Review: The Inner World by Headup Games and Studio Fizbin

Review: The Inner World by Headup Games and Studio Fizbin
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Platforms:

PC

Game Name:

The Inner World

Publisher(s):

Neko Entertainment

Developer(s):

Headup Games, Studio Fizbin

Genre(s):

Adventure

Release Date:

September 27 2013

The Inner World: What We Think

Robert is the adopted son of a great wind priest, and leads a sheltered life in a Wind Monastery. One day, his adoptive father’s special amulet is stolen. He gives chase, resulting in a quest that will uncover a series of secrets that will possibly change the world forever.

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Simpler times…

The Inner World is a point and click adventure with an art style reminiscent of Amanita‘s Machinarium. The world is rich in detail, and the characters are endearing and comically over the top. While progressing through the narrative can at times present some head-scratching conflicts between logical solutions and deus ex machina, the overall tale that emerges is one worth taking in.

Between Inside A Rock and a Hard Place

The game takes place in Asposia, a world that exists in a pocket of air within a galaxy made up of solid matter. The people were once sustained by great gusts of wind that emerged from the three wind wells. Unfortunately, two of these wells have ceased to produce wind. The third – still barely conjuring breezes – is protected by the wind priest Conroy, who just happens to be Robert’s adopted father.

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He talks to himself in the mirror, and so should you.

Conroy keeps Robert in the tower next to his well, and forces him to hide his deformity; unlike most Asposians, Robert has four holes along the top of his pointy nose, and can play it like a flute. To avoid attracting attention, Robert wears a striped sock over his wacky schnoz.

Robert’s Your Uncle

Robert starts his journey after chasing a thieving pigeon down a refuse tunnel. To move Robert, simply point the cursor to a spot and click. Clicking on characters and certain items will allow further interaction. Pick up any trinkets you can, as they will eventually be used as part of a riddle or puzzle. Talking to citizens will uncover new subquests that Robert will need to solve to progress.

Before long, Robert meets and confronts people he once viewed as enemies. As more information surfaces, it becomes clear that Robert’s sheltered upbringing and spoon-fed “truths” have done him no favors. He begins to see the plight of his world for what it really is.

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All the world’s a stage.

A Nose For Adventure

Robert handily bears all the hallmarks of the unlikely hero-in-waiting. He’s affable, if somewhat awkward (living isolated in a tower and being forced to hide your flute nose can do that to a guy). He’s completely innocent to the seedier aspects of life in the outside world, which makes for countless hilarious encounters with the locals that live in the slum just outside his stately prison.

He’s also stalwart and resolute; regardless of what is presented to him, he is core-programmed to do what he knows is right, even if it means turning his own life upside-down. It’s hard not to cheer for the guy, and it makes guiding him in his trials all the more compelling.

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Inner Voices

Almost the entire cast of characters consists of a delicate balance of archetypes and caricatures and this is elevated by the excellence in voice acting. There are only a few exceptions of note: a couple of citizens seem to sport more than one voice – they’ll be speaking a line in a distinct manner, and then a cut-scene will crop up, and the voice seems completely different.

While it’s clear that they were performed by the same voice actor, it feels as though the delivery wasn’t settled upon before beginning the recordings, and it morphed somewhere along the way. It’s a minor detail, but amidst the otherwise stellar deliveries, it stood out considerably.

Inner Beauty

The game oozes with charm; backdrops, characters and cutscenes alike are all hand-drawn, and are crisp, bright and vibrant. Elements are animated and alive, with a wide variety of facial expressions that keep things lively and varied. The slightly grotesque characters, drawn in a style reminiscent of Gary Baseman‘s paintings, or outtakes from The Beatles” Yellow Submarine offer a refreshingly alternative visual palette not dissimilar to Telltale’s Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent.

The generally loungey, Beatnik soundtrack trades with orchestral score as it seethes in the alleyways, bounces while Robert makes his pratfalls, and soars appropriately as the story reaches its climax – no complaints here, the music is very well done.

Just Clued In

The Inner World also features an interactive clue system that will start by giving really general hints, each time providing a link to a more specific query. Clicking the question mark found at the top left of the screen activates the feature, and it will only present clues for the situations immediately facing Robert – which is handy – as you don’t need to spend a great deal of time parsing a database to get your information.

If you’ve partially solved a riddle, those details will be removed from the available hints, making for a highly streamlined experience. Truly, you could play through the entire game without solving a thing on your own, but there is an achievement to be unlocked for solving the mysteries without assistance.

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In this cursed realm, mania takes many forms.

Some of the puzzles are going to make it hard to not use the clue system. There are a few solutions that can feel like a real logical stretch, and there are characters that get used as components in problems far too often. These are often the biggest challenges for adventure games of this nature.

On the other hand, the convenience of some of the solutions is also a bit of a kick to the fourth wall. For example: a lady has information, but will only turn it over if you knit a onesie for her baby. Travel to the next screen, and you encounter an imprisoned master knitter. Even within the nonsensical confines of this bizarre realm, placements like that can take you outside of the fantasy just long enough to roll your eyes.

Cool Breeze

Ultimately, the Inner World is an indie adventure game that point and click fans should not pass up. The world design, story and humorous slant all contribute to a thoroughly entertaining and challenging interactive tale. Depending on your level of puzzle-cracking prowess, clearing the story may take 6-8 hours, so there is definitely bang for the buck. Flaws considered and put aside, The Inner World is an otherworldly treat and a standout in the genre within 2013.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Get The Inner World on Steam

Adam Fimio

AKA Callabrantus [Toronto, Canada] has been an avid gamer since playing his first arcade game when he was two years old. Years later, he still dives into games on a daily basis hoping to recreate the high from that first hit.

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