Rusty Lake – The Past Within [Hivemind Review]

The Past Within is a cooperative point-and-click game created by Rusty Lake.

A foggy, dark forest in winter. Text reads, "Let's make some memories!"


Style of Play:

  • Online native experience
  • Play on demand
  • Point-and-click

Who is it For?

  • Any experience level
  • Rusty Lake fans
  • Fans of cooperative games
  • Those seeking a 2-player experience

Required Equipment: Playable on mobile or desktop, this game is available from:

Recommended Team Size: 2

Play Time: about 90 minutes

Price: $3.49 per player, and you need 2 players

Booking: purchase and play at your leisure


This is a point-and-click game played by 2 players concurrently. Each player starts the game and chooses a different path, either Past or Future. Each one is complementary to the other. There is also a choice of Bee or Butterfly, which indicates certain puzzle sets; you need to both choose the same one. Players work together passing information and codes back and forth to complete the game. Players will also need a way to communicate, either through Discord or on the phone, preferably by voice and not chat.

The game can be purchased on any platform – mobile or desktop – as long as both players have their own copy. Players don’t need to be playing on the same platform – there’s nothing linking their two instances of the game.

Cindi S’ Reaction

The Past Within is the first two-player game that takes place in the Rusty Lake universe. The look and feel was on point; it was just as odd and gruesome as their other games (to the excitement of this Rusty Lake fan!) Each player logs into a separate instance of the game and interacts with their partner by passing codes and information back and forth. Puzzles were not difficult, as you are often told exactly what to do. In fact, I found the other Rusty Lake games to be more challenging and much less instructive. I don’t have just one favorite puzzle; it’s the totality of the experience, including the bizarre tasks, creepy characters and reactions of your teammate that make this game fun. The price point is very low, although you each need to purchase the game to play. You can also replay it by switching paths and choosing a different puzzle set at the start. Whether you are a Rusty Lake fan or a new player looking to see what this strange world is like, grab a friend and play The Path Within.

A strange computer device with a screen, arrow keys, a power button, and a floppy drive.

Matthew Stein’s Reaction

Gosh, I love Rusty Lake’s games. I love their distinctive visual aesthetic, their casual twists into the macabre, and their deeply interlinked symbology. I view the Rusty Lake series as the present pinnacle of the point-and-click escape room genre and proof of concept for this format’s potential as an art form.

This is a high bar to live up to, yet The Past Within was a worthy addition to this canon, beautifully capturing all these elements and more. Most notably, the gameplay was cleverly designed around asymmetrical communication between 2 players.

Having seen a good few examples of this style emerge over the past few years, I’d say that The Past Within absolutely nailed it. Both players had equally important roles throughout. There were clear sync points, many of which were narratively integrated. The gameplay managed to feel like that of a real life escape room, requiring a healthy mix of searching, making connections, inputting short sequences, and balanced communication. Furthermore, an initial binary decision within each track allows players to replay the game from the other perspective but with new puzzles.

There were a few moments when we hit a wall, unsure which player could progress next, usually due to some small search fail. But we never stayed stuck for too long, and the game’s signposting was by and large very clear.

The Past Within, like most Rusty Lake games, told a dreamlike story through a patchwork of absurdist objectives rather than linear story beats. As such, it was strong on vibes but potentially disorienting for players new to the Rusty Lake world. For fans of point-and-click escape rooms and the macabre, I very highly recommend checking out The Past Within.

Fro’s Reaction

This highly anticipated new release transports the player back to the weird and haunting Rusty Lake universe where the past never dies and nothing is as it seems. Building heavily on the narrative from the previous Rusty Lake games, The Past Within delivers unique and satisfying puzzles, a subtly stellar soundtrack, and many of the iconic (and sometimes, icky) moments that fans of the franchise have come to love over the years. The Past Within also offered a new twist on gameplay as Rusty Lake’s first two-player game, where one player selects The Past track and the other, The Future. The creators really nailed the two-player concept. Not only did they provide a smooth on-ramp to the partner gameplay dynamic, but also took great care to ensure that both players got a fair share of the more gripping interactions. When you’re finished playing, it’s worth replaying from the vantage point of the other track. For maximum enjoyment, I recommend playing the other Rusty Lake games first so you can experience every corner of the strange world where this game takes place.

A wooden table with a 9 digit, unlabeled keypad beside an envelope.

David Spira’s Reaction

I’m a longtime Rusty Lake fan. I love the weird darkness of the story and puzzles, and the warped dream-like logic of game world. Rusty Lake sucks you into is strange little universe and has this way of infecting your mind with its bent logic. You find yourself taking actions that out of context make no sense… but in the context of the game not only make sense, but feel necessary, maybe even obvious. It’s a magic trick of game design and world building.

The Past Within not only continued this tradition, but enhanced it by turning it into a social experience.

Fro and I have been playing Rusty Lake games at the same time for years, but this was the first time that we played one together. Two Rusty Lake fans simultaneously locked into the bewildering yet cogent logic of the The Past Within. It was a treat.

It was also Rusty Lake’s most well-clued game to date. There was only one part where we got hung up at all… and it was mostly because I didn’t realize that an interaction was available.

The last thing that I will call out about The Past Within was the brilliant use of remote two-player gameplay, without having the apps integrated or communicating. Everything was handled through timing. This was a creative, low-tech solution to two-player app design, and they did it elegantly.

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