Maybe it’s just a factor of the kind of year that it has been, but I feel like I’ve been playing more “feel good” games than usual lately. For me, and I’m sure a great many other folks out there, the juice in the emotional fuel tank has been running low for some time now, so if I’m dedicating my time to an experience that I know is going to crush me and pull on the ol’ heartstrings, it better damn well be worth it.
So far, there have been two games that have managed to pull off such a feat. One was The Last of Us Part II and the second one, which caught me completely by surprise, was Inmost. A game that launched on mobile last year and was only recently ported to Steam and consoles, Inmost is a game that deserves more credit for what it gets right and I’m really pleased to see it break into a more mainstream market because it deserves to be played by more people.
It’s a game that’s not afraid to tell a wholly original story, targeting themes often unexplored in video games and uses gameplay that might not necessarily be “fun” but is engaging enough to push you through the narrative, which is really the big selling point for the game. Be warned though, if you are interested in checking out Inmost, it’s a depressing game, one where there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
Which is very much intentional as the game makes it explicitly clear that the experience is about pain and suffering and how those factors warp and change people over time. Mixing elements of fantasy, surrealism and reality, Inmost tells a story that feels not only well adapted to the video game medium but one that wouldn’t be suited for any other form. I’m not going into the specifics considering the game relies heavily on dramatic reveals throughout its brief run time that to provide any comntext up front would be a disservice.
While starting out cryptically, I was nervous that Inmost would be one of those games that just makes everything weird for the sake of it without clarifying what any of it means; I’ve become tired of games using the excuse of “it means whatever you want it to mean!” to excuse poorly implemented analogies or metaphors. Fortunately, Inmost delivers a cathartic and rewarding conclusion that, admittedly, did drag on for what felt like a lengthy fifteen-minute cutscene. Still, as a story it’s unique and interesting, paced tightly with very little padding to prolong the experience.
If anything, the padding feels almost incorporated with the core gameplay loop. As a platformer, Inmost is slow and purposeful, if I can use such a word to describe the gameplay. Making your way through the three different locations as three vastly different characters, you’ll be forced to solve puzzles that more often than not come down to pulling a thing, running over to collect an item, and then pulling on a lever to open up a pathway back.
It’s very simple, almost to the point where it feels like the game could have been better served as a point-and-click adventure game where it not for the sections that require some light timing to jump over enemies or make a leap between a small gap. The game isn’t even all that punishing for mistakes, often just resetting the player character back to the point they died with no consequences. Sometimes I was even placed in a position that avoided the enemy entirely; I’m unsure if that was a glitch or the game being helpful but given that Inmost is more about experiencing its narrative and embracing the constantly depressing tone of the worlds, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was the occasional helping hand.
Yet it’s difficult to really say much more about the gameplay because there’s really not much to it. The Man explores his level in a way that feels like it’s drawing inspiration for metroidvanias but certainly doesn’t feature the tropes often associated with the genre, The Girl plays in a similar way but is more restricted in her movements forcing her to make more use of her environment and The Knight is…well, he has a contextual grappling hook and a massive sword so he plays the most differently.
It’s a decent mix of variation as the game switches between them frequently enough that you never become lost or bored with one or the other. Having said that, movement can be painfully slow and there were just a few too many puzzles that required me to push a block across the screen at a rate that let me catch up on my poor night’s sleep while holding the left analog stick down.
Yet I feel like that was a purposeful decision by the developer. A game as gloomy, sad, and dark wouldn’t work if it was fast and snappy. The mechanics feel in line with the game’s themes and visuals, which by the way are utterly gorgeous. While we might be getting to a stage where pixel-art is less impressive than ever, the detail in the environments and animation in Inmost are constantly stunning to behold, a feat given how the game’s colour palette is almost monochrome it’s so saturated. If anything, Inmost is especially good at evoking emotion through its presentation. Just one look at any still from this game should tell you exactly what kind of mood it’s creating, something it commits to wholeheartedly.
I suppose this all comes back to whether or not you think games should be “fun”. If that’s important for you, then avoid Inmost like the plague. Yet if you see value in the medium of games as more than just mindless entertainment, Inmost tells a hauntingly powerful story with some utterly gorgeous visuals that never outstays its welcome and finishes stronger than most games that try to tackle such heavy themes.
Last Updated: September 3, 2020