Video games are an ever expanding form of entertainment, what used to rely on imagination will immerse you in a deep believable universe, and graphical masterpieces evolved to not only look, but sound and feel real.
For many, many years gamers have been claiming graphics are realistic or ‘life-like’, but sometimes what hit’s home the hardest isn’t what it looks or feels like, sometimes it’s the thought, and emotion that really sticks with you.
Roll up In Between, to sum it up in a few words, you’d have to say a puzzle game, but like video games themselves, sometimes what you get is so much more.
Starting the game you control a man, who soon reveals he is close to death, the battle against cancer effects many millions of people, whether it’s themselves, family or friends, I currently have two close friends taking on the parasite of a disease, so maybe the tone of In Between made an even bolder point than it already intended,
Starting off in a hospital you take the gentleman on a journey through his own life, the ups and downs, happiness and sadness, and the small semi-interactive cutscenes (which basically see you walking from A to B on a 2 dimensional plane) do a fantastic job of setting the atmosphere and emotion in a pretty deep story.
Actual gameplay comes in the way of a simple, yet challenging 2D platform / puzzle system.
During the puzzles you move using the left thumbstick, with the right thumbstick performing what can only be described as shifting gravity.. Push up and you’ll fall towards and stand on the top of the course, with left, or right pushing you to the relevant side.
Using this incredibly simple technique you need to navigate from the start through to the end of the course, walls filled with spikes force you to maneuver from side to side, and soon enough, you’ll have obstacles which will move with gravity, or a panel that will move dependent on the direction you walk, meaning you’ll need to carefully manipulate your surroundings to progress.
Around the half-way point of each stage, you’ll find a small artifact of sorts, which when stodd next to for a few seconds, will light up blue giving you a checkpoint, these are pretty important as within a couple of levels you will be dying a lot and you soon change your technique from trying to complete the level, to trying to fall lucky enough to reach the checkpoint before trying to fathom out what comes next.
Between each selection of levels you’ll get a new cut-scene section which takes you further into the world of a mans inevitable death. and heading back into the puzzles will bring new challenges, firstly an approaching veil of darkness that you must look at to pause it’s movement towards you, and then onto giant balls of anger and teleporting blocks that reposition you.
These mixed with the gravity induced obstacles and green areas that prevent you from throwing orientation and it all makes for an incredibly tough challenge which always keeps itself tough enough to be a rewarding challenge, but not so much that you feel helpless.
However regardless of the challenge, the real heart is in the story, the narration and the snippets of life you come along as you progress.
Graphically it could be better, some of the sections are a little tough to decipher and will leave you impaled on spikes because it wasn’t clear where you could land, but with trial and error you’ll soon progress, the interludes have a flat, hand-drawn style that still feel warm and welcoming even with the coldness of the subject matter.
Audibly the narration and sound effects more than make up for an otherwise quite game with little ‘music’ to mention,
Sure both graphics and audio could have been better, but both seem as pleasing as hey can be disappointing.
I would have liked to have heard more of the soundtrack, and graphically if the puzzle sections where as clear as the smart yet basic interaction scenes then there wouldn’t be a problem at all.
Value is the big question, there’s quite a large game to work through, as you search for a happy ending, but due to the subject of the story, and the challenge of many levels, it’s not something you’ll be choosing to replay numerous times after completion.
Once you’ve mastered a level once, you could probably backtrack through it a dozen times, and while the learn, die, try, succeed method makes In Between the challenge it is, this doesn’t make the return journey worthwhile. Some might argue that the interactive story and puzzles are two different entities, but the ongoing narration links them together perfectly.
Bottom Line :
In Between bring s a deep, engrossing and emotional story to a challenging puzzle game and merges the two perfectly, sadly both don’t help longevity, but it’s still a fantastic thought provoking way to spend an evening or two.