By Sandy Wilson 17.03.2017
Making its debut on Xbox One is the wonderful and playful point-and-click adventure from Headup Games. The Inner World already received a following on PC and is much loved for its charming visuals and characters. Point-and-click games have a rocky history on consoles due to the controller as an input device not being dextrous enough to handle the genre's often complex, menu based control systems. In the last year or two there have been successful console ports of many LucasArts titles which have proven it's possible to recreate the right gameplay experience. Let's dive below the earth and discover if it rings true for this game!
The world of Asposia is a fascinating place. It's basically an inverse of the real world with the earth round on the outside and a small bubble of atmosphere in the middle. It once had three giant tubes that brought air, wind, light and happiness to the people living there, but the winds have died down and so too has the light. During these trying times the leader, Conroy and his assistant Robert, the titular main character, have tried to keep order. This is where the game starts.
Robert is listening to Conroy addressing the people when a sneaky pigeon grabs an important item and he gives chase into the streets. The story relies heavily on a running narrative from Robert. He has something to say about pretty much everything in the world and is hugely endearingly innocent. Most of the events play out in both an atmospheric dark way but with some sort of comedic twist. The writing is fantastic at selling the story and characters with each unique encounter. It is both the main focus of the story and the motivational aspect of progression. It really does keep the gameplay moving.
The gameplay is almost entirely puzzle-based, though being a point-and-click adventure title, it is not unexpected. It focuses on collecting items and combining them in attempts to achieve a goal. Each area is essentially a set of clickable objects with which it's possible to observe, interact and use an item with. The main difference here is that with a mouse and keyboard this is an easy endeavour and Headup Games has a novel way of trying to map this to the controller. Using RB, it's possible to cycle through all of the interaction points within Robert's range. By selecting a point with A, a choice dialogue/ popup appears with the three options available for that point. On paper this sounds great, "Hey someone has a great idea for point and click controls", and unfortunately in practice it's pretty clunky and not enjoyable. It's not broken so it can therefore be learned and worked with but how fiddly it is may put a few people off.
It's a shame about the controls as the presentation and story are fantastic! The top notch writing is surrounded by beautifully animated and stylised scenery and characters. The animations are smooth as butter and truly breathe life into the game. From the pigeon's bird-like movements to little details like paper blowing in the breeze. Everything is hand drawn which means there's no 3D elements at all. It feels like a labour of love which it most definitely is. The sound design also adds to the general presentation and atmosphere. Every interactive character is voiced and the variety and talent on show puts many similar games to shame. They bring a new third element of life to these 2D sprites that are wonderful to hear.
With the main downside of the controls, some players may be turned away from The Inner World, but it's a fantastic game otherwise. The world building and likeable characters make exploring Asposia a dream rather than the nightmare that it itself seems to be in. It's not too long but it's satisfying and unique enough that it'll please fans of the genre.