There is something magical about flight. Since the Wright brothers lifted man off the Earth, people have longed for the serine and peaceful freedom of flying through the atmosphere. InnerSpace, the new video game from PolyKnight Games, aims to give players that same feeling. The game is stark and colorful and filled with mystery. Unfortunately, that may also be its biggest fault.
InnerSpace is a single-player, story-driven flight adventure game. The game takes places in a unique universe where the geography of the world is inverse of what we know. The world is no longer like a ball with the player navigating around the outside, but instead the player operates inside of the round world area. To drive this inverse feeling home, the camera acts like a fisheye lens that affects the way you view and explore the world.
The gameplay is very simple. You control the X and Y axis using the left and right joysticks and that’s basically it. All of the puzzles in the game can all be solved by flying. These puzzles can be solved by running into switches to activate them or cutting ropes with your wings to open up new areas. Don’t ask who put the rope there, it will only ruin the experience.
The game takes full advantage of the visual and audio design. The music is ambient and pleasant and the visuals are colorful and abstract. Both the music and visuals are slightly otherworld, which really helps sell the environment of InnerSpace. There is also a great use of HD Rumble, alerting the player as they get closer to a relic, which are the items you are searching for throughout the game.
Innerspace strives for a personal story experience that would be akin to something like Journey or The Witness. The player is dropped into this abstract world with no background and really not much of a goal. You meet an archaeologist who gives you vague hints as to how your should proceed. Discovering what to do from there is really the game. There are subtle cues in the environment that will help as you explore caverns and hidden rooms and eventually face giant, screen-filling bosses.
All of the parts that make up InnerSpace work, but the game still feels very hollow. Compared to a game like Journey, there is no personal struggle or resonance with players. A game like The Witness succeeds because of it’s brilliant puzzle design. InnerSpace misses the mark because the story is almost too abstract and the puzzles are too simple. It’s easy to just wander aimlessly. The visual design, while very nice to look at, also presents a gameplay problem. Sometimes it is hard to distinguish a wall from water from just something floating in the foreground. You will spend plenty of your time smashing into objects that will destroy you.
The biggest complaint I have though concerns the controls; they are just not user friendly. You can move the left stick in full rotation to direct the ship. The right stick is then used in two ways. Up and down control the speed of the ship while left and right control the rotation. The game then feels much more like a flight simulation. This isn’t a bad thing, but it’s off putting for a game that is trying to be a serene and calming experience. I found myself so frustrated with the controls at times that I just wanted to finish an objective just so I didn’t have to do it anymore, as opposed to caring about my progression. This is not what you want players to experience in a narrative adventure.
There is a lot to like about InnerSpace, especially for fans of flight simulators. As already stated, the game looks and sounds great. There are numerous areas to explore, several vehicles to unlock, and a handful of really dynamic boss encounters. The real shame is that is not enough to really make InnerSpace fun to play. At best it feels like a chore and at worst you’ll want to snap your Switch in half. If you can grasp the flight controls and are looking for a nonlinear story games then InnerSpace is available now on the Nintendo Switch.