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A Word of Caution

I had never thought that I would be writing warnings for a game that is neither violent nor explicit, but beware! Before you decide to play Manifold Garden, I want you to acquaint yourself with what you might encounter in this game. If you get easily nauseated or have vertigo, this game is not for you. If you experience dizziness and dislike rapidly shifting perspectives, this game is not for you. If you enjoy videogames that provide you direct instructions and tell you what to do, this game is not for you. If you despise complex mind-expanding puzzles, this game is not for you. Now that we have got these out of the way, let’s jump right into Manifold Garden, and the reasons why this game deserves your time and respect no matter how you answered those questions.

A Leap of Faith

It literally takes a leap. Where ye-the-faithful, need to jump into the unending abyss to start the game for real. Is this a test that you need to pass? A cage you need to escape? A world you need to save? A journey that is more important than the destination?

There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. (Hamlet – Shakespeare)

Why am I talking about a game that launched on Epic and Apple Arcade in October 2019 – almost a year back? Well, Manifold Garden is readying up for its Steam, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch release. This first-person adventure puzzler is the debut game by William Chyr and undoubtedly, a game that you should not miss! Drawing inspiration from games such as Fez with its dimension bending gameplay, The Witness which pushes you to solve complex puzzles without hand-holding, Antichamber which involves impossible spaces and Portal which challenges you to change your approach and perspective – Manifold Garden skillfully manages to create an imaginative universe with the best of these ideas.

It is difficult to describe Manifold Garden, even though it might have a deceptively simple appearance. It is more of a cerebral experience – an unsettling, anxiety-laden dream-like state where time stops having any meaning. There is no pressure on you – no adversaries, combat, micromanagement, or timers yet it will manage to make you uneasy. And even when the intellectual mind’s cosmic horror – the insignificance of the lonely human existence when compared to the vast universe, will try to shake you up, the game will switch gears and wash you over with its calm zen and out-of-body transcendence.

Manifold Garden has no words, or instructions to guide you. The best part about it is that you wouldn’t need them. The game uses a staggered scaffolded approach to teach you about its world and its own reimagined laws of physics. You can manipulate gravity – the field shifts according to your orientation. This enables you to see the world in a new way – a sorely needed different perspective in a world that seldom makes sense at the beginning. Sometimes the floor becomes the ceiling, or you start walking on glass windows – taxing your spatial orientation skills to catch up with what the game wants to show you. You use color-coded cubes to activate floor switches and press buttons to open doors that usher you to the next playground. But as simple as that objective might sound – it isn’t.

Do Gods Dream of Fractal Worlds?

The unending repeated patterns of Manifold Garden hide within them the answers that you seek. The strange, alien world with its deep recursion of cathedrals, temples, ziggurats, and monoliths, stretch in infinite directions no matter where you see. You fall down from a ledge of a floor, only to drop back on its ceiling. Even the small obscure puzzles make you think out of the box – and their solutions are followed by joyous bouts of of epiphany, making you feel that only you could come up with such an answer.

Each major section of the game involves you freeing this once-perfect mathematical universe from the throes of dark corruption. You activate obelisks that shoot pillars of light into the sky – to achieve that you sometimes need to alter the flow of water into waterwheels that bring to life the once-dead massive clockwork gears. Trees of life magically spring from the ground and sprout coloured-cube fruits that you solve puzzles with. You use beams of light to stop these cubes from falling where they shouldn’t, and then use them to magically manifest bridges or stairs out of thin air.

The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us — there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries. (Carl Sagan)

On a particular occasion, you guide a ball through a pipe by changing gravity to guide it to its goal. In a later stage, you encounter huge Tetris-like pieces that fall from the sky with a thunderous thump – you then have to complete a circuit on its walls. Every few levels, you free a dark cube, and unlock a super cube – a block of incorruptible light whose essence refracts the world around it. It causes the impossible geometry to rearrange itself – and a kaleidoscopic light and sound show that seems to get more complicated as you near the end. There are no soft locks during puzzle-solving that might stop you from moving ahead. At no point in the game can you reach a stage where it is impossible to work out what you need to do.

Unabashedly Complex, Beautifully Simple

The mystic calm that permeates this game often led me to draw parallels with the Biblical garden of Eden, where the tree of knowledge bears the apple fruit, which is later mirrored in the story of Newton’s discovery of gravity. The level design is a testament to its expertise in minimalism – yet, when you look deeper complex patterns emerge. The same thing happens with how the game decides to share information with you. Subtle hints that might feel incredibly simple, build up to complex mechanisms inside puzzles. And no matter how the world repeats yourself, the puzzles don’t, which is a towering achievement for a game dense with puzzles.

Dreams feel real while we’re in them. It’s only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange. (Inception – 2010)

The music by composer Laryssa Okada and the soundscape by Martin Kvale is sublime. It jumps from themes of wide-eyed curiosity, inspiring adventure, haunting paranoia, and chilling dread to powerful invocations of the divine. I can’t help but recommend you to listen to the soundtrack right away! It swept me off my feet and has been playing on repeat for quite a few days.

Down below you will be able to find some of their influences from popular media and architecture. Take a look – you won’t be disappointed! I often have the feeling that it takes an outsider to make something original. Just like Nintendo brought in a breath of fresh wild air to the open-world genre with its take on The Legend of Zelda, video game debutant William Chyr and his team will be considered iconic innovators for their seven-year work on this tour de force of a game.

The ending is a mystery, and should rightfully remain one. You have to see it with your own eyes to believe it – any spoiler will be a colossal failure on my part as a reviewer. It made me contemplate the origins of the cosmos – and somehow, inexplicably, left me with more queries than what I started with. Can a shape evoke emotion within you? You will have to submit yourself to this game to answer that question.


Manifold Garden is a masterpiece of level design using impossible geometry. Mind-bending puzzles test you at every turn and forces you to change your perspective continuously. Its minimalist environment and narrative belie the complex gameplay mechanics like an oyster hiding a precious pearl. An indie game with the heart of a haiku – Manifold Garden has the potential of giving larger AAAs a run for their money in terms of pure innovation.

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