STAFF REVIEW of Inner World,The (Xbox One)

Friday, March 24, 2017.
by Adam Dileva

Inner World,The Box art Growing up in the golden age of point and click adventures, I fell in love with the genre. How could you not when you had amazing classics like Maniac Mansion, The Secret of Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, Sam and Max, and nearly every LucasArts game from the 80’s and 90’s. The genre seemingly died out after the 90’s for the most part, which is a shame as some of my best gaming memories are embedded into the games listed above. That’s not to say there’s been no point and click adventures in recent years, but nowhere near the amount that there used to be.

So when a new point and click adventure releases, I become very excited to try it out and hope to enjoy myself just as much as I did when I was growing up with the classics. The Inner World actually released on PC back in 2013, yet it passed me by completely, but now that it’s making its way to Xbox One I jumped on the chance to check it out.

Created by German developer Studio Fizbin, The Inner World is exactly what I was hoping it would be: a funny, engaging and challenging point and click adventure with a ton of heart and charm that’s clearly been a labor of love. The art style is completely hand drawn, giving it a unique look and style, though don’t let its cartoonish visuals fool you that it’s intended for kids, as there’s a ton of adult underlying tones and innuendo that even surprised me.

To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect from The Inner World’s narrative when I began, but I was pleasantly surprised with an engaging story filled with memorable and amusing characters throughout and an overarching story that kept me playing to find out what was going to happen next. Taking place in the world of Asposia, a unique landscape, as it’s simply a world of infinite soil and dirt, except for the small hollow bubble that the Asposians live in. Their air supply used to come from three separate wind fountains but they stopped working, angering the wind gods, the Basylians. They were so angry that they started turning nearly all of the Asposians to stone, save for a select few.

This is where you’re introduced to your protagonist Robert, a cute yet ever so clueless character that has a heart of gold, but has no idea of the adventure that lies before him. Robert is the apprentice to Conroy, a wind monk watching over the last functional wind fountain, who has also sheltered Robert his whole life in his palace. Conroy forces Robert to play a soothing song with his unique flute nose, consisting of a single note, and this is where the quirky adventure begins.

From the onset you can tell that something isn’t right with Conroy, and while some plot points of obvious from the get go, that doesn’t dull down the narrative in any way, as you’ll meet a handful of memorable characters, each with very distinct personalities. You’ll spent the bulk of Robert’s adventure with a shadowy thief named Laura and a pesky pigeon named Peck. Once Robert is off on his own he starts to see how sheltered he has been his whole life, and while usually oblivious characters like this are annoying, Robert is so wonderfully acted that I couldn’t help but cheer for him the whole way.

Even just the main plot is odd, but that’s part of what makes The Inner World have so much charm. It’s a unique story wonderfully written and has a very distinct art style that only helps emphasize its quirkiness. My wife and daughter actually asked what I was watching, not playing, when I was going through it, and my daughter sat and watched it just as if it was a cartoon she’d see on TV. The whole game is completely hand drawn, so there’s a ton of details and intricacies in nearly every scene that simply wouldn’t be as natural if done otherwise.

It’s not easy to have a playable game that looks like it’s simply a cartoon playing, as the animation is completely smooth, even when you’re in direct control of Robert. So while it’s labeled as a point and click, you do control Robert as you normally would any other 2D game, moving from scene to scene and object to object. Not enough flattering comments can be said about its visuals, as I instantly fell in love with the distinct style.

Part of the reason many games in this genre don’t translate to console well is the awkward controls with a controller, and while not completely perfect here, it works once you figure out how to utilize it efficiently. Given that you control your character with the thumb stick and not the traditional point and click, this solves half of the tedious problems. Part of the solution Studio Fizbin came up with is the ability to press the bumpers to cycle through all of the interactive objects on the screen that are within range.

As you begin, this seems to work decently, as there’s usually only a handful of objects that can be inspected or manipulated, but in the last few chapters, there’s a surprising amount of objects on screen sometimes, making cycling through objects a little tedious. Granted, you can stand close to the item you want to select it quicker, but sometimes that isn’t as efficient. If an object is selectable, there’s a good chance that you’ll need to interact with it at some point, either by taking, manipulating the item or talking to the person.

Selecting an item will show you 3 different icons that represent different ways to interact. You can look (magnifying glass) at it, interact (gear icon or speech bubble), or add an item from your inventory to combine (the plus symbol). While there’s no real tutorial that explains how to do so, it’s pretty obvious and doesn’t need much explanation. It would have been nice to have been taught how to combine items, but you’ll also figure that out on your own easily once needed. When you do have a conversation with another character you can choose the topics of what you’d like to talk about, represented by a specific icon, though you won’t know if all of the conversation has been exhausted until you try to speak about it again a few times.

