One of the great things about video games is the incredible worlds that creators can come up. The ability to come up with fantastic worlds and to execute a vision is one of my favorite things about games. InnerSpace from PolyKnight is a prime example of this, a game that is full of colorful, vibrant worlds to traverse and a sense of wonder as you do so. The game is billed as a flight-exploration game, but while there is much for you to discover and uncover, there is minimal hand-holding and you may sometimes be at a loss for what to do next. The question is, is the thrill of discovery enough to keep you playing when you have no idea what to do next?
The world of InnerSpace is an intriguing one. It’s a universe where everything is basically inverted, where you are exploring islands where water surrounds them and is pulled outwards. Sometimes you will see some other forms of life, but rarely, and the worlds are generally littered with the remains of civilizations mostly forgotten. You immediately encounter a space archeologist, who will enlist you and get you to recover relics and figure out what has happened to the life that used to occupy these wondrous places. You’ll travel from planet to planet, flying above and below alien seas, finding relics and various hidden items, and occasionally fighting demigods, or the bosses of the planets. There is a decent little story going on in the game, and it’s mostly told through the interactions with the archeologist, however as the game progresses there are fewer interactions and the story becomes vaguer.
This vagueness becomes a problem in the gameplay of InnerSpace, due to the game letting you be free to explore but rarely giving hints as to what you may need to do next to advance the story. While early on in the game you can fly up to the archeologist and he will give you a little hint as to what you need to do, later on in the game he’s basically not there, so you can spend quite a bit of time just flying around trying to figure out what’s next. That can be really, really frustrating as you want to move on in the game, but have zero clue what to do next. In other games when you get stumped and eventually figure out what to do next, there’s usually this feeling of accomplishment, that you figured out this incredibly tough puzzle. In InnerSpace however, it never felt that way; I would just be annoyed at the total lack of hints and barely even being able to look around where I actually wanted to which would have helped immensely.
That being said, I found that the controls would add to this frustration and really would hamper my enjoyment of the game. The game is very much a flying game, with dual-stick controls where you use the left stick to pitch up and down, like a plane, and the right stick to accelerate or slow down and assist in spin. In theory, it should be just what you need, but even after a good amount of playing, it just always felt too clunky. Add in the inability to completely slow down and hover outside of finding a perch to stop at, and you’ll constantly be flying past intended targets that you just want to get to or items to pick up. When the game opens up a bit, and you have more freedom and don’t need to get to a specific spot, it can feel pretty decent; sadly that doesn’t happen often enough and you’ll go back to being frustrated when you just can’t get to where you want. InnerSpace also uses a pseudo-fish eye lens in the game, which ultimately proved to be more distracting than I expected, adding to some disorientation when I was flying around. I figure it was intended to create a unique flight experience, but in the end, I feel like a regular FOV would have been more sufficient.
I will have to say that in general, I found the worlds of InnerSpace to be quite visually stunning. There are a lot of blues and teals, and everything in between, and I feel like No Man’s Sky continues to have an impact on the visuals of science fiction games. Regardless, the worlds are very beautiful and it was always a treat to see what the next planet was going to look like and I was never let down in terms of what the locales looked like. The music in the game is also fairly well done, with nice, calm instrumental pieces that are tinged with synth keys that hit during pickups of wind items. It’s basically what you would expect just from looking at the game, mostly just subdued pieces that add a little to the experience, but sadly not much more I found. There also is no voice work, just a lot of text to read, which isn’t the end of the world, but still, something that I wished had been in the game.
In the end, I feel like InnerSpace was aspiring to much greater things, but ultimately just falls short of what PolyKnight were intending. For all of the gorgeous worlds that you explore and somewhat interesting lore, the clunky controls and poorly designed goals in-game really hamper things and keep it from being a really great indie game. Be prepared for some frustrating sections, but a vibrant and interesting world. If you’re looking for an adventure that takes you above and below alien seas, and don’t mind fumbling around a bunch, then perhaps the mysteries of InnerSpace are for you.
A review code for InnerSpace was provided courtesy of Aspyr Media for the purposes of this review.