Our Review of Two Terrific Surreal Video Games: The Gardens Between and My Brother Rabbit

In case you are not aware, I occasionally do video game reviews on my site, and it is rare that I review two games that are similar with their style. The style is that of surrealism, which can bring the player into worlds similar to that of a Salvador Dali painting. This is only one of the best aspects of The Gardens Between and My Brother Rabbit, and they are both great games in their own right.

The Gardens Between Game Review

It will be very difficult to describe the settings of these games, and I’ll try and let the visuals speak for themselves. Both of these games have some kind of real world event taking place, but then it slips into the surreal. In the case of The Gardens Between, it tells the story of a boy and girl who meet after one of them moves into town. If you ever had a best friend in childhood, you tend to do a lot of fun things together, and the surreal aspect celebrates this.

At the beginning of each stage, the boy and girl (Frendt and Ariana) go to some weird island that has oversized objects on it. For example, they go to one where there is a huge couch on it. From there, the two friends attempt to make it to the top of the island, where they put a lantern on top. Arina is the one that holds the lantern, while Frendt has the power to occasionally interact with objects.

The Gardens Between takes place is truly a unique game because the controller literally moves time forward. I am absolutely serious and I will try to describe this as best as I can. If you move the controller forward, the two friends go on their path like any other game. The issue is when you move the controller in the direction opposite of forward, the main characters go backward because time is going backward.

So how does it play out? Well, as I said before, you have to move a lantern to a certain point, but you can place it in places along the path. Also, since you can manipulate objects, imagine if you could go back in time, manipulate something, and then go forward again. This would cause things to change, and this is the puzzle-solving aspect to this game.

As you probably have probably predicted, I don’t have much time to do a game before I need to write a review of it. I can usually only give a game a few hours before I get into a game and can fairly write about it. The Gardens Between is a game that I didn’t want to stop playing, because it was so relaxing. Seriously, most video games really are full of intense action, but this game, with its cool new-agey theme song that really calms me down instead of winding me up. This is a good thing.

The Gardens Between is available now on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 (NA, EU), Steam, and Mac App Store for $19.99. It’s a small price, and I don’t know how long the game is, but it is worth double its price. You can find out more information about the game here.

My Brother Rabbit Game Review

I can’t help but compare My Brother Rabbit to the last game, because it also has a real world situation taking place in conjunction to a surreal one. The real world in this is a real problem based on a sad memory and not a happy one. The game starts with a family who has a daughter who is very sick. The daughter has a brother, who gives her a stuffed rabbit, who is the main character in the surreal world.

This story can’t help but feel sad, and I am reminded of The Velveteen Rabbit and its very bittersweet story. The rabbit main character has to help out his friend, a plant-like being, who is also sick. The world the stuff rabbit lives in is cartoonist’s surreal kingdom, with strange objects all around and everything kind of has a face.

The action of My Brother Rabbit is an old-fashioned point-and-click. The player has to solve puzzles to advance to the next world on the map, and a lot of these require a lot of hidden objects puzzles. The usual pattern is to find the hidden objects in order to open up a new puzzle, which will lead to another puzzle. It then becomes very fun to assemble a vehicle by putting pieces of puzzles together in order to advance.

I was able to play My Brother Rabbit all the way through, and I loved it. Some of the puzzles were pretty difficult and time-consuming, but that is part of the fun.

My Brother Rabbit is available for $14.99 in English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, Simplified Chinese, and Turkish on Nintendo Switch, Steam, Windows Store, Mac App Store, GOG, Humble Store, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One now. More information is available on the website here.

Downward Spiral: Horus Station Review

One of the things that is interesting about Downward Spiral: Horus Station is how it is an “anti-gravity game”. I wasn’t sure what it meant, but I will have to say that the controls of this game are unique as they are confusing. I played it on the PS4, and what you need to do is use the left controller to grab on to an object, and then push off.

That’s right, you are trapped in an area (a space station) that has no gravity, so you must push yourself in order to get someplace. I suppose that is as close to being in space without a shuttle, and it creates a unique way of movement.

I will say that from the get go, I found the game was very difficult just to get around. Fortunately, this was quickly remedied when I found a gun that fired some kind of magnetic line which allowed me to reel myself in onto any wall.

Wait, wait, wait. I think I am getting very far ahead of myself. I think I had better start with the setting. The player finds himself (herself) in some kind of space station, which must be the Horus Station of the title. This would account for one half of the title, and I can only guess that something has set it on the Downward Spiral involved in the title.

Seriously, this game doesn’t really tell you what’s up. It starts out with some guy (done from a first-person POV) who looks like he’s walking on Mars, maybe, and then it goes into the space station. This is one of those games that has a lot of quiet atmosphere, which means that something creepy is definitely going on. I’ve been seeing a lot of games like this, such as The Station, for example. No, I’m not saying Horus Station is a rip-off.