The core gameplay of The Inner World is solving the numerous puzzles placed before you, though these aren’t your standard types of puzzles, and will have you wracking your brain as to what the solution could be. The puzzles seem to be completely tailored for the world of Asposia, as it never takes itself seriously and will have you thinking in unorthodox ways to solve Robert’s problems. One example: having to distract a guard that won’t let you pass, so you make him look the other way, swap your wanted poster for a poster of himself, then watch as he arrests himself. This is the type of silliness you can expect, and it's a better game for it.

It’s quirky thinking like that that will have to be used to progress your adventure. While many puzzles have a logical solution, you simply need to figure out the Asposian way to doing so, usually leading to some hilarious moments and obtuse solutions. Even though each chapter only contains a handful of scenes in each, you’ll be moving from one to the next as there’s always a handful of tasks to complete, generally in linear fashion. If things become overwhelming or simply don’t make sense, this is where the fantastic hint system comes into play, something which I had to rely on numerous times. While some may feel the hint system is cheating, it’s completely optional and is done in such an ingenious way, offering you as much or as little help as you want.

The hint system is multi-layered, so if you look up a clue to what you need to do, it’ll generally start out with a much broader clue. Still don’t get it? Keep checking the hint system and it will eventually tell you exactly what to do next, even to the point of using item A with object B, or talking to a certain person about a specific topic. Many times I needed some help, but only needed a slight clue, other times I needed to be hit on the head with what to do next, so having the multilayered hint system was a great mechanic to have. This allows everyone to complete the game regardless of their puzzle solving abilities and skill level.

I’ve said many great things about the distinct and beautiful visuals of The Inner World, but the script and voice acting also needs its own mentioning. Sometimes when you get a game what was initially developed in another language, converting it to English sometimes makes it lose its humor or leaves poor translations in its conversion. Luckily these concerns aren’t a factor, making for excellent dialogue and even better voice acting.

Voiced by Mike McAlpine, Robert is a lovingly believable character that comes to life with an amazing performance. Robert is so naive that you just want to love him for how innocent he really is. Nearly every character in Asposia you come across is voiced wonderfully, adding to their character and quirky personality. I’m done playing The Inner World, but I’ll remember many of these characters for years to come.

Given its cartoonish hand drawn art style, you would think that The Inner World is more aimed towards kids, and while there’s nothing stopping them from playing, there’s times where it seems like the much more adult demographic was intended. There’s a barkeep you’ll come across that goes on about her adult exploits, simply done with innuendo of course, or a female creature that gets into a verbal spat with Laura, causing for some interesting choice of words to be used while insulting each other. While I myself found these moments hilarious, just be mindful if you want to shelter the younger ones away, as the childish appearance may make it look kid friendly.

For how much praise I give to The Inner World, it did have a few issues I came across. Namely the control scheme, while functional, is a little cumbersome at times when you need to tab between multiple items to highlight the one you want. Given that much of the gameplay is trial and error, it becomes a pain if you’re simply guessing over and over what to combine with what having to cycle between a dozen objects on screen.

I also had one instance where I was unable to move after interacting with an object, clearly a simple bug and one I was able to remedy by playing my flute nose, but I had that small moment of panic wondering if I was going to have to restart and lose my progress. Lastly, some of the puzzles will make sense after solving them, but when you’re struggling to figure it out, it can seem a little too obtuse at times. Granted, the hint system is there to help when needed, but you’re going to have to learn to think completely out of the box for some of the solutions.

I didn’t want my time in Asposia with Robert to end. Each character was a treat to interact with and the writing is filled to the brim with humor and even better voice acting. The graphics are stunning for its style, and even though you’ll be done The Inner World in roughly 6-10 hours depending on your puzzle solving abilities and reliance on the hint system, I was completely satisfied once the credits rolled.

The humor will constantly having you crack a smile or smirking, and you can’t help but get the sense that The Inner World was a labor of love. Simply put, The Inner World is endearing and charming and I’m glad I got to experience it, as should you. If you’ve been craving a great point and click adventure, or simply want a game with some fantastic visuals, audio, and narrative, look no further than The Inner World and spend a wonderful few hours in the world of Asposia with some memorable characters.

Overall: 9.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.5 / 10
Sound: 9.5 / 10


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