The Inner World Review
A charming point and click adventure that lacks originality
Point and click adventure games have been around for donkey’s years now. The Inner World is a new one from Headup Games and Studio Fizbin. It features a young, cute main character that travels around solving puzzles and helping others. You probably feel like you’ve heard this description before, so is there anything that makes The Inner World different from its competitors?
The short answer is no. In 2013, point and click adventure games need something more than some cutesy charm to get by. It’s all been done before, and unless the writing is absolutely top notch, then the game needs something mechanically different to set it apart. The Inner World has nothing like that. You can either observe objects, or interact with them in some way, either by picking them up, combining them or using them. Nothing about how the game works distinguishes it from any other game in the genre. When you click on an object, you must then click again to choose which action you would like to perform. Since there are only ever two actions you can perform, it is baffling why there is not a separate mouse click for each one. As it is, everything is tied to left mouse click, including holding it down to reveal everything nearby that you can interact with. It seems like a system best suited to a tablet, as it certainly could have been streamlined for PC.
The puzzles too, are bordering on the low end of the quality spectrum. I thought we were past the days of combining random item x with random item y to get random item z that you’d never think to create without using trial and error, but I found it to be in abundance here. Even in the very first scene, I had trouble with figuring out how to get a wriggly worm out of its hole. Apparently pouring alcohol down there to get it drunk was the most logical way of doing it. It’s no wonder that the game comes with a complete hint system, which, if you click the button enough, will flat out tell you exactly what to do to proceed. What’s more is that there isn’t a penalty for cheating in this way. I’ve written complaints about this kind of feature in the past, arguing that the player should be respected as an intelligent human capable of figuring things out for themselves. But here the system almost seems absolutely necessary.
It makes me feel bad to be harsh about the game, simply because the main character, Robert, is so lovely. He’s not your usual cheeky, smart-mouthed adventure game protagonist. Instead he is a sweet, incredibly naive young fellow who never intends to do someone wrong, even if he accidentally does from time to time. He’s different from everyone else in Asposia, and as such hasn’t got out much, in part due to his job as assistant to Conroy - the leader of the city. So when he does eventually venture out into the world, it takes him some time to adjust. The story itself is well written, although is nothing groundbreaking. There are occasional hiccups in the translation from the original German, but none of that detracted from my understanding of it.
Visually, the game is fairly nice to look at. It has some great hand drawn backgrounds, and the animations are well done for the most part. Every now and then you are treated to a cutscene, although these don’t give you much more than the usual in-game conversations. Robert’s cute little smile as he walks around is wonderfully endearing, and most of the other characters each have their own distinctive trait. The music is decent, yet forgettable, and the other sound effects are functional. Voice acting is a two headed beast. Most of the recurring characters are voiced well, but a lot of the lesser roles fall really flat. In terms of performance, the game ran fine, although I was sometimes faced with odd scenarios where the game would seemingly lock up while it was trying to figure out how to move Robert to the location you wanted.
Depending on how often you use the hint system, you can probably finish the story in around six or seven hours, which is a reasonable length for the price. This is in part due to the lengthy conversations you will be having with many of the characters. You will often have multiple topics of conversation to talk about, and choosing the same topic multiple times will sometimes yield extra dialogue. Some of it is cute, some of it is quite witty, and there is even some surprisingly adult content in there in places.
Despite the good character design, I can’t help feel that I’ve seen it all before, and often done better. The puzzle design is as we have come to expect from games in the genre, that is to say, not terribly coherent. The game is well made, and it has certainly nailed the style it’s going for, but I never found it all that compelling. You can play it for the quirky characters and the story, but don’t expect much from the actual gameplay.