Developer: Hidden Layer Games
Release Date: August 21, 2020
Reviewed On: Switch
Bite-sized video game experiences can leave a significant impact on the player through a balance of gameplay and narrative set pieces. Regardless of the genre, there’s plenty of room for developers to immerse players in a new world, no matter how long the game’s runtime. Developer Hidden Layer Games has released their latest puzzle platformer, Inmost, that tells a self-contained story set in a dark and mysterious world. What’s most important about this adventure is how it immerses the player without the need for hours and hours of exposition.
Inmost doesn’t seem to want to wait for the player to introduce its three main protagonists. With a game that takes about 5 hours to complete, the story is one of the more essential features of the adventure. Luckily, every moment of gameplay seems to provide a new piece of the puzzle, and you slowly begin to realize how this world became so bleak and haunting.
What caught me off guard is how different each of the characters were in the beginning. Players assume the role of a child, a man, and a knight, each with varying playstyles and personalities. The differences between the characters make it unclear how the developers intend to bring this narrative together, but then they do it so seamlessly, almost without you even knowing.
During gameplay, you’ll navigate a strange world. Depending on the character you’re playing, you’ll have access to different actions. The child can interact with various objects, but is slow and needs to think creatively on how to get around, the man is more adventurous but can’t take damage and needs to think of ways to outsmart enemies, and the knight is a powerhouse that can clear a room of enemies without issue and has a few different means of exploration.
Throughout the game, there are light puzzles that require you to utilize the abilities of the character to progress the narrative. These puzzles aren’t challenging by any means, but they can stop you in your tracks for a few minutes to figure them out. I think the puzzle designs themselves flowed incredibly with the narrative and worked as a means to explore every inch of the world and pad the game’s runtime just enough not to make it a cakewalk.
While making your way through this world, you’ll begin to recognize areas and understand how these three characters are connected. The information needed to make these connections comes so naturally, making the entire experience an organic evolution of the narrative.
It seems like they distract you with these clever puzzles only to plant little seeds of realization for you to grab onto later. Make no mistake, though, this story is deeply emotional and will definitely move you in several ways.
Gameplay portions of Inmost have players collecting items and fighting shadowy figures to progress. As the child, you can expect the story to lead the way as you explore a strange house. As the man, you’ll need to collect key items that can be used to move platforms or knockdown walls.
However, these portions of the game can sometimes be trial-and-error as one hit, and he’s dead. The checkpoints are usually close by, so no progress is lost, but the load times between these sections can slow down, jumping back in for a second attempt. The knight has access to sword attacks, a grappling hook, and he can take damage.
Inmost has so many great qualities, but I felt like the load times were a little too much between characters. These load screens pop up often and hurt the overall immersion of the game. Also, there’s a couple of features that could have been explained a little more, like the menu where you can travel back to previous puzzles, which I accidentally did without knowing.
Regardless, though, there’s plenty of reasons to go back if you want to collect these soul-like gems or find secret areas. Or, perhaps you just want to spend more time in this pixelated world, which I wouldn’t blame you if you did because it’s simply gorgeous.
Inmost took me by surprise as I wasn’t prepared for the incredible story it has to tell. Its gameplay and puzzle elements are perfectly symmetrical, making it easy to immerse yourself in this dark world for an evening and come out feeling satisfied, if not, a little melancholic. Load times and lack of direction do very little to hinder this adventure that I think is well worth your time.
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