Reviewed on PCAlso available on Nintendo Switch, PC, Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One
Innerspace is a game all about exploring a desolate universe where each world faces in towards you, almost feeling as though they are collapsing into you. Along with the freedom of movement afforded to you by flying around in the air or deep diving into the sea comes the fact that the world is finite by design. The limits to the worlds help the player find the correct route among many and encourage exploration for explorations sake. The progression of the visuals and the sound compliment each other perfectly, they both build exponentially throughout each world, every level looks more stunning than the last and the sound design matches this every step of the way, with music serving to guide you as much as the graphics do.
You play an AI called the Cartographer brought back by the last remaining descendant of the Ancients who calls themselves the Archaeologist. Your aim is to explore the barren universe known as the Inverse. Your directive is to expand your horizons and that is the only goal you need. At any given point you can discuss what direction you should be going and what ancient thing you should be prodding to move forwards, though the game encourages getting lost in each world as much as it helps you find your way.
Throughout your journey you find Demi Gods frozen in time that you can save by flying or swimming along and solving some puzzles that can sometimes feel at odds to the relaxing nature of the game. These characters have some truly great writing and the philosophical points that they talk to you about are genuinely interesting. The game is introspective in both the literal and metaphorical sense, each world is inward looking and each character talks about things that you can genuinely reflect on.
Graphically the game feels incredibly minimalist, almost underwhelming initially. However as you progress the beauty of the style starts to shine through and the worlds become populated with an ever increasing palate of colours which creates an growing beauty in the game that you would be hard pressed to replicate anywhere else. The wind affects to help guide you are genius and the continuous progression towards the end point are stunning.
The sound design is almost more awe inspiring than the visuals. You will find yourself enamoured with the parts of the game which build upon the songs leading to a fantastic crescendo as you solve the puzzles. Each pick up is accompanied by a single musical note and even turning causes a wonderful dance of notes in time with your movements.
Overall the controls are good for the most part, although there were parts where turning didn't go as well as I would like. Though that may be due to my own ability rather than anything else. Playing with a controller is definitely recommend and the game feels built for it, the simplicity of the control scheme helps the relaxing feel of the game overall and fits in well as such. The drift function is paticualrly interesting as it lets you continue moving in the direction you are going as you take a chance to look all around you and figure out which place to discover next.
The level design is a true triumph in subtly leading the player down a certain route. Throughout the experience despite not knowing where to go I found myself choosing the correct path out of multiple routes. It speaks to the talent of the team that no matter which direction you choose there will be something at the end that makes the journey feel worth while.
Innerspace is a game full of fascinating juxtapositions and contrary ideas, from the setting of the game being inside out worlds to the mechanics of moving between sea and air. The worlds are dead and immobile, in making them move you truly bring about the end of the Demi Gods that inhabit each one. The natural air of relaxation is occasionally pulled away by a tide of frustration because you know there is something you should be doing, but you can't figure out exactly what it is. The one theme that goes throughout the game is one of hope, the story is hopeful and is all about moving forwards. One of the characters even tells you that staying still is stagnation and worse than death and that you should always continue to move forwards. The game has this all the way through it, at no point is staying still for any length of time acceptable, you should always be moving towards the next great discovery and the next minimalist vista.
This is one of those games that should be played by most people, it recalls many other games while being wholly unique in it's execution and style. The team over at PolyKnight Games have put together a truly beautiful experience and it is well worth checking out and getting lost in, even having completed the game I want to jump back in and look around for a bit longer.