The Gardens Between – Just Take Each Moment One Step at A Time

The Gardens Between is a breathtaking puzzle platformer from the indie but tremendously successful studio Voxel Agents in Australia. It was released in 2018. I played it on Switch but you can find it on many platforms.

I’m not sure if the preface of this game is an homage to any other pop culture time-traveling islands, but maybe not. I had some theories while playing that maybe some kind of altered planes of existence, which had me thinking about the name. The title, The Gardens Between has a mystical ring to it, but I don’t know if that is intentional. I think it might be, but that is my own projection. There’s no dialogue or anything to reveal these things, but that’s actually okay with me because it’s super original and such an interesting gameplay experience!

We have to get back to The Gardens Between!

As I follow the rabbit hole of indie games, I’m once again blown away by the talent from another title. I managed to acquire an HD capture card so you can have a glimpse of it up above in my YouTube video. I feel comfortable in this art style, it’s sort of reassuring or something, I’m not sure why.

The Gardens Between starts right away, two friends in a treehouse, a storm, a glowing sphere. One character touches the sphere and suddenly everything has vanished into a ton of cuckoo tiny islands of stuff. Puzzle time!

The Gardens Between
The Gardens Between

There’s another island with puzzles and mysteries, Myst. Why am I saying it though? I guess I’m just trying to figure out what this style and level of crafting remind me of. Things have levers, pulleys, wheels, and bridges. But it’s not actually something that would work, you know in the nonquantum archipelago of The Gardens Between. It’s pretty neat though, and it makes for some great experimentation.

The Sands of Time

Did I mention there’s time travel? I don’t really get sick of this mechanic. You might at first think this game is about holding the thumbstick to the right, then left, but there is actually more to it. The first few puzzles will introduce you to how it works. After the second group of islands, you’ll realize there is a strategy, and it’s so cool. You might even start noticing the characters’ participation in your choices. There are lot of little details all over the place. Like when you ring a small bell that was incorrect, but you ring it again and the other character affirms it with a subtle head nod.

The Gardens Between Gif

You might wonder where the characters are going, but it’s not necessary to think about it that way. These puzzles provide a routine of puzzles solving mindfulness, and that’s all you need to know! Look at the way this sofa is rendered though. Everything is neat to look at in this game.

Final Thoughts

The Gardens Between is suitable for anybody, there’s not a single tarnish upon the game with respect to topics. So, check it out. It’s totally unique and challenging in all the right ways. Be patient, keep an open mind, and game on!

If you enjoyed this article, check back, I update regularly. I started this site in the Summer of 2020 and I’m building it up to be a sizeable catalog of self-made family-friendly video game commentary. If you want to contact me I’m at dave@mrdavepizza.com. I’m also on Twitter and @MrDavePizza. The images and gifs for this article were from the game’s official press kit. I normally post my own, but they had some really good ones.

The game is available on Switch and PC and a whole host of other platforms listed on the game’s website: thegardensbetween.com. I might be sharing more cross-platforms in a broader categorization at MrDavePizza.com soon, but I’m still trying to figure out the best way. So many games are cross-platform anyway, but it’s one of those things where I just need to think about it a little more.

Knights and Bikes – This is A Fun And Heartfelt Adventure!

I knew when I read the description of Knights and Bikes on the Nintendo eShop page, and the bounty of awards adorning it, that this was probably going to be pretty cool. It explores some great themes like imagination, curiosity, and adventure. Also, it’s about finding those adventures in a place you don’t need to journey far to find.

I’ll be exploring some of these topics in my experience with Knights and Bikes, and tell you a little bit about the highlights of the game’s progression. If you’re new to this blog, this is what I do in all my reviews. There’s always something fruitful to discuss when I can find a game like this that gives me plenty to talk about. I hope you enjoy this review.

Slip on Your Wellies to Play Knights and Bikes

If I have to explain the topic of this game, it’s about two adventurous spirits going on a frisbee-throwing, rainboot-stomping, mythical imagination quest. What it’s really about though is a world conforming to the imagination rather than the other way around, something that makes it a unique world to experience. Often, as I think about this game, I think of stories like Peter Pan and Neverland or Alice in Wonderland. It is those types of stories, but different.

