When you’re a kid, monsters aren’t just something you entertain as a distant possibility—there are times when you’re, like, 90 percent sure they’re actually there. I can remember several nights lying awake in bed in my childhood home, unable to close my eyes because of my deep conviction that something on the other side of those slatted closet doors had it in for me. The “something” changed over the years (it was Chucky from Child’s Play until I saw The Exorcist for the first time), but my sense that it was more than possible that those fictional characters had tracked me down in real life persisted probably until middle school.
This is what makes magical realism feel like such a childlike genre—the way fantasy comingles so easily and believably with the real world. Salman Rushdie’s novels, for example, unfold with a storybook cadence; in them, fantastical transformations are detailed as simple facts, or the existence of elemental spirits might be taken as a given. When held together by the right hands, these two worlds—reality and fantasy—bubble with a special chemistry. And it looks like Portuguese development team RainDance LX might know the trick to concocting this effervescent mix.
Due out on January 22nd for PC, Between Me and the Night starts out in the attic bedroom of the young, redheaded main character. There’s nothing unusual about the room—an unmade bed, comic books stacked on a desk, toys littered here and there—or even the rest of the house. But within 15 minutes, you’ll encounter multiple wispy phantasms, a television that sprouts long, spider-like legs, and an evil cat the size of an Escalade. These events aren’t greeted with any fanfare whatsoever.
According to creator João Ortega, the fascination with the porousness of reality was inspired in part by his lifelong love of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks series. The difference is, according to Ortega, that reality holds even less sway in Between Me and the Night. “In BMATN there really isn’t a ‘real’ world,” he wrote in the game’s devlog. “It’s like if Twin Peaks was set in The Black Lodge and then there was another door in there that led us to another, even more twisted reality.”
From what I’ve seen of Between Me and the Night, there’s enough of the real world that the bizarre elements are rendered more as absurd than overly “twisted.” But however you choose to describe it, navigating that gloomy house and meeting those outré creatures gave me a familiar shiver, a feeling I remember from when I was still suspicious of what might hide in the shadows of my own house.