In Between

Game review by
David Chapman, Common Sense Media
In Between Game Poster Image
Puzzling, annoying look at life, loss from one man's eyes.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Central focus is a man's journey through five stages of grief, loss, his ultimate acceptance of the fact that his life is ending. Deeply emotional journey for character, equally emotional experience for player.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Main character is a human being, complete with hope, dreams. He's also flawed, facing those flaws in his life while learning to accept person that he's ultimately become, memories he's carried through his life, memories he will leave behind once he's gone.

Ease of Play

Simple controls, but steep learning curve. Actual puzzles quickly ramp up in difficulty, complexity, eventually becoming a test of patience, determination.

Violence

While not explicitly violent, player must maneuver through variety of deadly obstacles. When he hits one of these obstacles, he, world around him breaks away, fades to black.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that In Between is a downloadable single-player platform-puzzle game with heavy emotional overtones. The game focuses on the Kübler-Ross five stages of grief or loss: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and, finally, acceptance. The game has a dark tone and pushes the player to piece together memories of the main character's life by a series of odd puzzles. While the controls are simple, the difficulty of the various stages is anything but, which could lead to some major frustration for some gamers. While the game is not explicitly violent, there are lethal obstacles throughout each stage. Death is simply a matter of the character and stage falling apart and fading to black before restarting that stage.

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What's it about?

"This is the happy ending of a man who's dying."  With that opening line, IN BETWEEN takes players on a trip through the memories of a man coping with the fact that he is in his final days. Players must help the man navigate the labyrinth of his mind, a place where concepts such as "up" and "down" are mere suggestions. Pushing through obstacles, the man will try to carry the weight of his impending fate by overcoming the five stages of grief and loss: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and, finally, acceptance. By reliving the memories of his past, there's hope that the man will understand his purpose in life and discover the legacy he's leaving behind.

Is it any good?

This puzzle game attempts to address a number of philosophical questions humans struggle with, but the real problem here is that you spend more time struggling with frustrating gameplay. There are times in life when all of us question why we're here and what's led us to this particular moment. There are also times when we're faced with our own mortality. In Between tries to address these deep emotional and philosophical issues within the framework of a puzzle, as the narrator uses his final days to unlock his memories and overcome the obstacles he has built in his own mind. The style of the game, complete with visuals that look like they've come to life from a hand-painted canvas, combines with the tranquil but somewhat ominous soundtrack to create an eerie feel that lends an extra level of weight to the already heavy subject matter. It's a beautiful, yet haunting, feeling right from the start.

While the style of In Between evokes one set of feelings, the actual gameplay evokes a completely different set of feelings: frustration and irritation. The controls are simple enough to use, moving the character with one hand while controlling the direction of gravity with the other. But using those controls to navigate the puzzles can take superhuman levels of patience. For starters, there's no actual tutorial, even in the "Tutorial" stages. You have to learn everything through trial and error. The slightest misstep and you're forced to reset the stage and start over. The learning curve isn't just steep -- it makes Mt. Everest seem like a stepping stone. In Between is a game that has to be played in smaller doses. Doing any more than that, you can't help but lose sight of the game's overall message and beauty due to simple annoyance with trying to progress to the next stage.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about ways to deal with grief and loss. What are some of the feelings that a person can expect to deal with when facing grief and loss?

  • Talk about therapeutic outlets for emotions. What are some positive ways to process difficult emotions?

Game details

  • Platforms: Mac, Windows, Xbox One
  • Price: $14.99
  • Pricing structure: Paid
  • Available online? Available online
  • Developer: Gentlymad
  • Release date: August 21, 2015
  • Genre: Puzzle
  • Topics: Adventures
  • ESRB rating: E10+ for Fantasy Violence

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love puzzles

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