Knights and Bikes starts off as a compelling Anglo island story with your standard wispy, jumper, puddle weather, and a bunch of legends and mysteries. I played all the way through the first hour and about 2/3 of the mini-golf course in the story. Luckily I can confirm there are bikes, despite my early doubts. They’re not really a major aspect of the gameplay though, which doesn’t disappoint me, but the title was one of the main things that drew me in.

Thematic Impressions

The further time goes on, it’s kind of like a treasure-concealing obstacle course from something like The Goonies. I’m going to throw Sandlot in there too, which actually makes perfect sense because Demelza, one of the characters, says something about “the year 2000, a long time from now.” I’m still learning to think of the 90s as “nostalgia.” It’s processing though.

Barge
Game RV Park

In the game, a level of magical interaction is present to add an even bigger theme. It is not magic like spell books and apparitions, it is more like a wound-up kid’s detective theme park. The game is so rich with high-detail character and location art, and the elements of farfetchedness from magical themes are pretty darn fun in this adventure!

If you’ve ever watched a program or read a book about a British fishing village, myth and legend are always not too far away in these places. So I think it is culturally accurate for this type of game to take place there.

Knight and Bikes

Knights and Bikes Teamwork

After the introduction, you can play as either character, Demelza or Nessa. I played Nessa almost exclusively. There are occasionally times when you need to switch, like when you feed the geese. Nessa seems the most reasonable but Demelza is ambitious and maybe kind of genius. Whichever character you play, it’s not terribly impeding to the gameplay, and their dialogue is very fun and clever. This is a smart game.

Knights and Bikes
Knights and Bikes

So there’s a major thing you’ll realize when you get this game. I played this on Switch, but it might be a factor in PC versions. This game is set up to be accommodating to a multiplayer audience. You can play it however you like, but it will most likely be a local co-op or solo. You will be able to control both main characters though by switching your controls if you choose solo.

Action Packed Mini-Golf

As you may see when you start this game, it’s mostly about collecting stuff, solving puzzles, and feeding geese. There is plenty of action too–really unique, fun, action. I loved the golf course. Filled with animatronic characters, you complete all 18 holes by using your special abilities. Prepare for frisbee throwing and stomping and some clever obstacles. The main thing you’ll probably notice though is it has little to do with any golf!

Mini-Golf
Knights and Bikes Golf

Enjoyable!

If you want to, I guess you could call the game “funny” but it’s not really that at all. It’s about imagination and the wonderful way it transforms the world and stories. I really liked it.

One last thing, there is an epic story twist later in the story that I read about when I wrote this recommendation. Avoid spoilers before you play if you can, but if you hate surprises it won’t be hard to seek them out. It’s nothing too surprising, but there’s more to this game than meets the eye. I wasn’t discombobulated by it, it’s just there.

Knights and Bikes is a game that makes games art. It is a self-contained masterpiece. Check it out!

I’m Mr. Dave Pizza, I write game recommendations, and you can find more content on MrDavePizza.com or by navigating the menu up above. I’m also on Twitter @MrDavePizza. Thanks for stopping by!

“A Bird Story,” A Simple And Nice Game

A Bird Story is an indie game title from Freebird Games, a game studio that is led by Kan (Reives) Gao. I’ll just post this link to their website right here. This game came out in 2014. It’s the first in a roster of game titles from FreeBird that encapsulates pleasant illustration and crafty story development.

This one in particular is about a young boy who rescues an injured bird in the forest near his school. More specifically, he fends off a badger that tries to catch the bird in a forest clearing. The rest of the story flows organically from this incident and it is the primary purpose of the narrative.

About midway through, your fantastical travel abilities range from parachuting with an umbrella to flying around with the bird on a paper plane.

A Bird Story: Some Nice Things About A Bird Story

Lately, I’ve been running into this idea of less is more with games. Not in a negligent sort of way. I mean people play games with stories because they want to go somewhere. Like space or the ocean or anywhere really. The more efficient that experience is, the better the game. I’m not sure, but as a writer, I know that I want to be enthralled by the third act. Some would consider that classical storytelling.

The pixel art is absolutely beautiful. The game was created on RPG Maker from what I’ve learned, which is not the first time I’ve heard of this empowering game development software. The art reminds me somewhat of the NRS classic Earthbound, or Mother as it is also known. When you interact with the environment there are neat little experiences everywhere you go that make this an immersive RPG.

