The Rusty Lake series has been going strong for years now, ever since 2016. They are point-and-click puzzle adventures, with an atmosphere of disquiet and light horror. Now the developers are back with another of their little cubic puzzles, but this time it will be too dangerous to go alone: you’ll need a second player. Find out if this co-op adventure has what it takes in our The Past Within review.
The Past Within is, as mentioned, another sequence of puzzles to be solved, with little to no story involved (on that, previous knowledge of the series would help better understand what is going on, but it’s not required). Both players will communicate and work together to enter codes, rotate a clock’s hands and do a bit of macabre work. The gameplay is not connected, so each player is just playing their own copy (two are required), which makes a couple of instances where you have to perform a task at the same time a bit confusing, but not a dealbreaker.
Your goal in The Past Within is resurrecting a person, which is done by accessing a cube in the past and the future to provide the right body elements to carry out our little Frankenstein experiment. The puzzles are not very varied, as they will be mostly about repeating the same codes several times to get different instructions to communicate to our partner. There are some little nice horror touches here and there, but no jump scares and it never gets too gory.
While The Past Within works, it’s also pretty short, with a single run averaging no more than 90 minutes, with little point in replaying since it’s just the same puzzles with different answers. While the mechanic works okay, the lack of timed puzzles (there is one, which just resets), overall tension or any kind of interference from the game, does not make for a terribly exciting time. This is no Keep Talking and No One Explodes, for sure.
With little to no story elements and the same kind of puzzle repeated several times, there is not much meat on the bone of The Past Within. It does what it should then just ends. I suppose it will click more with people who are already invested in the Rusty Lake series, but for those newcomers, there’s really not much outside of a short series of puzzles. Full marks for graphics and sound, though: there is an interesting shift at one point, going from 2D to 3D, which is a new thing for the series. The audio design is also on par with the other Rusty Lake games – quite superb.
The Past Within is a perfectly fine co-op puzzle adventure, with a short runtime and some quite neat macabre touches here and there. Unfortunately, the lack of real replayability, a strong narrative and more types of puzzles end up holding it back from being a classic that might be easily recommended to lovers of the genre.
Our The Past Within review was made possible with a review key provided by the publisher. The Past Within is available on Steam.
The Past Within: The Past Within is a fine co-op puzzle adventure which can be easily enjoyed by lovers of the genre, but lacks real depth and more meat on its bones. – Damiano