Published on November 14th, 2015 | by Alex Moser0
In Between Review
How does one react when they learn the end is near? What do we say to illness, misfortune, and the problems of life? What must we do to confront and overcome it? The game In Between gives us the final moments of a man’s life shortly after he finds out he will soon die of lung cancer. We retreat into his mind, and the game becomes a puzzle/platformer that has the player navigate a number of obstacles to reach the end of a maze. The player controls a sympathetic character as he overcomes his own mental anxieties and comes to terms with his own mortality.
In Between has fairly simple controls using the touch screen of the phone/tablet. The player moves by sliding their finger or thumb on the left side of the screen. Swiping in a cardinal direction on the right side of the screen switches the gravity, forcing the player, as well as physics objects, to fly in a different direction. The player has no jump ability, so in order to progress through the maze-like level structures, they must use the gravity physics in conjunction with simple movement in order to move from wall to wall and reach the exit. The puzzles in this game are both innovative and addictive. There is a serious challenge factor as well. With a good challenge, and fun levels, In Between is the kind of game that will have you playing just one more level before getting off the train or going to bed.
The game is more than an addictive series of puzzles to solve. The stages are bookended by a well-developed, enthralling, and captivating story. Each set of levels is labeled by the stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Through interactive cut scenes and voiceovers within levels, each stage tells the player more information about the protagonist, such as his family, or his thoughts about his condition. The voice acting performance is stellar, and the music provides a somber yet pensive tone that strengthens the feel of the game. In creating an evocative game environment, In Between does more than just challenge the player, this milieu of ingredients actually serves to deepen the game’s already strong character development.
As the game goes on, the levels become increasingly more complex, introducing new concepts such as gravity belts, darkness, and fireballs. The concepts are not simply to challenge the player; they are placed strategically as symbolic to the player’s quest. In the Denial stage, a dark fog progresses along the left side of the stage when the player faces away from it. In order to chase the darkness away, the player must physically face and confront the fog to drive it back. Some examples are explained out to the reader, but In Between does a very good job at constructing level design and objects that tie directly into the game’s story.
However, In Between’s gameplay isn’t always perfect. While the puzzles present a very solid challenge, the smallest error the size of a pixel could cause a death, forcing the player to repeat a number of steps to return to the place they were. Fortunately, checkpoints are installed around each level, providing some relief. But in a game where the theme is the inevitability of mortality, dying happens quite a lot, and unfortunately the game makes it frustrating.
The protagonist of In Between states: “big obstacles have big solutions.” In this Android puzzle game, the biggest obstacle comes when you reach the end. Through a clever use of story and symbolic gameplay dynamics, In Between uses the concept of metaphysical puzzles to solve life’s (as depicted in the gameworld) real problems, and to lend the player a sense of mortality. The game conveys its message remarkably well, even in a world with endless lives.
Summary: An addictive puzzle/platformer in which the player must overcome metaphysical obstacles in order to finally accept his own mortality.