A Bird Story Sidewalk
rpg maker forest

Something I found interesting in this game is that all the non-protagonist characters have a transparent shadow silhouette as opposed to complex appearances. This may have been in the effort of time-saving, but it’s not bad really. In fact, it reminds me a lot of childhood where strangers are more like elements of life instead of the case studies I work them up to be sometimes.

The bird interactions are so darn cute. I really laughed out loud at the bird. I’ve always loved birds too. I’ve seen many species in my backyard and traveling, and I try to keep track. Despite what you think, birds can be very expressive if you give them the chance. I am currently on hold with pet ownership, so sometimes I think of them like pets. I think they appreciate that and I think this game would too.

A Bird Story indie game vet
A Bird Story interactive fiction balcony

It’s A Thoughtful Game

Okay, one other major thing about this game. There is no dialogue! Not verbal at least. It really is no problem though. The music is simply delightful, and there are enough character gags that you’ll know perfectly well what’s going on. The music was composed by Reives himself if I’m right.

If you want to check this game out it’s on Steam. I got it for $3.99. It doesn’t have a lot of replays after you run the game, but at that price, it’s cheaper than a movie.

Write me, comment below, or follow me on Twitter. I’ve made new content for MrDavePizza.com whenever I can, so stop back again or take a look around and explore!

OPUS: The Day We Found Earth: Beautiful Robots

I think I recently made a comment that, as I get older, the more I make the heartbreaking conclusion that mankind will never explore the galaxy due to physics and entropy. What a bummer. What if we had explored it though? And what if we went so far that we couldn’t find our way back? That’s what’s going on in OPUS: The Day We Found Earth.

OPUS: Data Briefing

This game is now reaching 6 years old with a release date by SIGONO INC. back in 2015. As I write these, I keep finding games around that era that are absolutely incredible for some reason. Once again, the creators of my current topic here really created something beautiful, something ingenious

This type of story is not unfamiliar. If you think about stories like Battlestar Galactica you are probably very familiar with this idea. That idea is humanity is on a mission to find Earth again.

I’m not sure what it is, but there is something about this topic that people really love. Maybe something about survival? We’re all working on that task every day. I occasionally entertain the idea in my head of living star-bound in a life-spanning intergalactic vessel like Parzival in Ready Player One or Dave Lister in Red Dwarf.

I had to mention it because the hologram character, in physical presence at least, is a touch like Rimmer. Her personality and identity are completely different though. I’m glad because there is a lot more delicate sentiment here about genuine existentialism. (I love Red Dwarf though.)

OPUS: The Day We Found Earth
Exo-planet
Galaxy

There’s More to OPUS, A Lot More

This is not quite that story though. OPUS: The Day We Found Earth is about robots! Actually a robot and an A.I. and their existential journey. Depending on your philosophical convictions about self-awareness or animism or spirit, there’s a lot to think about. Their names are Emeth and LISA. Emeth is a robot who has the task of finding Earth. LISA is an A.I. Hologram shared in the ship computer’s memory, that is a facsimile of Emeth’s trainer, a doctor named Lisa. There’s a large gap in the story though, as one moment you’re looking for Earth and the next you’re awakened as Emeth way into the future, long after the days of human involvement, and the story starts again there.

Let’s Try It Out

I wet my feet enough to learn that this game involves life as Emeth the robot, in a spaceship that’s been abandoned, which is actually a giant Earth-like-planet-finding telescope. You’re entrusted with finding Earth, quite the task. If it sounds daunting, it is at first, but then it becomes fun. You interact with your creator a bit and her partner and get to work.

I knew there was a story from the beginning, however, I did not realize that I would actually have to procedurally locate Earth by scrolling around the galactic sky. It’s kind of fun when you find an exo-planet (a term that I actually know about that means planet outside the galaxy.) A meter comes up and measures the components of these planets and you can even name them! I named one Pizzageuse as in the real star Betelgeuse, the tenth brightest star in our night sky… and pizza.

As you awake in the future, your creator’s, the doctor’s, hologram shows up as a companion and leader who has the same task and lightens the load a bit but mostly exists to drive the story. Zooming in on exo-planets with a space telescope is fun but there is more to this game. Not a huge amount else, the searching is important, but it is only an element in a “human” story, a pondering, about… robots.

