The works of M.C. Escher have had a lasting impact on various artworks, with many taking inspiration for their own creations. One of these is the first person puzzler Manifold Garden which explores the themes of infinity and shifting perspectives, in what is quite a unique experience in the genre.
Manifold Garden leans into an enticing aesthetic, bordering on monochrome with its muted colour palette, but with moments of added colour. There’s minimal texture work, with the world’s shape and form instead described by the sharp stencilled outlines, lighting and gradients. While simplistic, it doesn’t mean that Manifold Garden looks basic. Instead, every design stands out and the world looks fantastic.
It looks even more impressive when you get to platform and look around you to see the same level repeating over and over. Those repeating scenes are not just part of the environment. Some puzzles require you to drop from your platform and onto another identical area to make progress. In a sense Manifold Garden forces you to engage in abstract thinking and break away from searching for straightforward solutions. There is a lot of trial and error involved in many of the puzzles before you discover how to place a block in the right slot and open a door or create path to get from end of a room another.
Manifold Garden is split into worlds, each named after a colour. Early on these puzzles are contained in one room and the paths will lead you from one room to the next until you get to the end of the world, but as you make your way through Manifold Gardens the puzzles become more complex, spanning multiple rooms and multiple perspectives, shifting the direction of gravity to progress.
Switching between perspectives and the direction of gravity is a simple click of the button with the reticule changing colours to indicate what colour the surface relates to. This is important as you can only, for example, pick up a blue cube while standing on a blue surface. As the levels become more complex, new elements are introduced such as areas where you can change cube colours, cubes that are duotone, and even having to manipulate flowing water to spin waterwheels and create bridges.
Manifold Garden is a generally smooth experience from start to finish. My only frustrations through the approximately 4 hour experience came in trying to figure out the solutions, though that obviously passes as a puzzle is solved and you see the intent of the developer. One critique would be that when falling between levels it can take a bit of time to get back onto a surface since it feels a bit slow when trying to move towards a platform. A slight speed increase there would help.