Simply put, Manifold Garden is impressive. Imagine an interactive Escher-esque world filled to an endless brim with geometric puzzles, and you’ve got a pretty accurate depiction. Ten of the thirty minutes I had with a hands-on demo at E3 was all it took: the game fractured my mind in the most beautifully puzzling and mind-bending way.
You control gravity. This superpower acts as your primary ability in addition to movement, relocating blocks, and flipping switches – that’s it. The beauty, however, is found in the mind-bending architecture of the world in which you exist. Labyrinths of puzzle-based structures are crafted from an innovative use of basic geometric shapes accompanied with a sound implementation of gravity-based physics. Watching the teaser trailer above will help in understanding the game’s core concept, but navigating yourself through endless mazes will take some time to master.
Understanding is the first step to success, and Manifold Garden provides plenty of mental hurdles to jump in order to persevere. The structures of each level are works of art in their own right as each one uses a geometric and mathematical approach to puzzle solving, making each handmade construction look just as sophisticated and beautiful as the last. Controlling gravity will inevitably lead to a few intentional (and many accidental) plunges to your death, but the lack of fall damage in Manifold Garden turns a fatal restriction into an autonomous gameplay element. Beautiful clusters of rooms, stairs, platforms, and windows repeat themselves in a seamlessly endless experience – you will fall forever past structures until you land on a surface according to the current gravitational direction.
Floors are color coded to help players discern the shifts in perspective, simultaneously associating themselves with discoverable blocks of the same colors. Finding a purple block on a purple floor will permit players to pick up the block and move it to another location. Arrows painted on the sides of each block help further visualize which direction they will fall. The demo featured a few easier puzzles to initiate new players into the game before expanding into a universe of subjectively abstract environments.
Solutions to these conundrums utilize a relatvely simple series of events: find a block on your floor, move it against a wall, switch the gravity, then use the block as small platform to jump on in order to get to a higher level. Though gravity may be switched for you, blocks fall in a single, static direction. Incredibly small victories such as these feel absolutely satisfying to piece together. And with 8 hours of planned gameplay, I foresee a mentally straining yet mind-opening experience that promotes the discovery of experimentation instead of the following of coddling instructions.
Freedom is palpable in Manifold Garden. It’s an inventively intricate, conceptually simplistic addition to the genre, and an extremely welcome one at that. If you want to stay updated on the progress of Manifold Garden, consider following designer William Chyr on Twitter – and give him some love while you’re there.
Any mind capable of this caliber of spatial construction is a mind certainly deserved of an accolade or two.
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