Developed by: PolyKnight Games
Published by: Aspyr
Release Date: January 16, 2018
Genre: 3D Exploratory Flight Simulator
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Steam Linux
A trip to The Inverse is a beautiful but challenging excursion that may not be the best choice for the traditional adventurer
On occasion, I decide to step out of my comfort zone and tackle a game that not a traditional adventure but offers a unique player experience. InnerSpace was intriguing because the visuals and the music appeared to be beautifully done and I enjoy free exploration. It is described as “a flying game set in the inverse – a world of inside-out planets where gravity pulls outward instead of in.” Hmm…
My first clue that I was out of my element was when I attempted to navigate using the default controller settings. The game did not play well with my Steam Controller and I was treated to a spectacular display of fireballs as I bounced off mountains and crashed into the sea. I should note that the terms “pitch,” “yaw,” and “roll” are not in my gaming vocabulary so I was starting out with a serious handicap. It took me almost an hour to master these terms and remap the controller functions. I ended up with an inelegant, but fully functional, set of controls that worked for me and I was soon soaring through space. Okay… Game On!
InnerSpace takes place in The Inverse – an area of sky, water, soaring mountains, and man-made structures. There is no visible horizon and the concept of up and down get lost in translation. It is dizzying and confusing. Luckily, there are “perches” where you can land and pause to get your bearings.
The Inverse was once populated by The Ancients who are long gone but have left behind artifacts and structures. Guided by the Archaeologist, you are the Cartographer – a sentient flying machine that explores and searches for artifacts. Once located, artifacts are collected and returned to the Archaeologist for analysis and, in some cases, reassembly. On screen text is provided to document the story of The Ancients, the demise of The Inverse, the rise and fall of demigods, and the purpose of each artifact. In addition, the Archaeologist provides some (very) high level guidance on what to do next.
Gameplay consists of guiding your machine through the various layers of The Inverse in search of artifacts and then returning them to the Archaeologist. The first lesson is that your machine is powered by wind. Flying through source “bubbles” in the environment is required to keep you aloft. Next, you learn that your flying machine has capabilities that allow you to change the environment. You can cut cables and break through structures (man-made or otherwise) to make new areas accessible.
As you progress through layers of The Inverse, your flying machine gains capabilities. Early on you are enhanced to allow your transformation into a submarine-like form that permits underwater exploration. This opens a whole new dimension for your viewing pleasure. Beneath the surface of the sea you encounter your first demigod which you must overcome to move ahead in the game.
I proceeded through the first environmental layer without much difficulty. I used my wings to cut cables and watched stone overhangs crash into the sea. The first few artifacts were easy to find and my confidence increased. With all obvious items collected, the search was on those artifacts not clearly marked or hidden from sight.
Without a horizon or a point of reference, I had trouble remembering where I had searched. Time passed and my progress stalled. Finally, I received my “water wings” and dove into the water which was slightly easier to navigate. I circled underwater, found an artifact, and was swallowed by a sea creature.
Ultimately, I had a large sunfish glowing within a giant bubble and I had no idea what was expected of me. I watched YouTube walkthroughs and still could not discern the path to successfully defeating the creature/demigod. Six hours into the game, I was at a complete impasse. It was time to admit that I was simply not a good match for InnerSpace.
Based in Dallas, Texas, PolyKnight is a small independent video game development studio. According to their web site, they “approach each project as a technical challenge, an artistic opportunity, and a chance to do something never seen before.” InnerSpace was partially funded through a Kickstarter campaign in 2014 and became available on Steam earlier this year. With this title, PolyKnight has certainly created an artistic game with a very unique player experience.
InnerSpace attempts to straddle a line between a narrative, linear adventure (with action elements) and free flying exploration. The adventure components of inventory and backstory are present in much detail and add interest for those who favor story-driven games. For those who just want to fly free, the amount of text may push the envelope. For this gamer, the obtuse actions required to get past a demigod stopped me mid-flight and I was unable to take in the whole of The Inverse.
I truly appreciate the creativity expressed in the art, music, and story. InnerSpace is a hauntingly beautiful game with a wonderful sound track. I am also very impressed by the attention to detail that went into the narrative and artifacts. However, I am not sure who the ideal player for this game would be. The one thing I do know, with certainty, is that it is not me.
Because I have not played InnerSpace from start to finish, I will not be assigning a review grade. Instead, I will list the positive and negative aspects of this game, as seen through the eyes of an adventure gamer.
+ Visually beautiful game with a sound track to match
+ Soaring through The Inverse is an exhilarating flight experience
+ Complex back story adds interest
– Artifacts are difficult to find, making the game feel like a hidden object search at times
–Traditional adventurers may be intimidated by flight mechanics
–Required conquest of demigods requires some very tricky maneuvering