In an age of shooters, MOBAs and the hybrid IPs that are constantly cropping up in the video game sphere, it is nice to get down to basics and enjoy a simplistic type of gaming experience that does not put too much pressure on the gamer.
To begin, I will say that this game is not going to be for everyone, and those that crave action, adventure and explosions every step of the way may get a little disappointed. The Inner World, developed by Studio Fizbin, is at its heart, a puzzle solving game and unless you are addicted to solving them as all versions of Sherlock Holmes are, you may not enjoy it to the fullest extent.
Let Me Tell You A Story…Of A Pigeon
The storyline of The Inner World follows the small underground civilisation of Asporia, that is populated by a weird race of either annoyingly naive beings or painfully jaded ones. They survive due to the presence of specialised fountains known as wind fountains that, well let wind in to the underground caverns. This wind, also brings light, which in turn brings warmth, so when the wind fountains stopped working, the people began to suffer in more ways than one….ooooooo. Essentially the story revolves around Robert, a naive Asporian who sets off to accomplish one task, and stumbles on to a whole lot more…all because of a pigeon.
This leads me to one of the negative points of The Inner World and one that can be tied in with the gameplay part of this review, however I can understand that this ‘flaw’ flows with the design of the game itself. The Inner World is simply a puzzle game, and you cannot move on from each section without solving every obstacle in the previous one. Now The Inner World is not a large game, there are not multiple side quests you can accomplish for a myriad of NPCs, it is very linear in its scope which leads to the problem. If you do not discover every single item or clue in an area, you cannot move on with the game, there is no option to move on a little and tackle the puzzle at a later date, you have to solve it to continue with the game.
This was a slight but significant flaw to me, as I could not see it breeding anything other frustration and it simply impacts the flow of the story. However, on the other foot, a lot of gamers do enjoy a challenge and The Inner World may be the perfect game for that niche of individuals.
The Humour Is Kind Of Dark…And I Love It
Alright so I guess I could have written about the snappy dialogue in the above story section but it honestly needed a section of its own. The Inner World is not exactly meant for children. I mean it has puzzles and pigeons and all sorts of fun little things but this dystopian landscape is also home to the most jaded beings under the earth. With dialogue options featuring castration, wildly inappropriate sexual exploits and talk of suicide, the denizens of Asposia need all the drinks and hugs they can possibly get.
That being said, I absolutely love the distinct brand of humour that The Inner World brings to the table. It further emphasises the direness of the situation and how in a dystopian noir type landscape, PG ratings go out the window.
I Like The Way You Move
There is a simple premise to The Inner World and it is to utilise the series of objects that you have in a given area in such a clever way that you can overcome that particular challenge in the scope of the entire story. For example, without giving away too much, the above picture is all about that pigeon when you first delve into the game. Believe me, either it is a challenge in the first place to get that bird or I am just really bad at these types of games. In fact some of the combinations needed to solve certain obstacles are either so glaringly obvious or cleverly conceptual in their design, that it takes you a whole lot of time to put two and two together. And it usually ends in an answer of five.
The Inner World being a puzzle game does not have a lot of complex controls at its disposal, there are no crazy combos you can execute to climb up the drain pipes and sides of walls. What it does have are a set of basic controls that you use to navigate the entire story, from simple movement, to item select, and inventory control. For the most part these are the only controls you will need the entire time you are in present in The Inner World.
But have no fear, The Inner World does come equipped with a clue system, so if you are well and truly stuck, you can simply utilise that in order to progress. It operates much like a mission dossier, with every bit of information you have uncovered thus far presented in a list-like layout. However, that being said, when you uncover the next sections of the list, the ‘clues’ aren’t straight up telling the player what to do but instead guide them towards the object they are looking for.
The Sights And Sounds Of Asposia
Lets start with the visual component. The Inner World follows a story about a crumbling civilisation and dark, disturbing times in the lives of the residents. It is essentially a dictatorship and the surrounding environment reflects that to the tee. Almost every scene is dark and dreary and has at least one thing that can kill or maim you (Hint : in the above picture it is the big green thing). It showcases a noir landscape in such a way that contrasts greatly with the main character, as you will find out.
The art style is quite unique and serves to make each scene delightfully complex in its simplicity and an absolute treasure to navigate around in search of the tiniest detail you most likely would have missed.
Where there is sight there is often sound and in an almost direct contrast to the dystopian noir landscape and the dreary responses of many of the residents, the overlying music of The Inner World is quite upbeat and whimsical. It reminds me more of a walk through a well lit magical forest full of talking trees and fairy folk, rather than a stage for death, exile and betrayal. It is quite delightful with the opposite themes assaulting the senses at once.
The Inner World fits into a particular niche in the mass collection of gaming genres that reign today, that being a puzzler. It is not designed for its complex gameplay and mind bending graphics to be a hit, but to boggle the mind in its own unique way. Despite not having a profound love for this genre of video game, I have to admit The Inner World does its job well, in such a way that doesn’t make it boring. The utility of the items you collect factor into the game at odd intervals in ways you were not expecting, this can oftentimes make it frustrating so you will need to think outside the box.
Coupled with this, the dark and in many ways depressed humour that is paramount within this game, showcases it as a game for the older gamers and will bring a giggle out of each player, even if it is out of shock…much like any Cards Against Humanity round. That being said, the story is quite linear, which can get quite boring in the scope of things and gameplay is quite simplistic, as it effectively revolves around almost 2D movement but it suits The Inner World perfectly.
The Inner World is coming to Xbox One and Playstation 4 on the 31st of March 2017 and will be available in their respective digital stores.