OPUS: The Day We Found Earth
Emeth Robot
OPUS Gameplay
OPUS: The Day We Found Earth

I Love Robots

OPUS: The Day We Found Earth tugged on my heartstrings from the beginning. Even though it’s about robots, it really addresses some meaning-of-life-type themes. There is a metaphor for parenting, and I did a little research and it seems like the game might have an appropriate but very emotional ending. I like to have a little philosophy mixed in with my sci-fi, so maybe you do too.

The game won’t last very long, maybe a couple of hours. You’ll be able to grab it for under $5 most likely, it was $1.99 on eShop. There is absolutely nothing inappropriate about this game, but you should be ready to be hit with some serious topics packaged in this neat indie game.

If you want to play a game that’s as beautiful as Kurt Vonnegut novel but compatible with a mature but empathic film, this is it. This is Wall-E for grownups. And you’ll probably complete it in a couple of hours. Good luck. Robots are beautiful.

Closure

P.S. There is a sequel to this game called Rocket Of Whispers, which is an award-winning game as well. Here is my link to my review of that game! I’m glad I discovered this game’s existence, it is a game with incredible sophistication and so much integrity!

Check out more on the main page of MrDavePizza.com or check me out on Twitter at @MrDavePizza

Nordlicht – A Sweet Story About Nordic Family Life

I feel privileged to review this game since there seems to be sparse information elsewhere, but I think you’re going to like it. At only $3.99 on the eShop, the regular price, it’s a great deal with sophisticated gameplay for the casual gamer or family. You can probably complete it within a couple of hours depending on your detective skills, but it’s a generously paced experience. 

Nordlicht is a family-friendly storybook stylized find-the-object game with casual references to Nordic life and the lore/mythology of the Viking culture in an anachronistic presentation. You investigate diverse levels with hidden objects and puzzles to solve to complete steps in an adventure story. I think this game would be fun in a family setting, but I found it intriguing enough to investigate as an adult.

Some Initial Thoughts

It’s always funny when I try to think about what I might say about a find-the-object game, although they are quite popular. At basic ground level, I could say, “I found a book, a jar, and then I did that again in a different way.” One thing nice about this game is that it is not simply a matter of looking at object shapes and then checking them off the list. If you are into that, that’s okay too, because there are elements of it that are like that. Most of the items you find in the game, however, have multiple levels of detective work required before you can collect each on the list.

Let me share an example of one of the items to find in the first level of the game. The lantern, an item on the list, is found in the attic of her house on a shelf. To complete the task of retrieving the lantern, however, you need to find oil for the lamp. Eventually, you’ll discover there’s an oil spill on the kitchen floor downstairs, one of the countless things to notice, and the only way to get it is by using a sponge you find somewhere else, in another room, to sponge up the oil and put it in the lamp. These little diversions are pretty rewarding.

A Casual Story

I noticed that some of the comments I could find about the game said it takes a while to progress. That’s actually one of the best qualities of the game though. You shouldn’t expect that you’re going to find a satchel of lamp oil on a troll, this game is more casual than that. Nothing seems broken in the game though, I never felt I had gone too far and had to start over. No worries there. You will have to try things a couple of times though. 

Also, there is a nice walkthrough I found on YouTube that helped at parts. Since there is no sequential order to retrieve the objects, you really only should need to do that in a hopeless situation. I was confused about a couple of things that led me to that walkthrough. If you use the magnifying glass in the upper corner of the screen as well as some earnest reasoning though, you will be alright.

Final Thoughts

By the way, the story in the game contains a major plot point involving an adventure trip across the sea to visit the main character, Aurora’s, mother. Once you make it out of  Aurora’s House, you’ll board an old ship, which looks like a Viking ship, and you’ll go on your way to the rest of the story.

You’ll realize fairly soon that some strategy and traditional gaming skills will help take you forward, especially seeing as the ship immediately encounters a turbulent storm at sea! I have no doubt that you’ll find this game to contain complexity and deep emotional themes but easy to pick up. It’s a nice game, especially for the price. Despite the cursor style point and click gameplay, it is very easy to play with a controller on Nintendo Switch. You can also find it on Steam at a good price, but either one should be fine.

