Gaming Events 2019 - Game Review: Dreadful Tales: The Space Between Collector’s Edition (first play) -

Developer: Eipix Entertainment
Publisher: Big Fish Games
Original Release Date: 3rd January 2019
Platform: PC

I had a couple of game credits to spend on Big Fish, so I thought I’d take a chance on a series I hadn’t heard of before. The Space Between looked like pretty standard haunted house stuff, and the reviews were good. Turns out, the reason I hadn’t heard of the series before is that this is the first Dreadful Tales title by Eipix. But the game’s publicity – and a couple of little in-game hints – definitely appears to be suggesting there’ll be further titles in the series. And if The Space Between is an indication, I’ll probably be giving them a go.

The Space Between is a bit unusual for a HOPA, because it has a framing narrative, rather than a straightforward intro scene. And it quickly becomes clear that the first-person perspective in the frame story isn’t the first-person player-character of the game. (It’s never quite made clear who the first-person character in the frame story actually is.) The game begins in a curiosity shop, and the PC is shown a strange box by the shopkeeper. He begins to explain the story behind the box… and the game begins…

The main game is the shopkeeper’s story – you become the characters in his tale. This is a pretty cool device, and not one I’ve come across before in a HOPA. As I’ve said, the story is a haunted house one – with little echoes of Amityville: Mark and Martha Spencer have bought a house (unseen) to ‘flip’. It’s falling to pieces and filled with piles of junk (handy!), as well as being miles from anywhere. Within minutes of the Spencers arriving, bad things start to happen. The ‘bad things’ are pretty much as you might expect, though there are some nicely off-beat touches to the backstory that I enjoyed.

The game’s design is fairly characteristic Eipix stuff – it’s dark and atmospheric, with some well-detailed scenes and animations. The music fits well with this overall design. While there aren’t any real surprises design-wise here, there are some carefully rendered details (particularly when you find evidence of the house’s former occupants in the form of documents and newspaper clippings). It’s a pretty stylish game with some great artwork – if I have one criticism it’s that (unusually for me) I found some of the scenes too dark, and I really struggled to make out the morphing objects and collectibles. I don’t normally have a problem with this, so I think the design is particularly dark here.

The frame story is one unusual feature of The Space Between, but there are a couple of other surprises in store. When the main game begins, you play as Martha – so, the usual female-character-saves-the-male schtick. However, there’s something unexpected around the corner. I don’t think this is too much of a spoiler… in The Space Between, you switch player-characters at various points in the game. So, although you start out playing Martha, you will at times also be playing Mark. I really liked this twist, and at one point in particular it leant a properly cinematic feel to the game. (There is another fun surprise to the gameplay – quite unlike anything I’ve seen in a HOPA before – but I know revealing that would be a spoiler!)

This is a HOPA, so gameplay is mostly point-and-click movements from one screen to another. There are different difficulty levels, including a Custom option (yay!), and Hint and Skip are available. There’s also an interactive jump map, though I didn’t use this. HOGs in this game are mostly junk piles – but at least there’s a reason for this – but there are also some variants with silhouettes, assembling an item, and one very very creepy ‘find the pictures in the storybook’ puzzle. There are also mini-games here, which are fun but not too tricky, and there are also some in-game tasks (like climbing walls and hitting targets) that give a bit of variation to gameplay. None of the puzzles or tasks feels impossible, but they’re pleasantly challenging. I didn’t use Skip for any of them (yay!).

However, while the HOGs and mini-games were enjoyable, the game does suffer from the perennial problem of illogical and counter-intuitive gameplay as you move between the screens. It’s not always apparent what you have to do next, and some items in the inventory are used in incongruous ways. This is something I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, because it is really frustrating to have to use Hint just to find out how to use everyday inventory objects. It’s also annoying to have to run back and forth between rooms, over and over again, to see if there’s anything new to do. I much prefer games to have clear objectives for each stage and, if possible, to attempt a scenario that’s vaguely plausible.

Once again, I seem to also have a gripe about characters! This is becoming a recurring theme! In The Space Between, you begin playing as Martha. She’s a typical HOPA player-character – running around, finding things, doing puzzles and generally getting stuff done while Mark (the NPC at this point) stands around having a good think. If you’ve read my previous game reviews, you’ll know that I hate it when NPCs send you to find/do something, while they just stand around ‘keeping an eye on things’. There are plenty of moments like this in The Space Between – at one point, Martha has to visit almost every scene in the house, hunting down items and discovering evidence to explain what’s going on, while Mark stands next to a door, claiming he can’t get it open.

Of course, all this changes when you switch to playing as Mark. Except… it doesn’t quite. I had high hopes for Mark. You get a little bit of his backstory revealed as you’re playing as Martha: Mark’s a horror novelist suffering from writer’s block. This doesn’t really go anywhere though, and it doesn’t add much to his character apart from some light moaning about not having written anything lately. You see, it turns out that Mark is almost as useless when he’s a player-character as when he’s an NPC. The ‘Mark’ sections of the game are characterized by internal dialogue (whining) and catastrophic mistakes. I was quite pleased to switch back to being Martha again!

I played the Collector’s Edition, which has a bonus chapter. This is a prequel chapter, and you play as a different character, which fleshes out one of the bits of evidence you find in the main game. It’s not a long chapter, and there aren’t many surprises, but it’s a bit of decent extra gameplay that draws on one of the more grisly scenes from the main game. As well as the bonus chapter, the CE offers achievements, morphing objects and two different sets of collectibles (moths and cassettes). As I’ve said, I struggled with the morphing objects and collectibles in this one. Fortunately, there are replay scenes for all of these, so I did manage to get the cassettes after I’d finished the game (which gives you a neat little endgame treat). Finding the moths gives you a code for a ‘souvenir room’, but I didn’t have the enthusiasm for trawling back through all the scenes to get this. I’m not really sure what the point of the morphing objects was, aside from the fact that they are pretty much de rigueur for HOPAs now. The final extras in the CE – aside from downloadable artwork, videos and music – are replays on the HOGs and mini-games, which is always useful if you’re after all the achievements.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Space Between. Despite some illogical gameplay and a bit of an irritating character, there are some nice unexpected touches here that make the game stand out. If Eipix are planning to make Dreadful Tales into a series, I’ll definitely be checking out the next title.


Popular posts from this blog

Fallout New Vegas Crashes - Actions To fix Fallout New Vegas Crash

Fishing in Bimini

Become a Video Game Beta Tester And Get Paid to Play Game