Ever since its release in 2012, a multitude of indie developers have tried to emulate the experience provided by Journey. The likes of ABZÛ and AER: Memories of Old have come close to replicating what made the PlayStation 3 release so special, but then there are other imitators that miss the mark completely. InnerSpace, the debut title from developer PolyKnight Games, just about sits in the middle of the two extremes. While the Kickstarted project does have a stunning art style to boast about, it’s the gameplay, the mystery, and vagueness that form the core of this type of game that brings the experience back down to Earth.
Much of InnerSpace’s plot focuses on exploration, as you uncover the Inverse and the final days of its planets. With help from the Archaeologist, it’s your job to find out how these worlds got into such a state and what role the Demigods played in all of this as they seized control of the main source of power, Wind. Much of this narrative is told through interactions with the Archaeologist, and finding relics scattered throughout the Inverse’s planets. These date back to the Ancients, a civilisation that populated the world before their eventual demise.
And thankfully, their story is a genuinely interesting one. Locating and capturing every single relic is optional, but it would be a disservice to not collect every one you come across. That’s thanks to the lore and plot developments contained within, which give explanation to both the planet you’re on and further backstory on the settlements that came before you.
InnerSpace’s core gameplay loop revolves around its gliding and flying mechanics, which allow you to gracefully soar through the air, and then seamlessly dive into the ocean to uncover even more mysteries. Whether you’re traversing the sky or the ocean, the controls remain exactly the same to help keep things simple and easy to handle.
What isn’t so straightforward, however, is the simple act of making concrete progress through the game. Objectives generally revolve around activating ancient technology, interacting with the Demigods, or flipping multiple switches in order to power up machinery, but these tasks are never spelt out in any meaningful manner. The Archaeologist will provide you with some clues to making advancements, but again, these remain rather vague. Because of this, much of our time was spent simply wandering the environment in search of anything we could interact with that could possibly spell out a means of progression.
Another annoyance we suffered from was the complete lack of the ability to hover. Spread across the areas are bubbles which you can enter and re-align yourself with a projectile boost, but it isn’t possible to just simply stop in mid-air. This makes solving puzzles so much harder, as it isn’t possible to slow things down and survey the situation. You’re always on the move and possibly missing out on discovering a key mechanic to a certain puzzle.
On the other hand, all of this almost feels intentional. When you reach a new area, it can be very relaxing to just fly around, discover new landmarks, and take a dive into the ocean to meet the new wildlife. Maybe you’ll interact with an objective or two eventually, but the almost calming experience makes it out to be not so big of a deal.
In this case, it feels like PolyKnight Games was stuck between making a title that rewards hard progression, and one that acts as a relaxation tool. Neither option feels fully utilised to take advantage of its surroundings, and thus it feels like a half-baked effort on both fronts.
What has reached its recommended cooking time, however, is the art style which, as you can probably tell, is absolutely stunning. Colours pop in every single environment both in the air and underwater, which helps to create some jaw-dropping scenes that are a pleasure to engage with. This even transcends into the menus themselves, which remain simple and clean, but beautiful to look at. Audio design elevates the experience even further, with soothing tones that trigger in the background to heighten the aforementioned relaxing nature of the title tenfold.
InnerSpace feels like it rewards players more as a relaxation tool than as a game that grows and evolves through core progress. Indeed, its story is stimulating, the gameplay itself is serviceable, and the presentation is mesmerising, but it just feels a little too lacking as a full package. InnerSpace is worth a look if you find yourself intrigued, but be prepared for an experience that doesn’t quite feel fully realised.