"The beautiful scenes form a cohesive Asposia that captures its odd wonder and frailty, crafting a universe distinct from our own."
Another point-and-click fresh on the indie scene by Studio Fizbin, The Inner World hails from Germany, home of bigwigs such as Daedalic Entertainment and KING Art Games, but does it match up to its peers? Eschewing shiny graphics for cartoonish hand drawn and animated scenes, the game reels us back to the basics of adventure gaming.
Asposia is a world encased in soil and reliant on wind fountains for ventilation and energy. Naïvely cheerful and sheltered, Robert, our protagonist, is a novice under Conroy, abbot of the sole remaining wind temple. When one of Conroy's prized items is stolen, Robert tumbles out of the monastery and into the decaying city streets in search of it. As he muddles along in pursuit, he uncovers secrets of the city and, with each new discovery, begins to mature into a well-adjusted hero.
The characters and dialogue are hilarious at times, but tend to become long-winded when looking for crucial information. That said, I can't remember the last time I've been so amused by listening to dialogue and disappointed when it stops. Though the game appears to be made for kids, some exchanges are thick with innuendo that many adults will find entertaining. Most characters fall into typical archetypes, but they ham it up to the point of absurdity — and it works! Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the story. While the plot is sufficiently engaging with serious themes such as corruption and religion, it fails to build on its full potential, resulting in a predictable plod to the ending.
Puzzles are a central aspect of the typical point-and-click fare found in The Inner World. Items can be analyzed, combined, or used on something or someone. Regrettably, there are no witty comments to invalid combinations — simply a questioning of the player's intelligence. True to classic adventuring roots, random combining is often the way to the solution, though players may use an extensive hint system that provides ample nudging in the right direction without giving it all away until the very last clue. It's a shame that such a promising game falls on figuring out what the developers are thinking instead of them leading you to what they think to solve puzzles. If the dialogue focused less on the humor and tried to integrate clues from the hint system, there might be less frustration involved. Additionally, when attempting to solve multi-room puzzles, the loading screen between scenes tires quickly. Worse, the game occasionally froze, resulting in reloads and the need to reacquire certain items. The game is playable, but could definitely be better.
Returning to hand-drawn and -painted graphics, The Inner World is a welcome breather from hyper-realistic images. Though some might find the cartoonish visuals unappealing, others revel in their simplicity. The beautiful scenes form a cohesive Asposia that captures its odd wonder and frailty, crafting a universe distinct from our own. Sadly, the graphics are a double-edged sword as the animated cutscenes are often fuzzy at best due to the considerable zoom on the artwork. Despite that, the game is delightful and fascinating to observe, and I would have loved to see more of Asposia.
The atmosphere is further heightened by the music, which, while not memorable, complements the scenes. Like the artwork, the tunes are smooth and simple, and the sound effects are basic, but appropriate. Every line in the game is voiced, and though there are a few that aren't quite up to par, the majority is fabulous, creating compelling dynamics between characters.
The Inner World plays like a nostalgia trip on steroids — it does all the core elements with earnest intensity, but that includes the mediocre aspects as well. For those who love classic point-and-click adventure games, The Inner World meets all expectations with a few additional frills. Yet, for those seeking something more, neither does it pave the way for a revolution.