The Inner World is a fun and charming experience set in an imaginative world, but it's held back by a number of all too common flaws of the adventure game genre. You play as the naive Robert, an apprentice who has spent his whole life living in a castle under the watchful eye of Conroy, a wind monk in charge of ensuring wind continues to flow. However, thanks to Robert's clumsiness he finds himself outside the castle's confines and in the world of Asposia, quickly getting himself caught up in a wild adventure.
The story and lore are The Inner World's strongest assets. You jump into Asposia in a time of despair, as the people live in fear of the dreaded Basylians who are believed to be wind gods and turn anybody they deem to be a sinner into stone. The Basylians can be genuinely terrifying and they instil a sense of fear that continues to hang around after your first encounter with them. Seeing dozens of civilians petrified in stone around the various locations you visit gives you a quick understanding that they're not to be messed with.
Having a protagonist like Robert who is so sheltered from the outside world works really well here, as you're both discovering things about the world at the same time. Robert is also an incredibly charming character, and his little quips when inspecting things around Asposia after left us laughing, which helps keep things interesting and engaging while you're trying to solve puzzles or figure out what to do next.
The character dynamic gets even better when you find yourself paired up with the street-wise Laura, who is the complete antithesis of Robert. The back and forth banter between Laura and Robert is one of the game's highlights, and it's a great achievement from Studio Fizbin to be able to retain these interactions considering the game was translated from German to English.
Meanwhile, the gameplay is pretty standard fare for the genre. You'll be solving puzzle after puzzle through conversations with characters you meet or through various items you find in your surroundings. Adventure games are notorious for having some pretty ridiculous and convoluted solutions to their puzzles, and this is something Studio Fizbin seems to have acknowledged by including an extensive help system. Pressing L2 brings up a help menu, which displays each of your various objectives. Here the player can press X to reveal various hints, which get progressively more obvious until they all but solve the puzzle for you. The beauty of this system is that you can use as much or as little help as you want, meaning no matter your proficiency for solving puzzles, you'll be able to find a happy balance.
The help system ends up alleviating much of the frustration from the more obscure puzzles, but it doesn't completely remove all frustration - there are still several puzzles with brain-frazzling solutions that are extremely obscure. Many times the solution ends up being needlessly complicated when it seems like there were two or three ways it could have been solved in a much easier and timely manner.
Studio Fizbin has chosen a very interesting art style for The Inner World, particularly for the characters. It's very rough around the edges, but it has a certain endearing charm to it. The backgrounds on the other hand are beautifully drawn, and make each location pop and stand out.
The Inner World is an enjoyable romp through an imaginative and beautifully constructed world. The story, while nothing groundbreaking, is endearing and filled to the brim with great characters who make puzzle solving a mostly satisfying experience. Unfortunately, it also stumbles into some of the common pitfalls and tropes that plague adventure games and drag the experience down, even with a very handy help system present.
I'll definitely pick this up on the cheap. It looks charming.
Great review! Definitely plan to pick this up at some point
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