Point-and-click adventures are in no shortage these days, with the likes of developers Artifex Mundi churning them out one after another and other recent delights arriving such as The Little Acre. So when The Inner World – another point-and-click affair – was revealed to be releasing on the consoles, I wondered how it’d fare amongst the rest, even though it was quite obviously well received on PC and mobile devices a couple of years back. The more I heard about The Inner World, the more I become confused over the premise. But maybe the fact it seems so utterly bizarre could work in its favour, to stand out from the rest if executed well. Is that the case?
Absolutely it is, because from the moment the story begins, you feel a sense of intrigue about this strange world and the equally odd characters. Set in the world of Asposia, a world that appears to be located in a hollow space, you are introduced to a delightful, if somewhat naive young chap named Robert. He’s smack bang in the middle of rather unfortunate circumstances, trying to figure out why the wind fountains which ventilate the world are failing and what’s really going on in Asposia, whilst also questioning his own life and those he trusts. As the adventure ensues, a female thief, Laura, accompanies him by pure chance, with her own agenda and problems to deal with. What could possibly go wrong when all hope rests upon a thief and a bit of a fool?
There’s no doubt in my mind, the storytelling is rather encapsulating and even though it takes a while to piece together what’s going on, I’m not sure I’ve laughed so much during a point-and-clicker since the Sam & Max series. Robert provides unintentional humour in spades and is quite endearing with his constant sense of wonderment. In a way, he’s kind of like the player; not sure what’s going on, asking lots of questions to try and get somewhere. Fortunately, as the player, I caught on a lot quicker than poor Robert.
But he’s not the only standout character, for every other voiced NPC has a unique personality which shines through and is utterly entertaining. Whether it’s a crooked salesman, or a cranky old fella, the quality of visual design and a suitable voiceover is never in question. This helps you to pay extra attention to the standard conversation trees and actual cutscenes.
Moving onto the gameplay, and across the five chapters of The Inner World you’ll be expected to solve numerous puzzling problems using logic and anything you can get your hands on. Robert can be controlled and manoeuvred, however, to interact with anything you’ll need to cycle through – using the left or right bumper – the nearby interactive hot spots to find the one you want, before deciding whether to take a look, perform an action, or add something to it from your inventory. I’m not overly fond of having to cycle through numerous hot spots time and time again; it feels time wasting and it’s really counter-intuitive.
As an example, there could be a blocked pipe that needs to be unclogged to get a machine working and with nothing at hand, a search around the chapter’s handful of hand drawn areas for anything useful is required. Firstly, recognising what that item is can be a task unto itself, and then you’ll need to figure out how you’re going to acquire that item. Turns out it was an arrow, because that’s the kind of random yet creative solutions you can expect, which always keeps you thinking on your feet about possible options and making something from nothing – such as a false insect using a tassel and some pins. You are the MacGyver of this point-and-click adventure.
The developers, Studio Fizbin, stick with this method of puzzle solving for the most part – although a few other puzzle types are thrown into the mix to freshen things up. What I will say is that my word some of the solutions are bloody difficult to figure out and if it wasn’t for a certain feature, I’d still be stuck now. There are a series of hints at hand for what to do and how to do it, but the devs have applied such a feature in a way that reveals the text based hints in stages to give you a chance of grasping what it wants, or you can keep asking until it throws in the towel and tells you the exact solution. It’s a quick and relatively pain-free way of making The Inner World accessible to gamers with a wide range of intuition when it comes to problem solving.
It’s quite surprising really, given the fact Asposia is quite a grim looking world, that The Inner World manages to be so wonderfully delightful. Every area sets itself apart from the rest, whether in a dodgy street or a theatre, each one is distinguishable and shows off the great hand drawn artwork. With wonderful characters, creative solutions to problems, plenty of humour and an interesting, albeit weird story, I love almost every minute of the almost seven hour adventure. Even when puzzles get stupidly hard, the hint system saves the day. It’s only held back by the odd freeze up and those darn controls for interacting – they really irritate me more than they should.
The Inner World deserves your time, and for the price, it really shouldn’t be missed. Take yourself to this world of zany characters and have a chuckle for a good while, all whilst testing your problem solving skills.