Between Me and The Night is the reason I dislike Early Access.Â When I previewed the game back in November, I fell in love with the gameâs artistic merits but was displeased with the state of the build.Â Of course, the question is how can I be critical of something that isnât complete?Â I canât see the whole picture- donât know the full intent- I would have to be respectful of the process.Â Now, Between Me and The Night is coming out of Early Access, and I can give it a full review.Â Sadly, nothing has really changed in the past two months, and that includes the glaring problems that hamper an otherwise enjoyable and thought provoking experience.
Between Me and The Night is about a young man, journeying through adolescence, dealing with loss and disappointment, and the depression that clutches at his soul.Â His crutch is music, movies, and video games- the trifecta for any latchkey kid.Â In a very Calvin and Hobbes type way, our protagonist imagines himself a knight, defending the world against- you know, itâs hard to say.Â Either way, itâs his escape from a world that doesnât directly say but heavily implies an unfair shake.Â His family seems angry and dysfunctional, school kids bully him, and life hands him nothing but hardship.Â Your job is to walk around your home and school, piecing together the puzzle of your life.Â The game uses a very simple inventory system that limits a certain size and number of items and presents puzzles to solve before proceeding.
The art design is absolutely stunning; a fantastic rendition of what depression feels like.
Acts are concluded when your character is sucked into a monolithic arcade cabinet, transporting you to a snowy realm where you must battle archers and axemen who stand between you and the castle.Â The gameâs controls suddenly feel faster, and the focus becomes attacking and defending as opposed to searching the environment.Â These sections will make you feel powerful and is an interesting transition away from the more methodical sections proceeding it.
Now, while I enjoyed the experience, I didnât feel like the message of the game was focused.Â Naturally, the player is supposed to feel awkward, escaping life by playing a game like our depressed âheroâ, but outside of that, thereâre some real questions as to what the designers were going for.Â Thereâs elements of birth trauma, questioning of reality and the like- but nothing that really stands out as a full answer.Â This is the second time Iâve played the game, and outside of these vague ideas, I couldnât tell you much more than that.Â Thereâre tapes from someone whoâs concerned about your well being, but it doesnât really explain who they are.Â Thereâs a scene where you rescue a girl from people who turn into spiders, which visually looks awesome, but left me questioning if it truly meant anything, or was more like a fever dream.
Perhaps I wasnât paying enough attention, and I looked over some of the most subtle clues.Â Some of the game just feels like itâs more style over substance, like when a giant head manifests itself down the hall and begins pulling on the rug as if it were swallowing his enormous tongue.Â Sure, itâs bizarre and guaranteed to give me nightmares the next time I have a long party night, but what does it mean?Â Thatâs not to say there arenât thoughtful allusions; I loved finding your momâs vanity mirror and depression medication wherever you go.Â These small touches do fill in some gaps, but I still feel like I was left with more questions than answers when I completed the very short experience.Â Also, the ending is very disappointing and abrupt.Â If you didnât have bugs to deal with, you could probably beat this game in a few hours.
The arcade cabinet is a fine representation of self-help, but doesnât get deeper than that.
And yes, there are bugs.Â In what I can only describe as a complete shirk, the developers have not corrected any of the glaring problems I found on my first playthrough of the game.Â Essential items will pop out of your inventory and into an inaccessible area of the map, forcing you to restart the entire chapter again.Â Some items, when retrieved from your inventory, will yield a sprite sheet instead of the single item.Â If you walk into an area and return to others, youâll suddenly find yourself in the background, or unable to interact with anything on screen.Â Simply put, the game has invisible hurdles, that will mess up your game, and force you to replay your last ten minutes.Â Sometimes, youâll even know where thereâs a glitch, helplessly trying your best to avoid yet another restart.Â For example, I had a book that I was attempting to put on a bookshelf and found that if I stood on the table, instead of the chair, I would lose that item and be forced to start over again.
The other problem I have is the level of vagueness on what your next goal is.Â For example- you walk into a room to see an explosion.Â When youâre given back controls, youâre expected to find two small items that came off of the structure.Â One of the items locations isnât so bad- but the other is put into a place that perfectly blends with the environment.Â For another item, itâs hidden behind a cabinet, with only a sliver of the item being able to be seen before you retrieve it.Â This doesnât create an enjoyable experience, and only has the player wandering around the house in frustrated confusion.Â I feel art should flow as unimpeded as possible; so donât put items in areas you know might get overlooked and waste my time.
Despite your escape to the world of the knight, youâll find reminders of the world back home.
When it comes to the gameâs visuals, theyâre out of this world.Â Literally, they remind me of the classic game âAnother World.âÂ The polygonal art design is top notch, and the colour palette is exceptional.Â The locations transition through the day (a little too quickly), providing familiar areas with the orange glow of sunrise and blue hue of a rainy day.Â Creatures are spectacular and have so much thought and imagination to them.Â I really canât say anything critical about how wonderful and poignant the delivery of the art style is.Â If I were to review games on their looks alone, this would be a contender for game of the year.
Audio is also another high mark, utilizing a beautifully, sombre dirge that flows through the gameâs narrative.Â When youâre transported into the world of armour and swords however, the game shifts its tone and becomes more soothing and cathartic.Â Even the gameâs throwaway music, like an album you can put on in your familyâs living room, sounds fantastic and works well with the themes of the game.
I guess if I had to give Between Me and The Night my recommendation or not, I would say if this game interests you in the least then you should probably pick it up.Â The asking price is a little too high for me, as most will complete the game in three to four hours.Â It may not be as subtextual as Braid or Ico, but the visuals make it stand out as a group of developers thatâre worth watching.Â While this may not be a grand slam, it did provide me with a nice bit of emotions and gave me something to ponder when it was all said and done.