Review: Inbetween Land (PC)

Inbetween Land
Publisher: Big Fish Games
Developer: Specialbit Studio
Genre: Hidden Object/Adventure
Release Date: 08/27/2012

A few months back, I reviewed a hidden object game by the name of Haunted Hotel: Charles Dexter Ward. I mention it because here I am with a review for another game by the same developer. I liked HH quite a bit. I thought it did what it wanted to do quite well. As such, I was actually a bit excited for this game. I was hoping that I had found a new casual developer to follow. It would be nice to say I had one.

However, my wish was not to be. This game stumbles many times, and in many of the worst places. There are some silver linings, but Inbetween Land is most assuredly a step down.

Story

One morning, your character awakens to the voice of an old childhood friend. It seems this friend is need of help. They’ve gotten themselves stuck on a floating island above the city. The floating island in question is extraterrestrial in nature, though no aliens have ever been spotted around. Before too long, you discover that the island is a ship, and that there are aliens on board. They’re benevolent, and simply want to go home. However, they can only exist as spirits on Earth, so they can’t fix the problem. On top of that, your friend Mary is stuck in a coma and won’t wake up until the ship is restored.

That’s it. After this fun setup, the story completely dries up. You simply travel around and find the crystals needed to find the ship. There are no twists, no interesting characters to meet, or anything that a good story might need. This game has a great premise, but does nothing with it. There’s no sense of urgency, there are seemingly no risks to be taken, and there are no foes to get in your way. You simply play through, and get the ending.

Perhaps the biggest problem is that the main character is never named. This is odd since she has a voice, a history, and a close friend who she can speak with. I get that some developers like the player to feel they are the ones in game, but that illusion doesn’t work when you have all of those other things in the game as well.

Anyways, there’s practically no story to this. I was sorely disappointed, especially after the strong story in their last effort.

Graphics

The world looks great. The island has an alien quality to it, but it is littered with the remnants of men who have visited. There are adventurous pilots who crashed while looking for treasure, a ticket booth set up for tourists, and other such niceties. Still, there are some out of place moments. The aliens seem to have a lot of typical Earthly items. For a race that pilots an island through space, they for some reason rely on simple tools like beakers and microscopes. One could argue that humans left these objects there, but considering the hassle I had to go through in order to get to them, I have to assume they were locked away.

Either way, the backgrounds are well colored and well detailed.

The characters, on the other hand, are a huge letdown. Each character is a simple drawing with a few poses. There are no animations. Worse off, the characters don’t even look good. It almost looks like bad watercolors. There’s a disconnect between them and the rest of the game that put me off while I played.

Audio

There is some voice acting. It’s fine for what it is. I don’t recall being repulsed by any of the voices, but I also don’t recall particularly liking any of them. It does the job and it does it to a satisfactory level. The characters aren’t given much range because of the story, so the actors had very little to work with. There’s an overall lack of depth that makes it hard to care for a single one of them.

Musically, the game runs the typical style associated with such a game. The tunes are light and serves as halfway decent background music. I can’t recall what any of them sounded like off the top of my head. I have to actually start the game up to remind myself.

The effects are nice, as is to be expected. When you interact with objects, they make the appropriate sound. The only one that stood out in any sort of negative way was the chime that announces a refilled hint meter. It just didn’t mesh with the game.

Gameplay

The actual playing of Inbetween Land is pretty decent.

There are only a handful of hidden object sequences, but they are nicely done. Instead of looking for a object from a list, you have four or five objects that you must put together by finding all of the pieces. Once an object is completed, you can use it to interact with the screen. This will often reveal a piece that you need for another object. When the last object is put into place, you’ll be rewarded with an item you need to progress. This way of doing things was more involving, and a nice change of pace.

Most of the game is spent exploring the island. There is usually a locked door in your way. In order to get through the door, you either need to find the item that opens it, or solve a mini-game. This is often a multi-step process that contains several puzzles. For example, one door is covered by a thick mold. The way to clear it is to throw a special type of acid. Getting this acid requires culturing bacteria, putting together a series of tubes, and solving a puzzle or two to get some items. It works.