Check out more articles and reviews on MrDavePizza and if you want to get in contact with me, send me an email at dave@mrdavepizza.com, or check me out on Twitter at @MrDavePizza. Thanks for reading and stop by again! New content regularly.

The Big Journey: Roll a Dumpling Eating Cat!

Hey, when you say “roll around a dumpling-eating cat,” do you mean that literally? You do? Really? Okay, I’m in. Play The Big Journey and roll around a cat, who should be named Alpuss Dumplingdore (do not deny what a perfect name that would be.) Alright, alright. There’s nothing that bizarre about this game. Firstly, The Big Journey is unique, however, once you jump in, it’s pretty fleshed out. Secondly, despite the weird concept, it’s highly rewarding. Finally, I think we’re all a little bit used to those by now, us gamers, aren’t we? So, next up, let’s play!

The Big Journey: Put A Steam Dumpling in Your Cat

I wasn’t super drawn to this game at first. However, I got this Windows game for $0.49 on Steam! WOW. I think that is an awesome deal for a game I actually liked. Steam has a situation where many cheap games are literally garbage. I’m so sorry for saying that. (As a retro edit, I can’t believe I said this at all!) On we go, however. I scoured the garbage heaps. I now have this ruby steaming in the sun though. This is good because it has confirmed some things about the game market I’ve been wondering about. This is especially relevant regarding the really cheap games that cost less than a dollar.

The Big Journey has full controller support and looks beautiful. I don’t know the whole backstory behind The Big Journey, but I see on Steam it was a 2017 Google Indie Games Contest Finalist. This makes sense because it is actually quite polished. I think this is what we need in computer games, simple, beautiful, and fun! I really do think I’d love to review those sweeping epics more. I’m not sure that’s where the majority of the market is anymore either. however, if you’re a game developer please do not quote me on that, because I honestly don’t know.

The Big Journey: Put Some Other Things in Your Cat

Anyway, you’re a cat. You roll around. You eat dumplings. What else is there? There are some random animal dudes like an Owl and a Rabbit you meet along the way. There are a couple of mobs here and there. There are some bugs collecting. Tight-quartered tunnels through large mountains filled with… bugs and dumplings. It’s really easy to pick up. You bounce around on jelly. Oh, and I almost forgot, you can tilt the entire world left and right with your L and R buttons to assist in your rollin’ around. Hot dog!

Closing Comments

The Big Journey has 25 stages, which is a nice high number without being too excessive. That’s more than I can usually bear in Super Mario for one. although I guess there’s probably like 32 or so? That’s just rough math of 4 stages and 8 worlds.

Not much more to say, but I’ve included a 10-minute video of gameplay. This game is $0.49 cents, which is an excellent deal, so just get it. If you run into a temporal existence where this isn’t the case, I think the most it has ever been being about $4.99 on Steam. Word.

Nintendo Switch: The Powerful, Affordable, Portable Console For Playing and Downloading Games

I read a headline today that said that, this holiday season, the Nintendo Switch outsold XBox and Playstation 4-1. The Switch is a nice candidate for such a purchase, since it is about $200 cheaper than the next gen console alternatives, but there are some other advantages as well besides price. Recently, I talked about how the Wii U made me re-enter the world of gaming and this site earlier this year. What a way to go about it too. If you’re what you would consider, a serious gamer, if there is such a thing, the Switch is totally viable. You might not have photorealistic titles like CyberPunk 2077, but you will have really good games that are just as developed and probably a little more unique actually.

Tons of Cheap Games

Switch is the indie game promised land if you like cheap but really unique games. I learned that early. At first, I thought, “hmm, indie games, cheap prices, cheap games,” but I have since changed my mind. Indie games are really fun in concept as well as gameplay. On the Switch store, which I’ll talk about, there’s a little bit of you getting what you pay for, but if you check out the deals which there always are, you might find a gem. I’ve been playing some titles from that list myself with Bastion, a crazy Tom Waits fantasy platformer, or the looks-like-NES skateboarder sidescroller Mastaskata Tchecho. I try something new daily. And it’s great, because with needing to set some of my finances on standby, I can still explore the leading edge of game options on a $299, all-inclusive console. That’s a chunk of change, I know, but it’s actually not that bad if you plan to spend a lot of personal entertainment time with it.

