In Between Review – Xbox One

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We’re in the golden age of entertainment across all media, and no medium is benefiting more than video games. Thanks to digital distribution, we’ve seen more diverse and varied types of games than perhaps ever before. It’s tough to imagine a AAA-studio green-lighting a release that focuses on such heavy subjects as cancer and the stages of grief, but thankfully that’s where titles like In Between come in. While the game gets an “A” for effort in terms of tone, style, and themes, it falls short on almost every other count- including the one that matters most; game play.

In Between is a puzzle/platformer that centers around a man coping with cancer, mortality, and his impending death. Upon leaving his doctor’s care, he’s transported to a world of inverse gravity, spikes, and other obstacles thrown his way one room after the other. On the surface, this presents an interesting duality between grief and the mental labyrinths that can result from its unending assault on the soul. In practice, what you’re left to deal with is a well-thought-out but poorly constructed and implemented game.

Visually, In Between is gorgeous. The hand-drawn/painted look really works in its favor. Characters are well-rendered and animated, and backgrounds and puzzle elements are often visually interesting to look at. And again, to give credit where it’s due, it’s great to see more developers willing to tackle heavy subject material. For all of its faults, In Between’s heart is most definitely in the right place.

To be honest, there’s a lot working against In Between. As has been mentioned by others, it feels like a game made by a small team that’s perhaps played too much of their own game. In many cases, a single misstep can mean the difference between success and failure, and if you mess up, you have to play through the entire stage again. This leaves the player feeling discouraged from trial and error, which is a cornerstone of puzzle/platformers. When you combine those factors with controls that aren’t always responsive, intuitive, or fluid, you’re left with an incredibly frustrating experience.

In Between should be a better game than it is. If the gameplay could stand up to the game’s themes and visual presentation, we’d be looking at a solid, easily-recommendable game. As it stands, In Between is a game that you should admire from afar.

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