Between Me and the Night captured my attention. The ability to be someone else is something that I’ve long wanted to be. It’s not that I hate myself but I always wanted to be something more than what I turned out to be. I was a promising basketball player at one stage and had scouts looking at me but illness as well as the fact that I stopped growing when I was 5’7″ and was never an athletic freak good enough to make up for a lack of height stopped me from becoming a professional. I wanted to excel professionally in other athletic ventures but was never very good at anything other than basketball. Other dreams included becoming an air force pilot (my eyesight was never good enough) or an astronaut (I’m fairly intelligent but not when it comes to the required sciences) so being a talent scout, writer, marketer and business person were my limits. Not bad but certainly nothing spectacular. Therefore the premise here was perfect for me. I tend to believe most of us can relate to the young boy in the story who is confronted with the realities of a modern world – including hot topics such as school bullying – and needing to escape it.
The audio-visual presentation was the absolute highlight of the game for me. I appreciated the technical prowess of the artistic design of the game at all levels. There were a number of aspects that thoroughly impressed me. A good example of this includes (slight spoilers) the way a game within a video game was implemented before the television becomes a spider like an insect and claws away from you, early in the game. I thought that it was well implemented. The audio-visual design combines to bring an evocative image of the game that has left me thinking about important social issues long after the game. This may make me sound like a typical critic but I do quite enjoy games that make me reflect upon the important issues of life long after I’ve clicked the exit button. It can be argued that this is as a result of my education and that may be right but it’s not utilized as often as I would like. Everything that is graphically or audibly implemented in the game serves a purpose. There’s nothing that made me think that it was unnecessary or simply too much. It may take a moment for you to understand the why but there always is the why.
Unfortunately, I quickly developed a pet peeve with the gameplay. The walking is too slow and while running works there are a number of stairwells and the like that you need to ascend or descend that have to be taken at walking speed. It’s frustrating that you can’t keep running up and down stairs when the walking speed was an aggravating nuisance. Further, this extends to how you manipulate objects and move things – such as climbing on chairs, etc. I felt that it was really clumsy and could have been designed better. Sadly this effects puzzles and other important facets of the game. Several poor game design choices hold the game back. Given that the title tries to blend adventure and platforming genres the flaws in the game mean that it doesn’t quite succeed as well as what it could have at either and you’re left with a game that struggles to be successful in both genres rather than excelling at one.
I have to concur with other reviews that I’ve read. Because the game is a surrealist experience it’s never quite obvious what you’re supposed to do next. I found myself walking around throughout different areas of the game confused. Where do I go? What do I do now? Those are two questions that are acceptable when it comes to puzzles – an answer should be logical but not obvious – but when it comes to moving from area to area it’s not such a welcome experience. I don’t often like looking up YouTube videos to find a solution to a problem but I had to do so several times during my playthrough.
An important and positive thing to note is that none of the puzzles require inventory combining. Generally speaking, this is something that I don’t like because often games attempt to be smarter than what they are and force you to combine too completely unrelated and silly combination of items in order to proceed. Therefore this can be seen as a huge advantage of the game as it will be one area where searching for a walk through solution is simply unnecessary in stark contrast to other areas of the game.
The game has the content and the presentation to be spectacular. Unfortunately some of the design choices really hold it back from realizing its ultimate potential. However, the presentation makes Between Me and the Night a highly memorable experience that makes the title an easy recommendation to action adventure fans who can overlook some poor design choices. It’s a surrealist’s delight.