Super Mario Odyssey

When I started MrDavePizza, I spent some time heavily focusing on family friendly games, wholesome ones if you will. I still do that, but I may slip a T-rated title into my blog here and there. That’s okay though, because with my Switch there are so many games that are VERY family friendly AND really cool. Just take any Mario game. Has there ever been a gamer who didn’t grow up on Mario? I know, a blanket statement like that needs evidence, but in the case of most people I know, Mario is the one game almost everybody knows. Even when I brought a Nintendo Wii I’d acquired into a Craigslist shared living situation (avoid at all costs,) we all knew Mario. For some it’s like riding a bicycle, you just pick up where you left and keep playing.

Also, if you are wondering, there is a HUGE inventory of Mario games out there. Many are on Switch, but there are so many that you could probably be set with a console loaded with a handful of titles that are on the eshop.

Okay, here’s the one catch with all of this. I have never played a recent Playstation or XBox console. I have been around them, seen people play them, read tons about their games, but they have always escaped my reach. I know they are good systems. They have a lot more to serve a mature audience too. I’m a little immature though, I guess? And those types of games make my eyes hurt and heart pound. So, that’s why I’ve hung my hat up at the Nintendo console club for most of my life.

The Tech Stuff

Just for clarity’s sake, and this is not too bore you, I don’t generally include technical specifications in my articles, because their intention is about expression more than documentation. Anyway, when you buy a Switch, you get a dock, a tablet, two joycons, and some cables. That’s it. It’s all HDMI and everything fits into place as you should. HEADS UP: When I first inserted the joycons into my dock, I accidentally entered one the wrong way. This is very possible to do if you’re not careful. It is possible to fix, it involves pushing something and pulling the joy con at the same time, but stop and google “joycon stuck” if you make this mistake. A good way to avoid this in the first place is Blue on the Left, Red on the Right, if that’s still not helpful (which it might not be because there are different color joy cons,) the Switch graphic itself actually shows you which side each joycon goes on. The buttons and thumbsticks are inverted on each, as the graphic shows, so you can always look at the logo on the dock itself to know which one.

Aside from that, it’s VERY easy to set up. I do recommend looking at instructions, but if you just utilize some modest patience, you’ll be up in no time. The home screen is not very exciting. Actually nothing will really happen until you insert or download a game from the eshop. You can browse the eshop online and, unlike previous consoles, almost every single game you will ever play can be downloaded from the eshop. It’s kind of the point to it anyway. You’ll need to use a payment method to download the games but it’s simply the best way to get games. Since you need an internet connection for any of this, I won’t bother explaining the necessity of that although you could use the console offline I suppose. I’ve never tried it, or needed a reason to.

A Satisfye Zengrip Pro

Okay, about the controllers. The Joy Cons do work, but I really prefer the Switch Pro Controller (the authentic Nintendo one, the others ones don’t have rumble.) There’s a lot of “opinion” on this subject, but really it’s up to you, and what games you’re going to play. Beyond that, there’s not much to know. Each game uses a different control layout for the controller, but they’re usually pretty similar and intuitive, even on the indie games. There is one exception, Pokemon Cafe, that one you have to use on the tablet. Oh, I guess on that note too, you  can either play games on the TV or the Tablet, and the Tablet has a stand or you can play it with the joycons attached to it. I prefer TV, again a personal choice. If you plan to play handheld a lot or portably, I recommend you invest in a Satisfye Zen Pro Grip available on Amazon. That is not an ad or promotion, it’s simply the only I know of that will actually work without possibly messing up your console with promises of dockability with the grip on (not possible and the Satisfye is a lot more comfortable anyway.)

Final Thoughts

That’s about it. Seeing how I don’t have a Switch Lite I can’t really say too much about it, but I don’t really game in public or away from home much, so it’s not something I’ve tried. It IS an option though, and it can work. You might need to research it first though to make sure, because the TV Dock offers a lot of the same options as the portable one.

That’s my rundown on the Switch. If you have any more questions, let me know, I’d be happy to answer them for you. Leave a comment below, email me at dave@mrdavepizza.com, or DM me on twitter at @MrDavePizza.

Oh yeah, Mario time!