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Game Info:

Innerspace
Developed By: PolyKnight Games
Published By: Aspyr
Released: January 16, 2018
Available On: Windows 7 and 10
Genre: Adventure, Indie
ESRB Rating: None
Number of Players: Singleplayer
Price: $19.99
(Humble Store Link)

Thank you Aspyr for sending us your game to review!

Bad news, work, taxes . . . . It’s only natural people seek refuge from life. Let’s face it. Stress is everywhere. We can try and shove it’s existence to a far corner, yet it can still nibble at the back of our brains. Videogames are generally cited as the ultimate escapist activity. Then there are games focused on fulfilling that very human need in gentle ways, and I must say, I have a special appreciation for them. Abzu and Flower are two such noteworthy examples. They took our need for simple, unhurried and beautiful experiences to heart. Now, it’s easy to think such non-violent games aren’t as difficult to design as your basic RPGs. After all, there aren’t nearly as many mechanics or level systems to program. For as massive as it is to develop a single game, it couldn’t possibly be as gargantuan a task as generating a three campaign story mode with a hundred sidequests. At least that’s what I thought a month ago. However, after playing Innerspace, I’ve gained a whole new perspective on how difficult producing a low-key experience can really be.

Innerspace is mostly a flying game with a little submarine action thrown in the mix. You play as a sentient aircraft called the Cartographer. A professor, who lives in his teeny sub, has salvaged and rebuilt you, and now you must assist him in uncovering the secrets of your original creators, the Ancients. You must venture through abandoned tunnels, activate old machines, and collect relics for study. Doing so will bring you and him closer to the secrets of the world dying around you. The Ancients’ society fell. Why? What are these units of energy called ‘Wind’? What part did they play in the Ancients’ lives? And who are these ‘demigods’ they worshiped? These are the questions you’re set to find out. Oh, by the way. There’s something I failed to mention. In this universe gravity works opposite. Instead of skies above and earth below, the terrain surrounds you like a dome. It’s like an inside out planet, and everything is naturally pulled outwards. . . . It only gets weirder from here.

Now, let me first lay down a serious word of caution about this game - because Innerspace really should have come with a warning label. If you are prone to motion sickness, dizziness, or motion induced headaches in general, do not play Innerspace. There’s a reason why God didn’t design us for inside out planets. Without an actual sky, there is no real sense of ‘up’. Your brain will continually flip around, trying to correct itself, but without anything being solidly ‘down’ there’s very little to make you feel ‘right side up’. Your aircraft is also very speedy when it spins. That alone can cause queasiness, so heed my advice. If you have a weak constitution or shy away from virtual rides or coasters for similar reasons, do yourselves a favor. Don’t try Innerspace. You might end up sick.

Innerspace
Highlights:

Strong Points: Nice Colors; Inventive Flying and Swimming Switch Mechanic
Weak Points: Story is Incomprehensible; Difficult Controls; Little Direction; Causes Motion Sickness
Moral Warnings: Demigods

Okay then. With that disclaimer out of the way, I’ll continue. As I mentioned earlier, you’re either soaring around or coasting through the waters. That novel concept I find very inventive. How fun would it be to dive into the sea, fly out with a spin, then dive back in again? I was pretty stoked for it. Unfortunately, the controls are difficult to deal with, and good controls are kind of important for this to work. I played on a controller as recommended. The left joystick controls your direction. Your right joystick tipped forward and back makes the aircraft accelerate and slow down, while tipping it right or left makes it spin. Tapping the right shoulder button swaps you between plane and sub mode. Finally, the left shoulder button allows you to drift. My first point of criticism is that the left joystick is too slow at right and left turns. My second is that the right joystick is ironically too fast at spinning. Thus, it’s a major struggle to steer without veering off course or spiraling out. This is only made worse with my third and fourth criticisms. The camera often repositions at odd angles, and our sci-fi plane is always in motion. As a result, smooth sailing was near impossible. Traveling exactly where I wanted to took way more effort than it should. Weaving around objects felt awkward, and tight spaces were wrecking zones. (There’s zero penalty for getting smacked around but still.) Thank goodness drift ability helped. There are also perches you can fly to that will stop your ship. However, neither solutions did much to stop my frequent wall scraping. I will say, though, that I did get a God send. You can unlock new airframe models by collecting ‘Wind’, and one of them will halt mid-air when you push the drift button. I just wish all the airframes acted that way too. I’m quite certain I’d be hard pressed to finish the game without that feature. I’m serious. The maneuvers I had to pull off would have been nearly impossible.

