By Marty Mulrooney
The Inner World is a German point-and-click adventure game created by the young and ambitious Studio Fizbin, published by Headup Games. In a universe of infinite soil, there exists a hollow world known as Asposia. The world’s air was once supplied by three wind fountains, but the wind gods – the Basylians – became angry and many of the Asposians were turned to stone. The fate of the world now lies in the hands – and flute-nose – of Robert, the young apprentice to Abbot Conroy. Watching over the last surviving wind fountain like a hawk, Conroy hasn’t been entirely truthful with Robert about his past. When Robert accidentally finds himself outside the palace, he quickly gets caught up in an adventure with a mysterious young girl named Laura that will settle the fate of Asposia, and the Asposians, forever…
The word that immediately springs to mind when playing The Inner World is ‘charming’. From the outset, the graphics – both in-game and during cutscenes – are gorgeous, reminiscent of the classic 2003 animated film Belleville Rendez-vous. Robert is first introduced to players as a sheltered and naive young boy who has spent his entire life inside the palace of Abbot Conroy. Robert has a special nose with holes like a flute that he hides beneath a striped sock, and Conroy often makes him play a one note, one beat tune. He is polishing Conroy’s precious amulet when a pigeon – which he names Peck – enters the room.
When Peck swallows Conroy’s pendant and escapes down the garbage chute, Robert follows and ends up outside the palace. It is soon revealed that the pigeon belongs to a young girl named Laura. A wanted thief, her face is plastered on posters all around the city. Robert begins to explore Asposia to retrieve the pendant, but it’s obvious that he has been both enchanted and intrigued by Laura. Meanwhile, Conroy sends a vicious hedgehog down the garbage chute to retrieve Robert and the pendant.
Although it takes Robert some time to figure it out, it’s obvious to players from the outset that Conroy is a bad man up to no good. Passing himself off as the saviour and ruler of Asposia, he is instead the man responsible for the many Asposians that have been turned to stone by the dragon-like Basylians. Robert and Laura eventually end up working together, and their journey is one filled with quirky characters and satisfying puzzles. The dialogue is excellent and the translation to English seldom misses a beat. Often translated games – especially comedic adventure games – feel like they’re missing something, but that isn’t the case at all with The Inner World.
Superb voice acting supports the sharp dialogue and Robert in particular is voiced with just the right amounts of naivety, likeability and kindness. Laura also sounds great, balancing dripping sarcasm with moments of genuine warmth, and the supporting characters – including the Gorfs, highly poisonous creatures that reside deep within the Root Forest – prove memorable and a joy to interact with. Although the game conveys impressive scope, each section is in actual fact limited to just a few compact locations at a time and this allows the puzzles to flow beautifully. The logic is sound and it’s very satisfying when everything clicks into place and you can start solving multiple puzzles one after the other. The hint system – should players need it – is perfectly implemented and can offer clues in small doses without ruining the fun.
There are some small issues. Towards the end of the game I found that some lines of dialogue didn’t trigger the voice acting and there was one moment where the in-game music continued to play during a cutscene, somewhat spoiling the moment. The load screen between locations is a touch too long also and this can prove slightly annoying when a puzzle involves plenty of backtracking. Finally, the ending is a bit abrupt, but this can in part be blamed on the likeability of the main characters and the strong desire to spend more time in their company and the world of Asposia.
The Inner World is the most pleasant surprise to come along within the adventure genre for a very long time indeed. The graphics, music and voice acting are all charming – there simply isn’t a better word – and the gameplay is satisfying in its traditional simplicity. The puzzles are never a chore and the engaging storyline is its own reward. The Collector’s Edition offers an exclusive art card, a sticker, the game’s memorable soundtrack, a digital copy of the ‘World of Asposia Encyclopaedia’ and a Peck the Pigeon crochet pattern – the game is also available via Steam. The world of Asposia may be hollow, but The Inner World offers a solid 6-8 hour treat for adventure fans that shouldn’t be missed.
9 OUT OF 10