The technology of video games has evolved over the years, as has the time it takes to beat them. I grew up in the era of 8- and 16-bit games, and I recently realized that some of my favorite games of all time aren’t necessarily the longest, but rather those with interesting gameplay mixed with vibrant graphics, a memorable soundtrack, and a world I loved to explore. Games like Blaster Master introduced me to what would later be called the Metroidvania genre, where I had to explore levels all over to get new power-ups that allowed me to reach previously inaccessible areas. The power and freedom you gain from being able to pull yourself forward or tire yourself out with sticks on the wall really opened my eyes to the possibilities of how games are played. The Kick Ass soundtrack didn’t hurt either. Ninja Gaiden offered a smorgasbord of great controls, tough enemies, great graphics, fantastic music, and clearly showed how important an exciting story is to keep the player engaged.
Sure, a few other games have managed to find that elusive video game magic that brought me back, but one thing is for sure: Most of the games I played as a kid didn’t last more than a few hours once I got good. For decades, game developers boasted that their games lasted longer, some claiming over 100 hours of play! I’ll admit that as a kid he looked like a big projectile in the back of a game box. Of course, back then I had all the time in the world. I feel like some games are really focused on adding padding to satisfy those marketing points, and that has a real chance of alienating people.
Today we are in another game landscape where we have games of all types and durations. A really short game was a no-no, but with the rise of digital showcases and independent developers there is room for a three hour title, provided of course the price is high enough. So, yes, Inmost is a shorter game that can take three to five hours for most players. Yes, you could do it again and try to find more mysteries, but I think that would be quite entertaining for most. For me it was the perfect game size, especially with games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Paper Mario: Origami King, and Xeno Blade Chronic: Final Edition , all trying to waste hundreds of hours of my life.
So, after all that blathering, what exactly does Inmostmean? The game is based on a two-dimensional pixel-art style puzzle in which you take turns with three different characters evolving in a very dark and depressing world. The chapters of the game are fairly short, and the action of the game mostly takes place through trial and error. It reminded me a lot of Inside, in the sense that you’re somehow dragged into this world without knowing what’s going on, but localization and setting up platforms is a big part of the story. There is some text and even voice-overs at certain points in the game (especially at the end), but most players feel neglected and alone when trying to figure out what happened to these three people.
Each character has a different set of moves. The first is a middle-aged man who can’t fight. He has a dodge roll that can take him out of danger, but for the most part, you’ll just be running around my walk and jump exploring. There are often situations where you need to solve a simple puzzle by taking an object and putting it in a different place, or attaching a rope to an important object to lift it onto a new platform. I found him to be the main character, and I had a lot of fun navigating his segments.
The next player is a kind of knight with a sword who does nothing but attack. Like the Bionic Commando, he has no jump, so to reach other parts of the levels, he must use a grapple that makes an arc to launch himself. Waves of dark enemies appear, which he must cut to pieces. While I enjoyed the fighting parts of the game, the parts of it were often the easiest and most basic, so I always enjoyed playing as much as the other two characters.
The third character is a little girl. Normally this would sound boring, but she doesn’t move much. She can run and climb on things. As in a traditional point-and-click adventure game, many objects can be viewed, and some comments are displayed in a speech bubble. Earlier she was reunited with her stuffed rabbit, and here the game takes a darker turn, because now, as you explore things, the rabbit gives its own description, and it’s a mix of humor and disturbing dialogue. It is clear from the start that the little girl lives in a problematic family with parents who are not ideal. In many ways, it was her segment I enjoyed the most, as she had a tenacious story and the mystery gradually became clearer as I played for her. I was surprised that this world with 8 bit pixels and almost no gameplay (think simulation of walking in a 2D landscape) was what I most wanted to explore. But that depends on the games you like, so I think there are three very different character segments to give everyone something to play.
As mentioned before, the presentation is very 8-bit with few sprites, but the environment is very detailed. There are usually only a few colors on the screen, and some segments look like they were made on a Game Boy. A little sparkle like candlelight and the flicker of the fire illuminating the environment elevates the graphics a bit above what you would see on the NES. There’s also a lot of parallax scrolling and sometimes huge creatures and animated backgrounds that are definitely way beyond what was technically possible in the 8-bit era. The excellent animation and scenography really let you discover a fascinating world.
The audio is also contemporary with a moving soundtrack featuring violins and other instruments. There is a type of voice that works everywhere, and does its job, but don’t expect anything too surprising. Audiovisual really serves the story and helps to enhance the emotional side of the story. Like Celeste, there are serious problems in some people’s lives that end up hitting them hard. I know I’ve been really excited for the last few minutes!
I think it’s great that the industry has grown big enough for a game like Inmost to exist. It is clearly designed with love and shows every step of the way. Perfect? No, but then again, so few matches. I found the combat sections a bit clunky and uninspired, and in the end, I would have preferred to cut 1/3 of the game if it meant I could spend more time with the other two characters. More puzzle zones and exploration with the girl would have made the game even better. The ending of the game also felt forced, taking control away from the characters to drop a number of plot lines all at once. I don’t know if the developers ran out of money or time, but the last 20 minutes of the game could have been done better. But the whole thing still works as an immersive narrative experience, and it will stay with me for a very long time.
- Charts – 8/10
- Sound – 8/10
- Gameplay – 7/10
- Late Call – 7/10
Final thoughts: GOOD PAGE
Inmost is a dark and emotional 2D adventure puzzle that takes three playable characters through an interwoven plot. The detailed pixel art and moving soundtrack help sell the story, and solving the puzzle is rewarding. Some action segments are a bit shorter and the last half hour of the game seems rushed, but overall it’s an experience I won’t soon forget.
Craig has been involved in the video game industry since 1995. His work has been published in various media. He is currently an editor and contributor to Age of Games.
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