Remember how I said that you are floating in this game? Well, once you get that aforementioned grappling/magnetic line, it is much easier to get around. This is one of those games where you can interact with objects, but of course, it is only the ones that the game allows you to. So not only can you get a grappling line, but you can also get a gun that can shoot enemies.

Yes, there are enemies. For some reason, some kind of automated floating robot guard thingys are trying to kill you. You can shoot back, and this is required to advance.

From what I can tell, this is one of those games that is linear in its format, requiring you to go through certain rooms at certain times to accomplish…something. From what I can tell, it would appear to be getting the Horus Station back online.

But how did it get offline? What has happened to it? Yeah, you can see the point of a game like this. So if this is your cup of tea, then I highly suggest drinking from it. So far, it is available for the PS4, and I would recommend the VR mode, as it is undoubtedly made for it.

Human Fall Flat Game Review

The first thing that I am going to say about Human Fall Flat is it is a puzzle game. Puzzle games are always great because you use your mind, you solve something, but then the process repeats (both a blessing and a curse). The last two games that I reviewed, The Spectrum Retreat and The Path of Motus have had their series of puzzles, but they had a huge framing device of story.

Human Fall Flat is one of those games that is essentially one puzzle after another, and I’m not certain if there is some bigger story here (granted I am only at Level 5). The website describes it as “an open-ended physics based puzzle game in which you take control of builder Bob helping him resolve the mysteries behind his recurring dreams of falling”. Okay, so I can quote a website, but what is the game actually about?

Well, the game starts out with the main character Bob, who looks to be a white lump of clay in the shape of a person. Now, you can customize how you want Bob to look, but he is very blank and expressionless, even with clothes. Bob is falling at the beginning, and he lands without getting injured, because he is essentially Mr. Bill without the “Oh No”.

At the beginning, there is some narration that, as far as I know, is never heard of again. He comments about the nature of humans, as the how they just have to open doors and attempt to move on. This is definitely what you are doing in the game, and the way you do it is very unique.

Bob shows up in this world that is minimalist and yet has some kind of detail (powered by Unity). The player controls Bob, and Bob is capable of moving and jumping. Nothing new here, but what makes it interesting is how the player can interact with objects. Essentially, the end of your arm sticks to objects, and you can push and pull them.

From here, Bob goes from world to world, and he uses his limited abilities to advance past the walls of whatever level he is in. Trust me, that makes sense when you play it, but I have to admit that it is difficult to get used to his sticky fingers. For example, there are times in which you need to jump and grab onto a ledge, then pull yourself up. In most games, this is done automatically with a jump button and upward motion of the controller, but when I played Human Fall Flat on the PS4, it involved the bumper buttons and shifting the camera view.

This unique type of controls made for some interesting puzzles as you stick to things, and there are even sections where you are swinging from ropes and things. What is great is how the game doesn’t seem to have one way of solving worlds. Like Breath of the Wild, there are more than one way of beating a level, and there were times when I was wondering if the game ever intended me to do certain things. An example would be a puzzle where it is possible to use a catapult to destroy a wall or perhaps launch yourself with the catapult.

My only complaint is that I am not certain why the game is called Human Fall Flat. On my controls, I was able to make Bob fall flat, but I didn’t really find this helpful. All in all, I would say that Human Fall Flat is a very engaging game and will be loved who love puzzle gaming. Check out the info here if you are interested.

The Path of Motus Game Review

I’m going to tell you that The Path of Motus is a very different game, and at first, I thought different was bad. What attracted me to this work is that I suspected this game was made for people on the autism spectrum. After all, there is kind of a thing with Minecraft and people with autism, and if you don’t believe me, do some kind of Internet search. The game looks like Minecraft with its big tree and squares.

If nothing else, I thought the game was for younger players, so I had my youngest son play The Path of Motus. He is also on the autism spectrum, and though we only had a limited time to play, he seemed to enjoy it. What I told him was this was a game against bullying.

In case you don’t know, anti-bullying is like the “just say no” of this age. My oldest daughter has shared with me that she really hates how her school has constant anti-bullying messages. I went into The Path of Motus thinking that it would be a PSA game. After all, there are PSA shows like Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue, as well as lots of PSA comics like Captain America vs. the Asthma Monster (look those both up later). I’m pretty sure that you know the drill of these works, as the moral usually comes first and the story is just there servicing it. Its one of the worst way to write, and I was concerned that The Path of Motus was going to end up like that.

Let me just take a brief moment to say that good writing of film, TV, and books has the ability to tell a story and share a moral but not get preachy. For the most part, video games don’t really have morals to share like this. This does not mean that video games don’t make you think about life, as a friend of mine who played Bioshock can attest to. I mean, we should be inspired by what inspires us, like Star Wars or The Legend of Zelda.

Okay, I went off on a long tangent there, so let’s talk about the game. The game centers around Motus, who is this goblin who lives in the middle of this forest. Apparently, this forest is surrounded by a bigger, darker forest, and no one has ever gone through it. Naturally, Motus wants to explore it, and this begins what looks to be a platformer game.

