Last Inua (PC) Review

By Jordan Hurst 19.01.2015

Review for Last Inua on PC

Last Inua is a poor man's Never Alone. That's perhaps an unfair comparison, especially since the game's original iOS version actually came out a few months before Never Alone, but it is by far the simplest way to describe it critically. "A 2D cinematic platformer based on Inuit mythology, featuring a pair of main characters, stiff controls, and a subpar story" is a little wordy, after all. Its two-character dynamic will inevitably draw further comparisons to ICO, but that could be misinterpreted as more praise than the title deserves.

Just to be clear, Last Inua cannot be hated. It is neither a rip-off, lazy, nor any other critical argument that exists mostly on principle. In fact, it was probably something of a passion project; uninterested developers do not go out of their way to artfully illustrate minority cultures in beautiful painted splendour. The sad truth is that, for all the good intentions the game may have had, Last Inua is simply not very engaging.

It stars Ataataq and Hiko, a father and his son, the latter of which has been chosen to use his unique mystical abilities to rejuvenate three Inuit gods in order to repel the power of a malevolent spirit called the Tonrar. The structure of this premise is certainly clichéd, but the setting and interplay of Ataataq's strength with Hiko's magic promised to make it worthwhile. That…doesn't happen. Instead, the real mythology is adhered to inconsistently, and the two characters never grow beyond their archetypes of protective mentor and gifted but inexperienced apprentice.

Screenshot for Last Inua on PC

Furthermore, the Tonrar seems to lack the ability to directly attack the pair with any precision, focusing instead on merely influencing their environment. This gives its "invasion" a gradual quality that drains all urgency from an already slow-paced game. Even more unsatisfying is that Ataataq and Hiko have no life outside of their quest. They are just two guys who happened to be around when the Tonrar started scowling at things. The story ends on an interesting note, but since the characters could be replaced with bricks without anyone noticing, it loses a lot of its significance.

As for the gameplay, Last Inua displays immense potential but never comes close to fulfilling it. Its greatest flaw is linearity. Not of level design - the levels are actually agreeably complex and accommodating - but of puzzle design. Ataataq's abilities (scaling cliffs, moving/breaking ice blocks, and jumping) and Hiko's abilities (teleporting and forming bridges using a sprite character whose presence is never really explained) run parallel to each other for almost the entire game. At best, they form an unorthodox loop-the-loop, with one character advancing and then circling around to create a path for the other. At worst, the "puzzles" amount to doing everything twice with different locomotive methods.

Screenshot for Last Inua on PC

The game could have succeeded as a movement-based puzzler in the vein of FEZ, except that the movements involved are rigid and artificial. Turning, climbing, and jumping are painfully unresponsive, and every other ability is entirely context-sensitive. The only way a player can be stuck in Last Inua is if they don't notice that the game has arbitrarily allowed them to use a specific ability in a specific place.

To its credit, the game avoids the trial and error pitfall of most cinematic platformers, if only because it removed the whole "trial" component. Additionally, many of the game's obstacles still feel dangerous thanks to Ataataq's finely-tuned jumping arc and the surprisingly organic behaviour of the game's enemies (who are invincible unless they can be tricked into falling off cliffs). The fact that most levels offer hidden collectibles is similarly unexpected. They don't seem to have much of a purpose, but their presence is the only deviation players will get from the constant rightward advancement that is the main quest, so their inclusion is appreciated.

New to the PC version is a trio of abstract levels focused on Hiko as he attempts to mentally awaken each god. These levels eschew puzzles in favour of treacherous pathfinding via temporary flight ability. They are a great way to sprinkle some novelty throughout the experience, but the flight ability introduces a whole new set of lurching control issues, not to mention a lingering feeling of missed potential once it's taken away. Overall, the game is probably no better or worse for the additional content's inclusion.

Screenshot for Last Inua on PC

With its story a wash and its gameplay rather unimpressive, Last Inua is left with atmosphere and art design as its only draws. The recent backlash against so-called "walking simulators" shows that these things may not be the best selling points a game can have, but Last Inua manages to make them at least somewhat fulfilling. The game's vision of the Arctic as a fantastic wasteland is unprecedented. The occasional mechanic wherein characters can freeze to death if they spend too long away from a campfire solidifies the North as the harshest setting on the planet. Contrasted with the usual media depiction of "that place with the igloos," it's quite a powerful portrayal.

In addition to feeling dangerous, the world of Last Inua just feels interesting. The jagged crevices, stunning natural vistas, and radiant magical effects, all brought to life in painterly detail, are a sight to behold, even if cut-scenes are a little static and the hit detection's a little off. The audio is surprisingly arresting as well, thanks to its eerie simplicity and indeterminate instrumentation. Finally, the low drone that accompanies enemies effectively underscores the threat they pose, and the protagonists' calls for their partners' help deliver lots of human emotion with mere single words.

Screenshot for Last Inua on PC

Cubed3 Rating

4/10
Rated 4 out of 10

Subpar

Despite not being part of the genre, Last Inua feels like the "walking simulator" hatedom's complaints made manifest. It's so satisfied with how meaningful and heartfelt it could have been that it forgets to include the substance required to convey meaning and heartache. While the humanity in its premise and presentation is indeed admirable, it ignores the human sitting in front of the screen. Considering videogames aren't exactly hurting for pretty but hollow experiences, Last Inua can be safely skipped.

Developer

Glowforth

Publisher

Wired Productions

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

There are no replies to this review yet. Why not be the first?

Comment on this article

You can comment as a guest or join the Cubed3 community below: Sign Up for Free Account Login

Preview PostPreview Post Your Name:
Validate your comment
  Enter the letters in the image to validate your comment.
Submit Post

Subscribe to this topic Subscribe to this topic

If you are a registered member and logged in, you can also subscribe to topics by email.
Sign up today for blogs, games collections, reader reviews and much more
Site Feed
Who's Online?
Dragon0085, hinchjoie

There are 2 members online at the moment.