Gamer dad who loves the classics, indies, racers and the occasional shooter. Have been in the industry for well over a decade and am as enthusiastic as ever! #4theplayers
Its not often that a puzzle game has a deep story. In Tetris blocks must form a line, while in the lemmings they have to get to the other side of the level, but why? Usually it does not matter and we simply do it just because we have to. Only when gameplay and story come together as well as In Headup games’ In Between you know that you’ve missed something all this time.
In Between tells the story of a man on his deathbed. A while ago he was told that he has cancer and since then he has lost quite a lot. The last moment of his life is coming closer and you can guide him to the light in sixty puzzles. Each puzzle revolves around the ability to influence the force of gravity. With the press of a button you decide which way gravity works, not only up or down, but also from left or right. The goal is to dodge the spikes and other obstacles by gravity to steer in the right direction at the right time. Your character can not jump or sprint, but will survive only if you willingly put his world upside down. The puzzles generally fits perfectly together. It is often quite a rumble to guide your character in the right way towards the end of the level. Usually it is not as simple as up and falling down to avoid the spikes. Every time you fly the gravity also moves objects like balls with spikes through the screen and platforms suddenly can block the passage. Sometimes it is not only puzzling, but there will also be some skill involved. You’re being chased and have to get away as quickly as possible while you are aiming precisely on small platforms to continue your way.
It really gets interesting when the story is going to interfere with the gameplay. The main character goes through the five stages of grief, as defined in Psychology: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. Each phase has its own set of levels, which actually creates the feeling associated with the implementation stage. Puzzles about anger are populated by large, angry red bulbs, which equal your downfall if you touch them. As the main character will show through a voice-over: you should not let your self get swallowed by your anger. Uncertainty is characterized on you as dark shadows lurk at the edge of the screen. His mother has learned him that your shadows can best be survive by looking at them instead of facing away. You’ll look in the direction of a shadow, then nothing will happen, but if you turn around, you will be swallowed by the darkness.
In some levels you find a crack in the background. when walked along it, the player will be treated with a reminder of the life of the protagonist. You will learn how he got lung cancer, hear about the difficult relationship with his father and sees how his surroundings react to his illness. Besides those moments there are also playable pieces at the end of each stage, where you will learn more about his childhood. His life now attracts him as he faces death. It makes In Between a beautiful inner journey which repeatedly manages to touch a nerve. Let’s say that the various stages of mourning play a clear role in the journey to the acceptance of death.
In Between’s small minuses are really nothing compared to the greater experience. The levels sometimes seem too much alike and the themes are occasionally a little too long. Once you’ve dodged the spikes on the floor and the ceiling by putting gravity upwards and downwards, the second time it gets a lot less interesting. Those segments, however, never last long and before you know the story plays on your emotions again. The sad story fits extremely well with the sometimes frustratingly difficult puzzles. This story raises a simple but fine puzzler to the next level. After all, it is not often that a puzzle game lingers with you for so long because of its touching moments.