InnerSpace (Switch eShop) Review
Games like Journey and Abzu pop up every now and then; artistically stunning experiences where you’re drawn into a world, soaking in the atmosphere as you are gently guided along the games’ narrative. InnerSpace is a game that succeeds at pulling you into a fascinating universe and an enjoyable way to explore it, but not everything is so great in the Inverse.
InnerSpace takes place in the Inverse, a series of worlds that exist around the inside of spheres or ‘inside-out planets’. It is the final days of the Inverse. You are the Cartographer, and you have been tasked to retrieve memories before they are lost forever, including finding out what happened to the Gods. You exist in the form of an airframe, and have been given sentience by the Archaeologist. To explore the Inverse, you’ll be flying around collecting orbs which contain wind and once were the power source for everything. You’ll also come across relics that provide some lore and, with the right amount of wind, you also unlock airframes and upgrades. There are also Demi-Gods that reside within the different worlds or ‘chambers’, hidden until you perform the right actions to bring them out. They are key to progressing the story and opening more areas.
Taking control of the airframe, you can fly all over the inside of these worlds. Words alone don’t truly explain how these worlds work. It is unlike a usual flight game as the worlds are small enough that you can see these somewhat small areas wrap around inside the sphere. Whichever direction you go you’re flying towards the ground. (Check out the screenshots for a much better idea). Visually it’s quite surreal to fly around these areas, just exploring it can be relaxing and fun to fly around in these serene and unusual spaces. The aesthetic becomes less pleasant when it’s for the sake of progressing the story, as it is disorientating when you’re looking for particular structures and scouring them for levers to flip. I easily lost an hour or more having to double check every tunnel and structure because there’s no way to indicate where you’ve been or where you need to go. You can easily stumble around hoping there’ll be something interactive, levers to flip or activation gates to fly through.
Fortunately, the flying is fun for the most part, when you’re taking in the scenery. The airframe handles well and it’s easy to explore out in the wide-open spaces. When it’s all working it feels awesome to maneuver around. When it comes to hitting a series of levers or cutting wires, which involve running into them, it becomes more frustrating. Your craft isn’t great at making tight turns, and the air brake while allowing you to make sudden changes in direction, keeps the momentum in the direction you were heading which usually has you crashing and taking damage against a wall. Your airframe is also capable of transforming into a submersible to traverse the underwater sections of the chambers. Like flying you’re fine in wide open spaces, but having to work in tight spaces once again sucks any fun out of traveling through these picturesque worlds.
The worlds of the Inverse are way too easy to get lost in. There’s no map or markers to assist in working out where you need to go, the Archaeologist will give you the bare minimum hints to progress. For almost half the game the Archaeologist doesn’t follow you as you travel between chambers, so you’re left to just explore and stumble across things like levers or other points of interest that will lead to relics or coaxing out another Demi-God. One cool thing is that the ‘bosses’ in the game aren’t violent experiences, they are often puzzles that give you the next bit of the story and bring you one step closer to escaping the Inverse. The game is likely to last 7-10 hours, but even less if you know what you’re doing. I spent at least 3 hours lost as I explored every area looking for anything I could interact with, or maybe a tunnel or building I had overlooked. This kind of issue could have been easily solved if the game had any form of guidance or if the Archaeologist was more accessible, instead of also having to scour the water areas waiting for the boat to draw in only for it to repeat the same spiel to me. Adding insult to injury is the text that not only is slow to sit through but when asked where to go next the information that’s given is largely irrelevant.
Now I’ve gotten some of my frustrations aired we should talk about the visuals and sounds. This game has style, they nail the look and feel of the Inverse. If anything, I would love to see even more environments given the InnerSpace treatment, but for the game, there are enough with the handful of places you do get. The music helps to set the mood, atmospheric synth, understated strains of music as you fly around the world. The nicest touch is when you unlock the Piano frame. This turns your airframe into a musical instrument, so whenever you roll and twist you’ll hear the piano keys tinkling along with the chilled soundtrack.
Now I can’t speak for InnerSpace on other platforms, but on the Switch, it has some rough patches. The frame rate was the most notable technical issue with the system Docked or in Handheld. Thankfully the framerate doesn’t impact the gameplay side of things, it’s just jarring. Loading times can get a bit long when you’re moving between chambers, but it’s not frequent. Though you can be bumped back into the gateway you just came from and must sit through two loading screens to get back to your original position. Overall the game runs well, it’s only every now and then the few issues stand out.
InnerSpace is a game I really wanted to like more than I did. It has a unique look, great sounds, and flying around can be fun; it can be relaxing to just explore. But it really feels like two different games; an exploration game that’s meant to be a narrative experience, and then all the bits that turn it into a more traditional game such as hitting levers and collecting items, trying to unlock the next chamber. If you’re after a zgame that’s unlike any others on the Switch and you’re after a flight game or just want to soak in the trippy visuals, then InnerSpace has enough of both to enjoy. If you’re after a more traditional game, then it becomes harder to recommend as all the ‘gamey’ elements are the most frustrating parts.
+ Unique setting
+ Fun to fly around
+ Relaxing visuals and music
- Vague objectives
- Disorientating/lack of navigation
- ‘Game’ elements