Last year, Independent developer William Chyr released Manifold Garden to consoles. In my Nintendo Switch review, Manifold Garden demonstrated that a heavy narrative isn’t necessary to create an engaging experience. Last week, William Chyr Studio confirmed a port would be heading to PlayStation 5 on May 20th. In my Nintendo Switch review, I criticized the game for its mostly simplistic art style and lack of audio. That said, I praised its abstract level design and mind-melting challenges. A year later, how does the transition to next-generation hardware enhance the Manifold Garden experience?
For those unfamiliar, Manifold Garden is a physics-based puzzler; very similar in vein to games such as Portal or The Turing Test. Players must navigate through surreal environments, manipulating the space around them to further progress. Manifold Garden takes a psychoactive approach, by allowing players to shift landscapes. What was once a barrier is now a floor, and the ceiling is now the walls. These shifting abilities are necessary in order to navigate through the complexities of the world. Most areas also require locating multiple colored cubes and placing them in their color-coded receptacles. The difficulty quickly escalates when shifting landscapes, as each cube is locked down to its own plain. Cubes can only be picked up and moved when walking on its native plane. The moment gravity is shifted the cubes freeze up and remain stationary, which allows for solving puzzles in many different ways.?
The world of Manifold Garden is seemingly boundless. The atmosphere is surrounded by an infinite white void. While initially intimidating, the white void is actually essential to progressing. Jumping into the white emptiness spirals players into an endless loop. These loops allow players to cross elongated gaps, or reach higher terrains. Taking the plunge into the abyss can cause one to lose their bearings, depending on the direction of the fall. Manifold Garden encourages players to restart from the last checkpoint when lost. More often than not, this will help guide players to the correct route.
Environmentally speaking, the locations are quite desolate. The world lacks detail and texturing, which results in a mostly dreary atmosphere. Very simplistic whites, blacks, greys, and some basic colors are thrown in for contrast. While on Nintendo Switch, these worlds often looked a bit dreary and plain. Thankfully Manifold Garden benefits from the PS5’s native 1440p resolution. On Switch, the colors appeared muddy, and felt more blended. The jump to a 4K resolution allows blacks to really pop and colors to truly stand out. You wouldn’t typically think a game with such a simplistic art style would benefit from the upgraded visuals, however the difference is pretty jarring. Everything just has much higher visual fidelity, and looks incredibly clean.
In addition to upgraded visuals, the next-generation port also supports an increased framerate. Manifold Garden initially maxed out a 30 FPS, however the PS5 version doubles that. The jump to 60 frames definitely improves performance. The framerate is also much more stable, resulting in buttery smooth movement. I noticed way fewer frame drops while playing on PlayStation 5 vs Nintendo Switch.? This increased stability also helps combat another issue I had in my initial review, nausea. Many of the game’s areas force you to endlessly loop until a solution is discovered. On Nintendo Switch, this often felt like a test on my tolerance to motion sickness. Thankfully playing on PS5, I didn’t have that nauseating feeling in my head, which often resulted in putting the game down.?
The PlayStation 5 port also displays some exclusive features not present in other versions. Being that the PS5 uses the all-new DualSense controller, Manifold Garden utilizes it’s haptic feedback. Everything from shifting landscapes, falling through voids, and placing cubes onto their respective areas have a uniquely different feel. While the Nintendo Switch Joy-Con and Pro controllers do feature “HD Rumble”, the haptics don’t come close. On Switch, the vibrations don’t offer much to differentiate themselves from different in-game actions. The PS5’s DualSense has much more diversity and strength in its haptics. While the jury is pretty mixed on if haptic feedback actually enhances gameplay, Manifold Garden definitely benefits from it.?
Accessibility Is Key
In addition to haptic feedback, Manifold Garden also takes advantage of the PlayStation 5’s Game Help feature. Available exclusively to PlayStation Plus subscribers, PlayStation 5 users have access to many tips and tricks. Ranging from simple hints, to full area walkthroughs, Manifold Garden’s support for Game Help increases its accessibility. This is incredibly useful for players who find themselves stuck on a specific area, but want to continue through. While not all PS5 games support this feature, it truly compliments Manifold Garden’s design.
The Definitive Edition
Manifold Garden is an artistically complex first-person puzzler that truly benefits the generational jump in hardware. The unearthly environments and expressive gameplay feel right at home on PlayStation 5; which has quickly become my recommended platform. Manifold Garden releases on PlayStation 5 today, May 20th. For more on the game check out my Nintendo Switch review. Those interested in a physical copy on Switch and PS5, or a Vinyl soundtrack, can head on over to iam8bit’s listing page. Be sure to follow William Chyr’s official website for future releases.
A PlayStation 5 code of Manifold Garden was provided for the purpose of this preview.
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