|Publisher: G5 Entertainment AB Genre: Adventure & RPG|
|Min OS X: 10.6 CPU: Intel RAM: 512 MB Hard Disk: 300 MB Graphics: 1024x768, 64 MB VRAM|
“Inbetween Land.” The name sounds evocative and enticing, and the game’s logo, showing a city perched on a floating hunk of rock, gives a flavour of its sci-fi premise.
The story of the game is central to its gameplay, rather than being some optional adjunct to the action, so I won’t spoil it by recapping too much here. Nevertheless, some scene-setting is necessary, and the basic premise is that a flying island has arrived in Earth’s sky and has been floating there for some time, but appears uninhabited. ‘You’, as the central character of the game, are female, and the initial impetus to get your character into the game setting is that your best friend, who’s “like a sister” to you, has gone missing and her spirit has somehow called out for help. So it’s your bounden duty to go and find her, and rescue her if necessary. Without giving too much away, this also involves saving all the inhabitants of Inbetween Land.
I mention that the player character is female not because it matters as such to the game, but to underline the fact that this is a game that appears designed to appeal to female players. That isn’t especially obvious from the title or description, and it ought not to matter to the game content; most of these adventure-puzzle games could appeal to either sex without discrimination. However, in this instance, I’m afraid that I found Inbetween Land’s story, well… just a bit wet, frankly. As a sci-fi-loving male, I was hoping for something that lived up to the ‘floating sky city’ premise in engaging science fiction terms. As it turned out, though, the game actually involves talking to spirits and locating crystals for them. It’s fairly implausible even within its own sci-fi context.
Gameplay: Simple puzzlesThe game is a quite simple and straightforward puzzle-based adventure. It isn’t always clear in advance, with games of this sort, whether ‘hidden objects’ are going to be involved or not. A vast number of hidden object games have been released for the Mac, and they continue to appear, so for the benefit of players who are heartily sick of them, it’s worth stating clearly: this is not really a hidden object game, though it does have a small number of hidden-object-style scenes within it. However, they’re not of the ‘hunt the list of named objects’ type; rather, they involve finding pieces of components (as pictured at the bottom of the screen) that need to be put together, and then the restored components need to be used within the scene. They’re a bit more interesting and certainly less pointless than classic hidden object scenes, and I found them quite enjoyable. There’s also not too many of them: only three or four.
The major focus of the game is exploring the fifty-plus locations, finding useful items to add to your inventory in order to progress. Along the way you will also have to solve a series of one-off mini-game-style puzzles. I counted 18 such mini-games, though the game’s blurb says there are 19, so maybe I overlooked one (Or maybe the hidden-object-style scenes count as another type of mini-game). Anyway, there’s a great deal of variety in them, though each puzzle is of a style that’s well represented elsewhere; I’d imagine that most players will have encountered a good proportion of the puzzle types previously.
For example, the first mini-game is a typical ‘extract the sliding block’ game in which you must slide pieces (some of which move only horizontally and the others only vertically) to allow a special golden block to be slid out through a hole at the side of the board (see the Gallery). We’ve all seen many puzzles of this type in recent times, I’m sure. Curiously, I have to say that this first mini-game is one of the most difficult in the game. Even given its familiarity, it isn’t one of the easiest layouts to solve, and I considered it the second-hardest of all the mini-games (second only to the final puzzle, which is really quite tricky). The cynic in me suspects a ploy on the part of the developers to make the time-limited demo version seem more of a challenge, because in truth I found the vast majority of the mini-games extremely easy.
OK, I’m quite experienced with puzzles, and if this game is intended for younger players (as it may well be), then the difficulty level may be about right. The puzzles aren’t completely trivial, and they’re all enjoyable to play; but compared with other adventure games of this basic style, I found the puzzles in this one to be much easier than normal. The only one that I felt presented a real challenge was the final one: a tangram-style puzzle where you have to fit a selection of shapes into a cross-shaped hole (see the Gallery). Even this puzzle isn’t too challenging, though. For one thing, there’s a trick which, once spotted, gives you a good start. More importantly, there’s an ‘achievement’ for every mini-game, and the icon of the achievement for this final puzzle actually shows its solution! The icon is shaded dark before the achievement is won, but even so, the solution can clearly be seen if you examine it closely.
This is typical of this game in that everything is on the easy side, and there’s plenty of help and guidance along the way. Although you can roam the landscape freely (once you’ve unlocked locations as necessary), there generally aren’t too many adventure-type problems going on at once; the whole thing is fairly linear and the problems mostly quite sequential. The game has three difficulty levels: Casual, Normal and Expert. However, these settings only affect the availability of hints and puzzle-skips (with no hints or skips at Expert level). The game content remains the same in all cases. The adventure itself involves some occasional combining of objects and the need to work out what to do where, but again, this is generally pretty obvious. This is one game in which I never got stuck or had to seek help.
All in all, the adventure itself is a pleasurable but easy point-and-click affair. There are few challenges of any significance, and the game is most likely to be enjoyed by players who prefer to just advance through a story with some mild interaction, rather than those who really want to scratch their heads about how to progress. As for the mini-games, they’re all very nicely presented and enjoyable to play, and there’s plenty of variety in them, but in all but a couple of cases the level of challenge they present is fairly minimal.