The Inner World takes you to a whimsical, fantasy world right in the middle of a universe made entirely out of dirt. In the middle of the universe, there is a world called Asposia which is encased entirely by this soil. The world exists inside the soil (as a sort of inner world, one might say), so if you were to look straight up you wouldn’t see sky by the opposite side of Asposia. Wind fountains provide energy and life to the world, which would be great except they have all been slowly breaking, awakening the ancient wind gods who have a nasty habit of turning anyone they see into stone. You play as Robert, the sheltered and charmingly naive ward of Conroy, priest and guardian of the world’s sole remaining wind temple. Conroy loses a very important trinket, and as Robert feels that it is his fault he leaves through the trash disposal to go find it. From here, you must explore a world you’ve only ever seen from a window and solve a variety of puzzles and problems along the way.
As you might guess, the story really opens up from here and the game goes from the search for a lost trinket to a quest to save a dying world rather quickly. The story is quite enjoyable, and reminded me of something you might encounter in children’s fairytales with enough adult themes and motifs added to ensure the game appeals to a broader audience. The dialogue is well written and at times very funny, even if some dialogue trees can drag on for too long without really adding anything. The story is engaging and entertaining to follow, and it is great to watch Robert’s progression in the game. The story itself does suffer from being entirely too predictable, and once I watched the opening cutscene I had already pretty much figured out everything the game had in store. Still, the journey itself was an entertaining one even if I knew where we’d be going.
The puzzles for the most part are fairly solid, with the majority being the sort of things you would expect from a point-and-click adventure game. Find an object, shove it at everything you can find until you hit the right thing, then proceed to the next puzzle that unfolds the same way. Objects can be looked at or picked up, and the various people that populate Aspsosia can be talked to in order to provide hints or sometimes just some humorous dialogue. Objects you picked up can be combined with each other or used on another object in the world, and it is all pretty much the standard interface that we all know and love. There are some more interesting, more complex puzzles along the way that serve as a nice way to break up the more standard puzzle solving. For example, at one point you will need to adjust the scenery of a play to help open up a trap door using subtle clues, and the game always does a nice job not holding your hand at these points. It gives you enough to figure out what to do, and the puzzles do a nice job being difficult without being frustrating. Of course, there is an extensive hint system that you can use if you ever get stuck, which basically gives you the answer if you don’t feel like working through it any more.
Unfortunately, The Inner World occasionally falls prey to the most common of all point-and-click adventure game pitfalls: silly puzzle design. Occasionally, the solution comes as a result of rubbing everything together until you come to the right answer and not as a result of logical deduction. Very early on in the game you are given what looks like the wooden frame of a slingshot and an object just out of reach that needs to be knocked down somehow. I happened to already have in my possession a piece of string, and foolishly thought I could combine it with the wooden frame to make a slingshot, an idea the game thought was so stupid that it took time out to point out how dumb I was being. It turned out that what I needed to do was get a worm sufficiently drunk so I could use it with the frame to make a slingshot, something that will confound both lovers of rational puzzle design. For the most part the game does do a decent job giving you puzzles with solutions that aren’t completely inane, and while the occasionally poorly designed puzzle will pop up for the most part the game does a good job making puzzles that are challenging without being completely esoteric.
The visuals are quite charming, and the game utilizes a unique hand drawn style that is both striking and fitting with the tone and atmosphere of the game in general. They really feel like they are straight out of a cartoon, and while they might look simple compared to some other adventure games on the market the game is beautiful and a lot of fun to explore. This is a thoroughly unique world that just needs to be jumped into, and it is worth it to learn about every little facet you can as it just breaths with originality. The presentation and design are probably the strongest aspect of the game as a whole, and I found myself talking to everyone I could just so I could find out more about the world.