As video game technology has progressed over the years, we began seeing the length it took to beat them expand as well. Growing up in the 8-bit and 16-bit era of games, it recently dawned on me that some of my favorite games of all time aren’t necessarily the ones with the longest clock time, but rather the ones with interesting gameplay mechanics mixed with vibrant graphics, a memorable soundtrack, and a world I wanted to explore. Games like Blaster Master introduced me to what would later be described as the Metroidvania genre where I had to fully explore the levels to gain new power-ups in order to reach areas previously inaccessible. The power and freedom awarded by gaining the hover ability or wall stick tires really opened my eyes to the possibility of the way games played out. The kicks ass soundtrack didn’t hurt matters either. Ninja Gaiden offered up a smorgasbord of great controls, difficult enemies, stellar graphics, fantastic music, and drove home the importance of a compelling story to keep the player engaged.
Of course a bunch of other games managed to find that elusive video game magic that kept me coming back for more and more, but one thing is for certain: the majority of the games I played as a kid weren’t necessarily longer than a few hours once I got good at them. Over the decades game developers would boast that their games would take longer to beat, some advertising over 100 hours of gameplay! I admit, growing up that seemed like a great bullet point on the back of a game box. Of course back then I had all the time in the world. I feel like some games really focused on adding padding to meet those marketing points and that has a real possibility of turning people away.
Today we’re in a different sort of gaming landscape where we have games of all types and lengths. It was sort of taboo to have a really short game, but the advent of digital storefronts and indie developers there’s a place for the three hour title, as long as it’s priced accordingly of course. So, yes, Inmost is a shorter game that can take somewhere between three and five hours for most gamers. Yes, you could replay it and try to find more secrets, but I think for most one time through will be satisfying enough. For me it was about the perfect size game for what it was going for, especially with games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Paper Mario: The Origami King, and Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition all trying to suck up hundreds of hours out of my life.
So, after all of that rambling, what exactly is Inmost? At its core it’s a pixel art 2D action puzzle game where you alternate between three different characters through a very dark and depressing world. The game’s chapters are somewhat short and the story plays out mostly through trial and error. It reminded me a lot of Inside, in that you’re sort of plopped into this world not knowing what’s going on, but the locales and platforming do much of the story telling. There is some text throughout the game and even a voiced narration at certain points (especially toward the end), but most of the game feels desolate and alone as you try to piece together what has happened to these three people.
Each character has a different set of moves. The first one is a middle-aged man with no combat options. He has a dodge roll that can get him out of danger, but for the most part you’ll be exploring around just my walking and jumping. There are often areas that require some light puzzle solving by grabbing an item and placing it somewhere else or hooking a rope to an important item to lift it to a new platform. I considered him to be the main character and I had the most fun controlling his segments.
The next player is a swordsman knight of sorts who is all about attacking. Much like Bionic Commando, he has no jump so to access other parts of the levels he’ll have to use a grappling hook that shoots out of a bow to whisk himself around. Waves of shadow enemies will appear that he must slice and dice through. While I appreciated the combat portions of the game, his sections were often the most straightforward and basic so I was always eager to play as on of the other two characters.
The third character is a little girl. Now, normally this would sound boring, but she really has no special moves at all. She can walk around and she can climb on objects. Much like a traditional point and click adventure game, many of the objects can be looked at and she’ll give some commentary via a text bubble. Early on she is reunited with her stuffed bunny and that’s where the game takes a more dark turn because now when you examine stuff the bunny gives its own description and it’s a mix of humor and disturbing dialog. It’s obvious from the start that the little girl is living in a troubled house with parents that are less than ideal. In many way I liked her segments the best because it had a persistent story and the mystery would slowly unravel the more I got to play as her. I found myself surprised that this 8-bit looking pixelized world with almost no gameplay (walking simulator in a 2D landscape is what came to mind) was the one I was most eager to explore. But, your mileage may vary depending on what kinds of games you enjoy, so I appreciate three very different character segments to give a little bit of something for everyone.
As I just mentioned, the presentation is very 8-bit with small sprites, but the environments are very detailed. Most of the time there are only a few colors on the screen, and some segments look like they could have been done on a Game Boy. Little flourishes like candles and flickers of fire lighting up the environments take the graphics slightly beyond what you’d have seen on the NES. There’s also plenty of parallax scrolling and occasionally huge creatures and animated backgrounds that definitely put this well ahead of what was technically possible back in the 8-bit days. Animations and exquisitely designed set pieces really make the world entertaining to explore.
The audio is also current day with a moving soundtrack complete with violins and other instruments. There is some voice acting throughout and it gets the job done, just don’t expect anything too amazing. The audiovisuals really service the story and help elevate the emotional plot. Much like Celeste, there are undercurrents of serious issues that some people experience in real life and it sort of hits hard by the end. I know I certainly felt anxious in the last few moments!
I think it’s fantastic that the industry has grown big enough for a game like Inmost to exist. It’s clearly crafted with love and it shows every step of the way. Is it perfect? No, but then again so few games are. I felt the combat sections were a bit clunky and uninspired and in the end I would have preferred that 1/3 of the game axed from existence if it meant I could spend more time with the other two characters. More puzzle areas and exploring with the girl would have made the game even better. Also the ending felt forced with the game taking away control of the characters to dump a bunch of story all at once. I’m not sure if the developers ran out of money or time, but the last 20 minutes of the game could have been delivered in a better way. But, the overall package still works as a compelling narrative experience and it will stick with me for a very long time.
- Graphics - 8/108/10
- Sound - 8/108/10
- Gameplay - 7/107/10
- Lasting Appeal - 7/107/10
Final Thoughts: GOOD
Inmost is a dark and emotional 2D puzzle adventure featuring three playable characters via an intertwining story. Detailed pixel art and a moving soundtrack help sell the story and the puzzle solving is rewarding. Some of the action segments fall a bit short and the last half hour or so of the game seems rushed, but overall it’s an experience I won’t soon forget.