I’m going to kick this off by saying up front that Grace McDunnough is someone I admire greatly for a number of reasons: I love her music in SL (although I don’t get to as many of her performances as I should), her writing is thought-provoking and has often been a leaping-off point for many of my own meandering pontificating on SL; and I’m flattered she considers me a friend through SL.
I mention all this because Grace has been one of the minds behind the focus of this review – The Garden. As such, some might feel I’m being overly effusive in this article simply because Grace and I are friends. Not so. The Garden is an incredibly immersive experience, both as a puzzle game and as a place to visit, and any enthusiasm this article exudes towards simply reflects that fact.
Essentially, the idea behind The Garden is that of a clue-based puzzle which incorporates a mixture of exploring, gathering and logic. The aim is to seek the seven Guardians and / or to find their artefacts and, by doing so, gather clues which enable the player to identify which sin each Guardian committed, and the penance they suffered as a result. Then, having correctly identified the sin committed and penance paid be each Guardian, the player can offer forgiveness to one of the Guardians.
The Garden, and the vision behind it, is the brainchild of Salome Strangelove. She developed the concept of the puzzle and also defined and landscaped the sim. In developing the concept, she has been joined by Trav Rexen, who has developed the scripts used throughout The Garden, and Grace McDunnough, who has provided motivation and sponsorship, and who is working with Salome on other elements yet to be introduced into The Garden.
Teleporting to The Garden delivers you to the arrival point. Here you can opt to participate in the puzzle or immerse yourself in other aspects of The Garden.
To take part in the puzzle, you will need to make use of the Patron’s HUD. This comes in two forms: a free version will be delivered to you on your arrival (use the redelivery terminal if it fails to reach your inventory, and a purchasable version. The free version of the HUD is feature-limited, but which allows a player to complete one round of the puzzle. The purchasable version of the HUD costs L$299, which allows an unlimited number of rounds of the puzzle. The purchase price of the HUD goes directly into the upkeep of the region.
The full version of the Patron’s HUD is a multi-faceted tool which allows a player to:
- Start a new game – either on their own or with one or more friends
- Mark their progress in solving the puzzle
- Save progress between game sessions – the HUD will retain progress made if removed or if the player leaves The Garden before solving all the clues
- Review their achievements
- See information on other players.
While exploring, the HUD can be reduced to a single button (labelled SHOW), providing players with an uninterrupted in-world view, and then expanded again when updating the puzzle grid with clues received.
Another nice touch with the HUD is that once purchased, a player need never return to the arrivals area when revisiting The Garden. Instead, they can attach the HUD wherever they are in-world, click the HOME button and be instantly teleported to a part of the game area called Forgiveness. This does not play a role in the puzzle-solving itself, but acts as a “home” location for players, allowing them to remain immersed in the game through successive visits to The Garden.
Once a player has attached their chosen HUD, they follow the cobble path to the threshold. This includes an outline of the game’s objectives and both pictures of the Guardians and copies of their artefacts, a handy overview for those who do not request a help card from their HUD. Crossing the shimmering blue threshold moves a player from the non-immersive arrivals area and into the immersive element of The Garden.