Between Me And The Night Preview | MOUSE n JOYPAD


When I went to art school, the period I loved the most was Surrealist. Bending my environment and using the outlandish to express my emotions, it all just made sense. Without making any at all. Between Me and The Night seems to be trying to walk that line, in what the developer calls “the thin path between sanity and madness.” Of course, when I saw the game I hopped all over it, ready to sink my teeth into whatever world the developer had created.

It wasn’t just the style though; this game had a feel of not just being meta, but tackling a grander notion concerning video game culture. Taking place initially in 1985, the game revolves around a young boy as he progresses through life, all while comforting himself in the warm glow of nostalgic video games. It seemed right up my alley, so I recently got to sit down and explore the insanity, hoping to make sense of it all.

Being a puzzle game with action-adventure segments, the game starts you off with a tutorial screen to get you use to the controls. If you’re playing with a keyboard and mouse, these controls are relatively easy, but controllers need a little more finesse. You can walk or run around, pull chairs and tables over to you, and climb to reach things. You’re able to take items, but only a certain number and size; one large, one medium and three small items. You click and hold on them to either look or take them or on the controller you use the RB or R1 button to bring up a cursor to interact with them. You have to be within a certain distant; otherwise they’ll be out of your reach (and eyesight).

Once you do get into the game, you discover two other people in your room, playing some video games. Upon approaching them, they disappear, adding to the character’s loneliness and vulnerability. You then retrieve your NES-inspired console from a phantom and begin playing ‘Generic Knight’, a game that came included with the system. These games are NES-inspired and not extremely good, existing to be merely the connective tissue of the main feature. After beating it, the TV grows spider-like legs and crawls out of the room, into your deserted and silent house.

As you progress through the experience, you’ll find that your family, while maybe once truly happy, has now become jaded and angry with one another. Your mother takes Bupropion (an antidepressant medication), you take in old family photos with reverence, and see visions of your parents screaming at one another. Your goal in the game is to get past all of the locked doors and obstacles in the stage, to get back to an arcade cabinet.

Why an arcade cabinet? So you can be sucked into a world where you become a brave knight climbing a perilous tower. This is where the game enters the action segments, where you use a sword and shield against other medieval warriors, mostly knights and archers who try to stop you from reaching the top. These moments, while familiar in feel to the main game, are smoother and make you feel more powerful than the young man who’s surely losing himself a little too deeply in the experience. Unless of course it’s somehow real.

All the items you pick up in the game has a bit of insight into the back story of his life. Taking a cue from Gone Home, your exploration of the house and other locations will yield some beneficial and absorbing insight into what has gone wrong- not just in your family, but possibly in your own mind. While you feel helpless to school bullies and fearful of heavy machinery, the main character has an aura of Holden Caulfield, trying to save everyone from running off of cliffs. As the game progresses, you’ll find the story becoming darker and the night beginning to falter.

As mentioned above, the character has a bit of a God complex, but also seems to be out of touch with what it means to be human. He projects righteousness and honor onto inanimate objects, but fails to decipher human emotions and feelings. He’s lackadaisical about his choices, and rarely shows enjoyment outside of his fantasy world. He even fails to see the difference in the faces of Comedy and Tragedy. Sadly, that might be one of the best analogies for our nameless main character.

The game also has a day and night feature, with the sun setting and constantly rising as your lumber through the house, trying to solve the puzzles laid before you. Each room has its own unique feel given the time of day, with some bursting when the golden rays of sunset hits, with others taking a grim and ghastly feel as soon as dusk rears its head. You will be spending a lot of time here too, as finding the items you do need over the tons of other stuff can be rather daunting, especially given your limited inventory space.

While the game is in early access, and I tend to bite my critical tongue as much as I can in previews, I did experience several problems with the game. Items from my inventory would sometimes be clicked, and be ‘dropped’ into the background, stuck outside of my character’s grasp, forcing me to restart whole chapters. Visuals are also still needing work; some items disappear when pushed certain directions, there are inappropriately layered objects, and poor clipping can really break the crucial immersion. Puzzles also have the habit of messing up, if you return to them or get to them before achieving another goal- causing the game to break.

I also got to one part of the game that I’m not sure I can pass. Granted, there has been a lot added over the past two months, so I went in expecting problems and hardships- again, it’s why I’m not overly critical when I preview a game in Early Access. The game also suffers from choppy frame rates, which is difficult to justify given the simplicity of the environment. Hopefully, these issues are corrected before the game official launches sometime within the month, according to a recent press release.

Between Me and The Night isn’t going to be for everyone, and some may see it as a side-scrolling ‘walking simulator.’ I’d disagree with most of those shallow and ignorant comments, and argue that games like Between Me And The Night have a significant and important role in shaping our gaming culture. They can provide thoughtful and artistically driven experiences that tackles ideas like depression, dependence, and madness. It’s the kind of game where it may look like you only fight a few enemies, but the real enemy is yourself, and it can be one hell of a boss fight.