Intelligent, beautiful, melodic and INFURIATING!
If you face the dark, momma said, 'The darkness will be afraid of you.'
There is life. There is death. There is also, The 'In between'
In Between is much more than an addictive puzzle game. In Between unlike many other games in its’ category actually has a story to tell, and I don’t mean a throw away, ‘quick we need to get this out so lets just say they’re humanities last hope’ type of story; I mean an enthralling, inspiring and depressive tale that will resonate with us all. The stages one goes through when receiving life altering news are the stages Gentlymad has decided to break In Between’s levels into the 5 stages of grief: Denial; Anger; Bargaining; Depression and Acceptance. As you progress through these stages you will trigger cut scenes and voiceovers that will give you a deeper insight into our protagonist, delving into personal matters such as, his family, his condition and things he would have done differently in life.
The tone and mood of the game are amazing and the interweaving of the aesthetics and game mechanics is second to none – from the shattered narrated fragments of our protagonists life appearing in front of him to the interactive pause menu. The way in which the menu is presented not only allows YOU to step away from the madness, but also offers respite for our protagonist in allowing him to go to his happy place where you as the player are then free to roam around his childhood bedroom; this makes the connection between you and the protagonist that much more real, so that when you as the player are stuck in a repetitive cycle of frustration – so is he. Similarly, when you pause the game and grant yourself respite from this vicious cycle the same escape is also permitted to the protagonist.
In the game, as in life, the more progress you, make the more complex and dangerous the levels become. Each chapters complexities are placed strategically as symbolic manifestations of our protagonists free fall into grief. For example, the ‘Denial’ stages unique interaction consists of an all-consuming black fog that slowly creeps up on the protagonist and in order to chase the fog away you must heed the words of his mother and ‘Face the darkness.’ This in turn pushes the fog back and allows you to keep going until once again it creeps up on you and you must turn and face it. You then continue this strategy of running away from/turning and confronting until you can escape to the next level.
In Between is a clever, wonderfully crafted, emotive tale that sadly we all know to well. It is told in a spellbinding manner enveloped in majestic overtones used to help further your immersion into a frustrating beautiful world in which you will die over and over again.
There is a skill gap to this game, not everyone will appreciate it and at times I found myself saying out loud, ‘this is impossible!’ One pixel out and you will find yourself being dragged back to the beginning of the stage, or if your lucky enough, dragged back to a checkpoint, only to once again try and summon the mental gymnastic powers required to get back to the point you died at previously, where, chances are, you’ll die again.
Initially, consumed by anger and frustration I thought that In Between’s lack of compromise when it came to difficulty was a bad thing. I thought that the levels in the more advance stages of grief were just to grueling, but as I got further into the game and eventually completed it, I realised that just as our protagonist had gone on a 5 stage journey of understanding which eventually lead to acceptance, so did I. In this instance art imitated life and for Gentlymad to get across a story of pain and suffering and make us truly relate with the protagonist they had to subject us to small amount of it to induce empathy, and it worked.