Big things can sometimes come in unassuming packages, and not all adventures have to feature innovative control schemes or frightening scare tactics. There is still plenty of room for traditional point-and-click games that impress by doing what’s been done so often before, but doing it very well. The Inner World is that kind of game: a classic adventure whose hand-drawn, cartoony art style will appeal to young gamers, but whose humor, story, and puzzles will keep even veterans of the genre entertained as well. In short, it’s a game that the entire family can truly enjoy together.
Speaking of big things in small packages, little Robert is a novice at the Wind Temple of Asposia and court musician to Abbott Conroy, its resident wind monk. Robert has spent his whole life sheltered under the watchful eye of Conroy, unaware of the dire straits his world finds itself in. You see, Asposia is a world within a world, surrounded on all sides by rock. Wind inexplicably entering through the three wind fountains has become the hidden world’s life force; without it there's no light, and industry, trade, even Asposia’s very existence would come to a grinding halt.
And wind is exactly what’s running out. Years ago, the Basylians – angry wind gods who control the wind fountains – became displeased with the Asposians, and since then they’ve been on a rampage, petrifying all they gaze upon while the wind fountains slowly dry up. Robert isn’t the kind of hero to set out on a grand quest to save his world. Rather, he begins merely by chasing a thieving pigeon into a dirty, trash-choked back alley. Before long, he meets the charismatic Laura, a girl searching for her missing father. Following the cryptic clues he left behind for her, Laura not only believes that her father is still alive somewhere, but that he holds the key to discovering a secret wind fountain. Initially an unwilling participant, Robert is pulled into a tale of civil unrest in his own coming-of-age adventure. And if he plays his cards right, he just might learn how to save the world and impress the girl in the process.
Studio Fizbin, newcomer to the adventure scene, has crafted a charming, player-friendly experience. The game sports high presentation values, chiefly in its hand-drawn animation resembling Saturday morning TV cartoons. It eschews realism for a stylized fantasy world filled with creatures that draw their inspiration straight from a child’s storybook. Most resemble crosses between two animals, like the tumble mice that look like miniature-sized sheep, or the monkey-like wooloofs. Even the Asposians themselves sport an imaginative look, their distinguishing feature a striped, pointed nose – all but Robert, whose nose is plain and lined with holes, allowing him to play it like a flute. Playing as Robert, you’ll have a chance to explore the throne room of Conroy’s castle, brave the dangers of a trap-laden root forest, find an underground laboratory, and uncover the secret of the lost wind fountain.
Along with the clean, colorful art style comes painless navigation and an easy-to-use inventory system. Mousing over an object brings up clickable options, generally things like “Look”, “Take” or “Talk to”. The inventory, popping up when the cursor approaches the bottom of the screen, is unobtrusive; click and drag an item where you’d like to use it, or onto another object to combine them. Items in your inventory, as well as possible dialog options during conversations, are visually represented by button-like picture icons. Holding the mouse button down will cause all on-screen hotspots to appear, avoiding the need for pixel hunting and making it a snap to find any vital items you may have missed previously.
The audio is equally pleasant, with a catchy title theme that perfectly fits the fantastical world, followed by equally good music throughout the game. Voice acting, however, is more of a mixed bag. Most characters sound fine, like Abbott Conroy’s gruff, authoritative baritone and the plucky, rebellious attitude of Laura, Robert's partner in stirring up civil unrest – wanted for such crimes as chewing gum in public. Several minor characters also work flawlessly, and the narrator’s smooth solemnity was a great choice. On the other hand, a few characters get decidedly too much game-time, their voices grating on the nerves, like Detze, a little boy with the painfully obvious adult male falsetto. The most unfortunate voiceover comes from Robert himself; while his flaccid, wispy lack of authority seems fitting at first, it quickly becomes tedious as even describing objects in the environment sounds like an overwhelming task for him.
Originally developed in German, the localization from one language to another does raise some minor concerns. Several times the translation is noticeably wonky, resulting in a few lines of spoken dialog that are simply grammatically incorrect (“I wonder why they search the girl”, instead of “search for”) and some misnamed items in the environment (a "pillow" instead of a "box"). Another time, a close-up insert providing important clues for a puzzle still showed bits and pieces of the original German text around its borders. Fortunately, these are entirely cosmetic and do not affect the gameplay, as the humor has been kept intact, even managing to include sly bits of innuendo and even contextual wordplay.Continued on the next page...