Apparently every human being who owned a PC and was a teenager at some point in the ’90’s, including me, played Out of This World. I remember that it had a very interesting, polygonal-2D graphic style, and that it was very pretty and very fun but also very very frustrating at times. In fact, the closest analogy I can think of to describe my memories of it is that it was like being kicked in the ribs by a beautiful golden boot. I’ve read lots of mixed reviews of Flashback and Heart of Darkness, the two subsequent and similar games that were developed by the same team, but I think I was always afraid that they’d have more of the kicking and less of the gold, so I never got around to checking them out.
Recently, however (well, actually, a few months ago. I’ve been meaning to write this article for a while), I think I discovered the other golden boot to match Out of This World: Matt Dabrowski’s Between Heaven and Hell. Heavily (and admittedly) inspired by Out of This World, it has that same “kicking in the ribs” sort of difficulty, but it’s also just as golden. The puzzles are excellent, the gameplay is solid (though also very frustrating at times), and the production value is very firmly rooted in “shoestring budget charm” rather than the “shoestring budget amateurness” that shoestring budget games so often have. Dabrowski works with his shortcomings rather than against them: he admits that he can’t draw backgrounds, so he just roughs them out and then smudges them up in Photoshop until they look all neat and oil-painty. He admits he can’t draw people, so he just motion captures himself and a few friends he suckered into helping him with his project. These decisions, either intentionally or accidentally, give Between Heaven and Hell an excellent, unusual, and very intriguing graphical style that fits the setting perfectly, and also stands out amidst the sea of other indie games.
It’s free (which, as usual, simultaneously elates and irritates me), so go check it out!