The Inner World
Developed By: Fizbin Studios
Published By: Headup Games
Category: Adventure, Puzzle
Release Date: 8.3.18
German studio Fizbin brings us The Inner World for the Nintendo Switch, a delightful point’n’click adventure game. Originally released in 2013, Headup Games has helped port it to the Switch for Nintendo fans to experience the world of Asposia. It’s got a few hiccups, but overall it’s worth the investment.
Asposia is a shell world; the outer crust of the planet is all dirt and rock, but the inner core of the planet is all empty space. Life sprang up inside of the planet, with only a few access points leading to the surface called wind fountains. No one has ever travelled to the other side of the fountains to see what’s on the surface, and no one does so in The Inner World. It was weird that the opening movie teased it when it never came to anything, but whatever. One day, wind gods call the Basylians emerged from the fountains and began turning people to stone. Only one wind fountain remained open, the one protected by a monk named Conroy.
Players take the role of Robert, an apprentice monk in service to Conroy. Robert isn’t allowed much contact with the outside world, which is just as well. His flute-shaped nose makes him a bit of an oddity, and Robert’s self-consciousness about it is apparent. On the fateful day our story opens, a pigeon flies in the window and Robert believes they befriend each other. Peck (Rob’s name for the pigeon) steals Conroy’s favorite amulet and flies off. Upon seeing how upset Conroy is at learning his amulet is gone, Robert follows the bird down a garbage shoot and lands in the city slums. After a series of encounters with Peck’s mysterious owner, Laura, Robert begins to question his master’s motivations. His journey to the real truth behind the suffering of Asposia has begun.
So, no spoilers or nothin’, but Robert’s story is a charming tale about finding one’s place in the world. It reminded me of a Pixar movie storyline; equal parts funny, clever, and weighty whenever it needs to be. The writing is sharp and frequently witty; there will be a grin on your face almost the whole way through. The characters are sharply written and vividly defined. In short, the story and characters are the game’s biggest draw.
As fun and imaginative as the game’s world is, the gameplay is pretty standard point and click adventure fare. You investigate and interact with people and objects in the world to solve logic puzzles. Some items can be collected and combined in your inventory to form new items. You hold a button to show you all of the interaction points, then you must figure out how they all work together to move forward. Like I said, it’s not exactly groundbreaking stuff, but it’s solidly well-made. The challenge isn’t in the gameplay, it’s in your ability to interpret clues and make your own deductions. The story is the real star of the show, but the game mechanics don’t do anything to bring the experience down. The only real drawback is an occasional long load time, but it never got to more than a minute I don’t think. Still, the load times are longer than they were in similar games I’ve played.
The graphics have a very attractive hand-drawn cartoony style which was a joy to experience. Each new locale, from the monastery to the city to the swamp, has a vibrant, distinct personality all its own, while still maintaining a cohesive visual style that makes everything feel like part of the same world. The painted backgrounds are gorgeous and detailed. The character models have a very sketch-like quality to them, and their animations a slightly crude. The game is fully voice-acted, and the voice acting and speaking animations don’t always line up very well. While I was playing, the animations would occasionally stutter, but it wasn’t a major issue. Despite those few issues, though, the character designs are rather unique and brimming with personality.
The game’s audio track serves as a strong support to the story, most notably through the voice acting. Robert’s soft, timid voice develops him as a young man struggling to find his place in the world. Laura’s forceful bluster gives way to a quiet loneliness with expert deftness. And the wind chapel’s receptionist… just… damn. There are some strong performances in the game, which amplify the weight and humor of the story in equal measure. The music adequately heightens the emotions of each scene or recedes into the background so as not to disrupt your concentration while solving puzzles as needed. There isn’t a piece that got particularly stuck in my mind, but it gets the job done.
The Inner World does not use either the touch or motion controls of the Nintendo Switch, so you can play it docked or undocked as you prefer. I preferred seeing the gorgeously-painted backgrounds on the larger screen of my TV, but that’s just a personal preference. Still, I’d recommend it for docked play.
TL;DR: Charming adventure game with great characters and a wonderful story.