Now, in most platforming games, you face off with enemies, and The Path of Motus has no shortage of that, taking the form of other goblins. These goblins will literally shoot words at Motus, but they can be blocked if you shoot back. I played the PS4 version, and the rule was that you can block a green blast with another green blast, with the triangle button. The same goes for word blasts of other different colors, and these blasts are words like “Hey” or “Stop”.

In other words, you stop words with other words. Say, I think that is a way to stop bullies, right? Of course, the words can take out the bullying goblins, and they disintegrate into a swarm of words. I don’t know if that is a good thing to teach, but there it is.

The issue is that bullying is a very complicated product, and I have to say that The Path of Motus handles them very well. I admire that Motus is a character who likes to be alone and is very creative, and as someone who has been a victim of bullying, those attributes sadly paint a target on your head for bullies. In other words, there is a serious issue going on, but I think that the game is succeeding to teach something great.

One thing I know from McGruff the Crime Dog’s anti-bullying PSAs is that “friends trump bullies every time”. There is a part in the game where a friend helps you out, and you have to do that whole switch-off.

I’m going to spoil a part of the game where you can join the bullies, and end up on drugs. Yeah, I’m serious. You join up with these druggie goblins, and there is nothing you can do but restart the game just before you do this crossroads.

Some of you might remember my review of The Spectrum Retreat that the game is a lot of puzzles with great atmosphere, and The Path of Motus also has these interesting bridge building connect-the-dots puzzles. There are a lot of them, and they are pretty fun.

In short, The Path of Motus is a game that is fun for all ages, and it has a lot to say that is good. In fact, I would say that it is a very deep message that will get a lot of people thinking, without being really preachy.

Our Review of The Spectrum Retreat video game

The Spectrum Retreat is a first-person perspective game that uses a lot of puzzle-solving. I am told that the creator, Dan Smith, got a BAFTA Young Game Designers Award (YGD) when he was 18, and it is easy to believe. Assuming that this is Mr. Smith’s first effort, it is quite a good one.

I will have to say from the get-go that The Spectrum Retreat is an acquired taste. If I had to compare the game to anything, I would say Myst. Granted, it is not as picturesque as that adventure on the surreal island, but The Spectrum Retreat is thick with elements of surrealism.

To begin, the main character (you) wakes up in a hotel, and finds there is someone at the door. It turns out to be a robot, and the Pemrose hotel seems to have one type of model that you can see in the image. The robot greats you like he was a human bellhop, and tells you to go to breakfast.

Of course, you need to do what the game tells you. Now here is where I have to question the game. You see, since the game is in first person, I cannot tell what the person’s reaction should be within the context of the game. After all, if I were staying at a hotel, and was greeted at the doorway of my room by this automaton, I would freak the hell out. By the way, I like the minimalist look of these robots with their white shell of a skin and speaker for a mouth.

However, I don’t think that I am spoiling the game in revealing that you play a character who has amnesia. I have heard that this is a lazy video game storytelling convention, and done to death because it is easy to write a game in which the main character knows as much as the player about the game’s setting: nothing.

This is one of those games where you have some kind of voice with you to give you advice. It reminds me of The Journeyman’s Project 3 (another cool nineties game), but the voice isn’t funny. In fact, that voice is pretty serious, attempting to guide you through the hotel. In some cases, I believe that the voice gives you too much advice, as she reveals clues that are a little too much. I won’t spoil it like she does, but take my word for it, you will know what I’m talking about when you play the game.

Note that I didn’t say “if you play the game”. I would recommend this game if you like games of the nineties with their point-and-click functionality. Much of the images of game, including the one that I use, show the beautiful art-deco design of the Pemrose hotel. This is a big feature of the game, and of the hours that I have played so far, it appears the main character must go up the floors of the enigmatic hotel while solving puzzles in between.

It’s the puzzles that I really want to talk about. While the Pemrose hotel has a really cool art deco look to it, many of the puzzle levels have a sterile look to them. As the vocal assistant says, much of these puzzles involve changing your PDA/Smartphone/I don’t really know into something of the same color of a wall or a floor to walk through it. Again, this makes sense when (again emphasized) you play the game. You might be disappointed as the visual style of the puzzle areas is such a stark contrast to Pemrose.

Still, The Spectrum Retreat has a backstory that I’ve not finished discovering as yet, but I enjoy finding the clues for it. Again, you can draw similarities between Myst and even Bioshock. The one thing that this game has is that unnerving feeling. I mentioned in my review of The Station how games with no music create an eerie atmosphere, making the player jump with each unknown noise. The end result is nothing short of unsettling, and it works to the game’s advantage.

You can play The Spectrum Retreat on Steam, PS4, Xbox One, and the Nintendo Switch. Again, I’m going to emphasis that you really should do this.