Your goal in Innerspace is pretty simple from a certain standpoint. You’re supposed to collect relics and ‘wind’ energy for the professor to examine. Game progression, however, is anything but simple. You can fly into things to flip switches, rip banners, break icicles, and snap lines. Doing so helps you solve puzzles and find new paths. However, sometimes knowing where Innerspace expects you to go and what to do can be a mystery in and of itself. It’s a big problem. Because without clear direction you’re just kind of floating there. Now, I recognize that in exploration games, not having a decided goal is the point. However, Innerspace did give you a goal. An expectation is at play. Thus, there should be at least some visual cues to direct a player’s attention. It doesn’t have to be obvious. It could mean a distinct landmark, a lighting effect, just something. I truly didn’t know how to progress half the time, and our dear professor, the ‘hint-giver’, was maddeningly unhelpful. In fact, navigating Innerspace wasn’t much fun at all. Besides me constantly getting lost, the wild solutions to some puzzles were entirely unprompted. It’s frustrating when a game fails to teach all its universe’s rules when it’s essential to solving an obstacle. It could’ve at least given me a small way to figure it out but no. I just failed to “magically” make non-sensical sense apparently. In hindsight, I can call Innerspace’s gameplay easy. There’s really nothing to it, but without clear direction and a few cheap-shot puzzles, Innerspace turned quick tasks into half hour long drags.

As a game centered on exploration and discovery, Innerspace certainly has itself set up well. Flying through unique open worlds sounds very appealing. Too bad the writers botched it up with a story harder to follow than Inception. I honestly don’t know if the plot really had a point. If it did, I didn’t get it. The incomprehensible exposition and open ended conclusion added to the head-pains I was already nursing. Then, if that weren’t enough, the dialogue liked to squeeze my brain through a juicer. Odd jargon coupled with weird grammar spawned gobbledygook that tried to sound smarter than it really was, and the vague repeating of it by our characters did not make it any less vague. Look, I’d love to prove I’m smart enough to decipher this narrative. I do, and given enough time, I’d like to think I could. However, the fact of the matter is, with all the other weirdness I’m dealing with here, I’m happy to purposely not lose myself to another pointless rabbit hole.

Innerspace
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 52%
Gameplay - 9/20
Graphics - 6/10
Sound - 4/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 3/5


Morality Score - 94%
Violence - 10/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

Visually speaking, the game is quite colorful. I’ll give it that. The lighter color pallet lends most areas a cheery, inviting feel. The lighting effects were particularly well done. I love the detailed animation on the wings, and the unlockable paint jobs for your craft are nice too. However, the design work (save for the Sun Chamber) didn’t impress me much. I hinted at it earlier, but the worlds felt a little too bare to me. There weren’t enough points of interest in most areas, and I largely felt uncompelled to look around. Other visual hiccups cropped up too. There were instances the frame rate dropped, and I discovered some terrain floating off the ground. As for music, Innerspace didn’t do much for me. You can chalk it up to my personal taste, but I didn’t care for the instrumentation. The keypad dominated the score with a specific sound choice that I thought they way over used. The musical composition didn’t appeal to me either. The constant run of repeated notes started driving me crazy at some points. The professor’s theme particularly annoyed me. I even turned my speakers off during that number. However, I don’t want to treat the music unfairly. It’s alien-like tones does fit the Innerspace universe. It’s an ‘out there’ - kinda computerized - score. Looking back, I guess that makes sense, but for this gamer, it felt too robotic.

One thing I can give Innerspace props for is keeping things family friendly. For as much as I couldn’t understand, at least the dialogue didn’t use crude language. The one area where I raised my eyebrow were the giant demigods. At least, that’s what the game calls them. The thing is, these sentient animals beg to differ. They argue that they really aren’t divine beings, and the Ancients just decided to worship them. Now, that does sound pretty innocent. It’s no secret that humanity is prone to praising earthly things over God (*cough* golden calf *cough*). However, the matter is too poorly explained in the game for me to be sure that’s really the case. Sure, the demigods claim not to be gods, but the narrative continually treats them like they are. Their godly status is described often. They do possess divine power, and they seem immortal in a way. I don’t know. Make of it what sense you will (if you can at all), but when it comes to Innerpace’s supposed pantheon, it’s inside out and upside down.

Innerspace has got to be the toughest game I ever played. Maybe not tough mechanically but I’ve never played a game that taxed me more physically than this. Flying and spinning in inside out worlds nauseated me. I kid you not. I got it so bad once I had to lay down and pray my poor stomach would settle. Granted, I had strep at the time. My experience improved later, but if you call trading queasiness for headaches an improvement, it’s an improvement. Barring that though, the rest of the game is just dizzyingly weird in every way possible. It’s just . . . just uncomfortable. I asked myself where did Innerspace, a simple relaxation game, go so wrong? Well, I think I figured it out. It failed to be hospitable to the player. It concerned itself more with being philosophical and unique than being inviting. You can’t calm a mind by toying with it. You need a smart, nuanced design that can gently direct the player without enforcing a demanding control scheme. Otherwise, you miss the point of this genre. As for this game, you can buy way better serene games for four bucks over Innerspace’s twenty dollar price tag. For the best way to relax on Innerspace is to simply not care. Resign yourself to its wonderland mentality. That’s the best way to get by. Or you could just not play it. That works too.

About the Author

Hannah Colvin

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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