Nice to live in a gamer family, where mother, father and son (17) spend hours every day with a controller in hand. But on Friday night or Sunday morning you sometimes think: three people working behind separate screens in their own fantasy world… it could be more social.
There is redemption. In the game The past within it must be more social. The enigmatic puzzle in the game can only be solved by intensive cooperation between two players. And in a very old-fashioned way. Fear not: players off The past within need to talk to each other.
It requires little effort on the part of the aspiranthikikomorison that this game needs to be played and that he needs to get out of his digital cave. He knows the makers of The past within and he is not the only one. The Amsterdam-based game developers of Rusty Lake have built a worldwide following with sophisticated puzzles such as Rusty Lake Hotel (2015) and Rusty Lake Paradise (2018).
In these games, which can be played on every imaginable platform, including the phone, the player is expected to click through a goth horrorlike the world. In living rooms, ominous paintings hang on the walls, behind which are often hidden keys that can be used to open chests, or secret hatches in the coffin of a grandfather in state. That Rusty lakethe world is basically an endless escape room, an escape from rooms with creaky floors and crows cawing on the windowsill in front of a sadly closed window.
The past within played from two points of view. One player plays the game – mind you: on his own screen – in the past, sometime in the late 19th century, judging by the character Rose’s formal attire. The second player is in the future and has an unfathomable, three-dimensional cube with sliders, drawers, letter keys, valves and even a fan.
We must play the game in one room within earshot. The future player (the son) plays behind a PC screen, the father (the past) on the phone. And of course we are not supposed to look at each other’s screens. It quickly becomes clear that a little click on the puzzles on your own screen won’t get you there. Both the past and the future need codes to move forward. And those codes must come from the other.
The idea behind the game is wonderful: the figure from the future has a device (the cube) that allows you to contact the past. The ultimate goal is even a rebirth of flesh and blood in a new age. But both players need information from the other, and you can only get that by asking the opponent thoroughly. Does one person sometimes see a mysterious figure with deer antlers that can be used as a pawn in a game of chess? And can the other provide a route through a labyrinth that can be used to retrieve a number code that can open another box in the cube? ‘Now take two steps to the right, three to the left’, etc.
We speak our bubbles in tongues and both get an old-fashioned board game feel. Sometimes we get stuck, for example when the past, i.e. the father, does not understand that a valve must be put on a vial of blood. The future then sits and waits on its own to crack a code, so a solution is lost and we become hopelessly confused. “Hey, we were supposed to keep communicating,” the past says sourly. The future: ‘Yeah sorry, it took me too long.’
But we get out: after 2 hours and 53 minutes, we have revived a human being of flesh and blood, and we do a high five. The past within is a mysterious, clever, social and sometimes beautifully illustrated puzzle, we both judge. A gem of a game that every family should try, if only to get closer to each other.
The past within (approx. 3.50 euros) from Rusty Lake is available for various platforms.