It Never Leaves Us
"An interesting game with a really nice story that can turn out pretty great if you can get a hold of it..."
*This is an old review; much of what you will read here no longer fully represents my view, skills, and knowledge.*
Inmost is an emotional, deeply atmospheric narrative-driven puzzle platformer. Developed by an indie studio, the game has a cool, beautiful pixel-art style, that alongside incredible visuals create a well-themed experience you get to explore as you delve deep into gloomy scenarios full of scary shadow-like figures.
Inmost is a short game, and it being only four hours long, makes so that it can be finished in just a single sitting. Still, it being short shouldn’t immediately raise a red flag though. There’s actually quite a long list of games that are short yet are absolutely incredible despite their shorter content size, and sometimes, a short, impactful experience is much better than a soulless 50 hour-long beast.
The game plays very slowly, actions aren’t lighting fast, and you won’t be rushing through levels like most games nowadays. Inmost is a game made for you to take your time. A game for you to relax as you solve puzzles, figure out how to clear blocked paths, all while trying to understand what is going on with each individual character.
The game also has some short bits of action, but even though you get to fight enemies during your run, combat just isn’t anything spectacular, knowing the game emphasizes the story above all else.
Developer: Hidden Layer Games
Release Date: August 21, 2020
The game main focus is on telling a story in its short span of hours. Story-wise the game actually does a really nice job, despite having a short time to show much. I personally felt like the story would fluctuate for the most part, with parts often going from ‘meh’ to ‘wah’ (sorry for the expressions) with some bits that were slightly
weak, — mainly because it was somewhat difficult to understand exactly what was going on — while others were quite intense, with some even getting me on the edge of my emotions.
The game also showed some degree of dynamics — small, yet existent. A few minutes into the game, you’ll eventually get to a part where the story change directions. You’re in another place, and in control of someone else’s body. The direction change is abrupt, but it’s not to worry, for eventually you’ll get back to continue where you left off.
There are three playable characters in total, with each one of them having their own unique perks. One is an agile sword-wielding knight that uses a grappling hook as a tool to get to his enemies. The other is a normal man, who is very versatile, making great use of tools like knives, crowbars, and pickaxes to create his own path, allowing him to traverse areas infested of enemies. Another is a little girl, part of a troubled family, that with small, impactful moves allow us to take a peek in her personal life.
The game had some strong points, and honestly finished in a pretty great note in my opinion. Still, it had some problems that while they may not be a huge deal for who enjoy this type of game (slow paced story-telling), definitely will keep many people, more specifically those who are into more intense, full of action games from completely enjoying Inmost — that is if they even get to touch the game in the first place. With that said, the issues of the game aren’t really an issue, considering the problems are mostly “the game won’t please everyone” type of thing — which is completely fine from the perspective that nothing can ever satisfy everyone.
Why Bother Going From One Platform To Another
What is it that makes a good platformer ? And is Inmost a “good platformer”?
Purpose is what I call it: to me, everything that has a purpose has way more value than the contrary. Giving purpose to something can be achieved either through a very simple thing such as objectives or rewards that get players hooked, driving them to want to discover and explore a map so complex it has to be built vertically, instead of in purely horizontal plane — which also help avoid the game look too plain — but for that to happen the game has to be well-structured enough if it wants anyone to even bother taking the extra effort to precisely jump from one ominous object to land into another. Or it can also straight-up be just a plain background that is there but is adding a little foundation to the world, even if just a very small piece of it — which isn’t everything, but it surely is a good way to start things off.
But none of those guarantee a good platformer alone though, nor are there any guarantees the rest will be equally well-structured. Plus there’s definitely a lot more that goes into what constitutes the essence of a really great platformer, so much it would take me way more than just a few lines to explain what makes a great platformer, to me, at least.
So, how does Inmost fair in that scenario ? Well, first and foremost: there’s a reason behind all the impressive stunts you have to pull out (press jump) in order to reach another piece of terrain, with that reason being mostly to avoid enemies, or to solve puzzles that are very simple, but require a very attentive look at the surrounding areas to be solved.
Also, the more impressive stunts we pull out (or just the more progress we make) the closer we get to build a full picture of the story the game is trying to tell, which yeah, it’s a really basic type of progression, but it’s something many games seem to be missing lately.
The Perils Lurk In The Shadows, And In People’s Minds (spoilers)
The world of Inmost is a place full of dangers. A dark place full of pain and grief. The more we venture the world, the more we get to understand the character’s stories and their backgrounds. While we may face some horrendous monsters in our cold adventure, the biggest and most fearsome of them all is the one that lies with us, in our minds.
Most of our questions are only answered in the ending (that’s why it’s so hard to talk about the story without spoiling huge parts of it), and these answers are so subtle most people probably won’t even notice them at first:
From what I could gather of the story, pain was always the trigger for everything to happen. The trigger for all the grief we see in Inmost was the suicide of a bullied girl, daughter of the same family of the adopted girl we control. The knight in shiny armor was just an illusion for what was the father all along, fighting a silent war, struggling over time, collecting pain as he tried to make up for his mistakes (not being able to save their daughter). The mother was the witch in the story, who couldn’t accept the flower the knight had stolen, aka the girl the father (the knight) saved from death and eventually adopted as his own, knowing the girl’s initial parents died in the same place the girl was found. The mother couldn’t bear all the pain of losing a child and was eventually consumed by it. It was in her final moments that she fought the father one last time, in a desperate attempt to reunite the two with their lost child in a final sequence that played leading to the death of both of them.
Many other details of the story the ending don’t tell us, and the rest we are told only while in control of the first character we interact with (arguably the main character of the story), when talking to a specific NPC who trades pain for information. That character is the father of the knight, and in the game it is pain that would allow him to piece together the world he was in, and remember his story so vividly, no matter how many time would pass.
His piece of story ends with him finding happiness once he encounters the little girl (that is shown as a light fox in his reality), whom he took for himself to raise after her adoptive family died.
Though the pain of losing his son and daughter-in-law would never leave him, and every day from their death would be a constant fight, in the end, all there is to do is remember those who are gone while trying our best for those who still remain.
While Inmost wasn’t necessarily the most amazing game ever, nor did it have a breathtaking story, the really great aspect of it for me was the special message with a touch of originality that were good enough to compensate all the rest (short/difficult to follow story-line).
Plus, thanks to very responsive commands, all the pieces of an incredible platformer were set in place.
So… uh… is the game.. perfect ? No, it isn’t ! But considering the extremely short time it had to show its quirks, it was to me, at the very least, a truly astonishing experience, and for sure one absolutely worth engaging if you’re into what it has to offer.
Great, unique story-telling that comes with a powerful message, but all only comes to make sense at the very end.
A unique pixel-art theme that creates a really great atmosphere and has good chemistry with the world.
Smart and very creative puzzle ideas that the player actually needs to think in order to solve anything in the game.
A short game that can be finished in just a single sitting, yet is very interesting despite the short time it had to show its quirks.
The game ends super quickly, making us crave for some more content to make the experience just a tad bit longer.
Low replayability value, as Inmost isn't a game made to be replayed, so doing re-runs don't add much to the experience.
A pacing that might feel too slow to some people, but should not be an issue to those who enjoy a more laid-back experience.
Slightly confusing/unclear story-telling that not everyone will get at first (but can be very rewarding once you do.)