The Rich Inner World of The Inner World
The Inner World tells the tragic story of the people of Asposia. They live in a hollow planet which has lost most of its air, and all the while the residents are terrorized by ferocious monsters who petrify the sinful. The main character, Robert, is court musician for his religious leader and emotionally abusive father figure, Conroy. The game starts with the earnest, if naive, Robert leaping out of the safety of his home to the world outside in search of an amulet stolen from Conroy. Robert is a wonderful protagonist; he is a genuine and sweet soul, and you can’t help but love the little guy. You learn about the world around you as Robert does — he’s been so sheltered his whole life the exposition doesn’t feel forced.
The other main character you’ll meet, Laura, is a spunky rebel, driven by her own mysterious quest. Robert is enamored with her, and their stories intertwine to reveal deep secrets about Asposia’s history. The only disappointment with Laura is that you don’t get to play from her point of view very much! Her argumentative dialogue with other residents of Asposia mimics what many players have probably muttered about NPCs in their time.
The art is done in a unique, hand drawn style which is charming and really makes the game special. The colorful two dimensional drawings stand out from darker backgrounds, mimicking the darkness of the world at large that Robert is working to defeat. The characters range from all shapes and sizes, meaning each character you interact with feels like a totally different person rather than just a horde of faceless NPCs. The design lends itself to a deep, rich world that the player wanders through, drawn forward by unearthing more of the mystery.
A Thumb Workout
Your quest is divided map by map, with each scene holding a new place for Robert to explore in the world of Asposia. The main frustration of this game is that the format of a point and click adventure doesn’t translate well to the console. A great deal of time is spent scrolling back and forth between items and areas to interact with. Like any good puzzle solving game, there is a lot of trial and error, and therefore a lot of clicking back and forth. The triggers save you a little bit here comfort wise, but it does slow down the adventure a little and doesn’t match the pace of the plot of a race against time to save the world.
Another feature of gameplay unique to the point and click genre is the hint system, and The Inner World has a really, really good one. You can access the menu for hints at any time and for any quest, and the clues start with just the tiniest most abstract hints, serving to jumpstart your creativity instead of just telling you what to do. If you need more help, you can continue getting hints until the game does tell you basically exactly what to do, which is helpful if you know the concept of your next step, just not how to make it happen.
The Inner Story
The story of The Inner World is deep and beautiful, and you slowly learn Robert’s role in it while solving the puzzles. Even if you start out knowing Conroy is bad news, you don’t fully understand his character until the climax of the plot, which makes for a good revelation. Watching the characters grow as friends and adventuring partners before learning how their personal stories intersect makes the payoff satisfying. The dialogue really shines in the game, giving you excellent character development. You really grow attached to Robert and Laura, and invested in their journeys.
Unfortunately, after so long spent in this delightful story, the endgame falls flat. Robert is saved by what feels like fairly contrived dues ex machina before getting to solve the final puzzle. This final puzzle is a satisfying one, but then you end the game with a long cutscene, rather than getting to be a part of Robert’s victory. You learn one of the most important gameplay aspects late in the game and so don’t get to use it very much, and it would have fit perfectly in the end game. Even just getting to press a few buttons to do something during this would have been fun, instead of just watching it unfold.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for The Inner World was provided by Headup Games.