halves to Manifold Garden, and they sit side by side a little uneasily.

On the one hand, the game aspires to be art, talked about in the same way that you?d discuss an MC Escher print. The world is made up of endlessly repeating staircases and hallways and temples, and as you explore it and shift perspectives new dimensions are constantly opening up. You can step of a ledge, and find yourself plummeting through an infinite loop of the same scene over and over and over until you finally steer yourself back onto solid ground.

Manifold Garden complements its artsy vision with an equally artsy score. The music is minimalist and glacial, and sounds like something you might play as you?re getting into a chill, late-night kind of mood. It?s no surprise that the deluxe edition of the game comes with a full soundtrack, because the music is solid enough that it could be enjoyed completely independently of its gaming context.

On the other side of the equation, though, you have the actual ?game? part of Manifold Garden, and it?s not quite at the same level as its graphics and sound. It?s basically a pretty standard puzzle game that follows the model Portal perfected roughly a decade ago: you go into a room, you move some boxes around, and you open the door to the next area. It?s nothing groundbreaking.

To be sure, though, that doesn?t mean it?s not done fairly well. While some of the early puzzles are pretty easy to solve, the further in you get, the more you need to be able to think in terms of 3D space, since you can shift gravity to get a different perspective on everything. As someone who?s terrible at spatial reasoning puzzles, I?m not going to lie: there were times when I felt like my brain was pushed to the breaking point.

Even so, it still felt like there was a pretty sizable discrepancy between what Manifold Garden achieves artistically, and what it achieves as a game. The latter is pretty forgettable, whereas the former occasionally borders on breathtaking. I leave it up to you how much weight you place on those two halves, but for me, it added up to a somewhat uneven whole.

William Chyr Studio provided us with a Manifold Garden PS4 code for review purposes.

Grade: B