Ron Gilbert's Thimbleweed Park recently debuted to much acclaim, but it wasn't the only point-and-click adventure game released on Xbox One that week. The Inner World, an imaginative adventure game from Headup Games, finally arrived on consoles as well. Anyone with room in their lives for two adventure games will want to give this one a look.
An inner world in turmoil
The Inner World first launched on Steam way back in 2013, the product of German developer Studio Fizbin and publisher Headup Games. Since then, Studio Fizbin has been hard at work on the sequel, which is due to arrive this July. Before Xbox One owners can enjoy the sequel (The Last Monk), they deserve a crack at the original game. Headup kindly ported it over, and here we are.
Our story takes place in a land called Asposia. Unlike other lands, Asposia exists on the inside of a sphere – hence the title. Air enters this subterranean world through three great wells, and small floating creatures called FosFos produce light for its humanoid inhabitants.
Unfortunately for the Asposians, two of their air wells have stopped producing air. The remaining well is lorded over by the abbot Conroy, making him the de-facto dictator of the world. Meanwhile, flying creatures called Basylians occasionally emerge from Conroy's well and turn dissenting Asposians to stone.
Two unlikely heroes
Our protagonist Robert has grown up under Conroy's harsh tutelage. Despite his cruel foster parentage, Robert has a kind and innocent soul. His nose (long and pointy like all Asposians) also has four holes on top, which Robert can use to play flute-like melodies. He is apparently the only one with such a nose.
One day, Robert ends up outside Conroy's palace for the first time. There he meets Laura, a young woman wanted for treason by Conroy. Together, the two will investigate the mysteries of the air wells and Basylians while evading their pursuers. Although players mostly control Robert throughout the adventure, they'll also take over as Laura whenever he becomes indisposed.
The Inner World's story comes to life via fully voiced and animated cinematics. The art style is delightfully cartoonish, the characters much better drawn and animated than those of fellow indie adventure game The Little Acre.
The only big flaw in the presentation comes from Laura's English voice actor, Anna Lumpe. Her readings of many lines are incredibly flat, her pronunciation of words (like rebel and contagious) often incorrect. If Laura returns in the sequel, let's hope the developers cast a new voice actress with greater English proficiency.
Although The Inner World's story goes to some dark places (touching upon such heavy subjects as genocide), the actual tone of the game is light and subversive – sort of Monty Pythonish. The dialog overflows with clever jokes, making every conversation a delight.
The one exception happens in Chapter 3, during an argument between Laura and a creature called Gorfelina. Things get heated and Gorfelina calls Laura a bitch. That obscenity doesn't fit the game's tone at all, and likely results from the translation team's failure to understand the impact of English profanity.
Puzzles and controls
The Inner World is a traditional point-and-click adventure game. Players must explore each scene, interacting with the characters they meet, scavenging for items, and solving puzzles in order to reach new areas and progress the story.
You can't die or fail in this one, so the challenge comes from the puzzles themselves – figuring out where to go and what to do. Not only must you manage an inventory and use items to solve environmental puzzles, but some items can be combined with others in your inventory. For instance, combining a worm with a crutch makes a slingshot. Basically, you'll sometimes have to bang items into other items until something works.
Translating point-and-click controls to console can be tough. The Inner World does away with the need to hunt for hotspots by allowing players to hold a button to reveal any nearby points of interaction. Less cool, you can't just walk up to something and hit an interaction button to use it. Instead, you have to hold the hotspot button and then use the bumper buttons to cycle between nearby hotspots.
That wouldn't be so bad, but the way the game cycles between hotspots is basically random. Left Bumper doesn't specifically move to a hotspot on the left of your character, which would make sense. Instead, the cursor jumps between points with no discernible pattern. This makes interaction far clumsier than it should be, forcing players to cycle between multiple hotspots for even the simplest of interactions.
The Xbox One version of The Inner World features 23 Achievements worth a total of 1,000 Gamerscore. These include Achievements for completing each of the game's five chapters, for beating it without using an in-game hint, and talking to every possible character (a few of whom are easy to overlook).
There are also numerous Achievements for optional tasks such as giving a bouquet of flowers to the Gorfelina, making a fruit fall from a tree, and more. These are all missable, as you might lose necessary items or be unable to backtrack to their locations. Completionists will want to look up solutions or follow a guide to get them.
Although it had the misfortune of launching alongside the more-hyped Thimbleweed Park, The Inner World is still one of the best point-and-click adventure games on Xbox One. The story, writing, and cartoon-like animation are just so clever and entertaining. The puzzles mostly make sense, so players shouldn't have to consult guides (or use in-game hints) terribly often. It's also fairly long, clocking in at around ten hours when played without a guide.
Adventure game fans should grab this one up. Clunky controls aside, you'll have a great time visiting The Inner World. With the sequel arriving in July, the wait for the next installment will be far less painful for console gamers than it was for PC players!
- A unique fantasy world filled with memorable creatures and characters
- Witty dialog, banter, and lots of humor
- Fantastic art and animation
- Swapping between interactive hotspots is clumsy and unintuitive
- Some weak voice acting
Xbox One review copy provided by the publisher.
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