The minigames are typical casual fare. There are sliding puzzles, picture puzzles, and other such staples of the genre. They do a good job of getting harder as they go, but as usual they don’t always mesh well with the game. It just seems odd that aliens are as into slide puzzles as we are.

A typical hint system is in place. Once your meter is filled up, you can use a hint. The hint will tell you exactly what you need to do and where you need to do it. It’s a bit refreshing to not have to follow a series of prompts in order to get to the needed location. You can skip minigames after a while, so it’s really quite impossible to get stuck for more than a moment or two.

Overall, the gameplay just works. The puzzles are fun, the mini-games are engaging, and the hidden object sections are a nice change of pace. It’s very well put together.

Replayability

Start to finish, this game takes less than two hours to complete. Wrap your head around that for a minute. Unless you really suck, this game won’t last you as long as most movies. This is by far the shortest hidden object game I’ve played, and I was really shocked about how quickly it was over.

This isn’t a Collector’s Edition or anything. There is no bonus gameplay to come back to after you’ve beaten the main story. Once you’ve reached the end, that’s it. The game is done. If you so desire, you can go back to earn achievements, but a savvy player can earn them all in one go provided they don’t use hints.

That means there is almost no reason to go back to this game.

Balance

Once thing I did like about the game was that it had a nice difficulty curve. Puzzles got more complex as you went forward, and minigames got tougher. Most HO games I’ve played don’t bother with that. If you play without hints, you’re in for an entertaining, but not too tough challenge.

With hints turned on, the game is a cakewalk. You rarely get too stuck as it is, and being able to push through at the click of a button makes things that much easier. Any of the tough minigames can be skipped with no penalty, unless you wanted all of the achievements.

Basically, the challenge is there for those who want it.

Originality

The most unique thing about this game is how the hidden object sections work. However, I’ve seen similar mechanics in other games, so this is nothing new. It was kind of nice to have a story that didn’t have any horror elements, but that’s not really original so much as there are so many horror stories that any non-horror ones stand out.

The genre is stuck in a rut of producing similar games as quickly as possible. There is little to no room for innovation.

Addictiveness

The nice difficulty curve makes this game more interesting as you play from a gameplay standpoint. However, the lacking story sucks away any urge to push forward. On top of that, the game is done almost as soon as it begins.

I played the game in one sitting. I figured it would take me all night to finish up, but that simply wasn’t the case. It was a minor time killer at best.

Appeal Factor

Well, if you’re a fan of the genre, but you want a less gruesome tale, this will work for you. It will also be a good buy for anyone who wants a fully functional game. I found no glitches or hangups as I played. That isn’t always the case, so it’s nice to say that about this game.

However, the extreme shortness coupled with the lacking story makes this a hard game to recommend to any but the most ardent of players. Perhaps if you’ve got a free game from Big Fish to burn, this could work. I certainly wouldn’t suggest spending hard earned money on this.

Miscellaneous

There are no extras in this game. Not a one. That’s a huge problem. Most titles at least offer some wallpapers or concept art. This game can’t even be bothered to do that.

I’m more disappointed than angry at the game. It isn’t really all that bad, all things considered. It’s just not up the standards of the genre on several accounts. What a shame.

The Scores
Story: Poor
Graphics: Mediocre
Audio: Mediocre
Gameplay: Very Good
Replayability: Dreadful
Balance: Above Average
Originality: Worthless
Addictiveness: Bad
Appeal Factor: Bad
Miscellaneous: Very Poor
Final Score: Poor Game!

Short Attention Span Summary
Inbetween Land does very few things right, but it does them well enough to avoid complete disaster. The gameplay is solid, and the difficulty curve is well above average for the genre. However, the story is all but absent, the game is to short, and there are no extras to soften the blow. Like I said, if you really want the game, wait until you’ve gotten a bonus game from Big Fish. Otherwise, save your money.

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