It never quite soars.
Have you ever wondered what the inside of a marble looks like? Well, piloting a craft through InnerSpace’s universe made me feel like I was flying inside one — then another, and another — with a handful of different gorgeous worlds waiting to be explored. But actually sailing through these dream-like skies never reached the heights I wanted it to because of annoying controls and obtuse objectives.
In fact, InnerSpace has a rough takeoff with a boring and bland tutorial. Getting to grips with your vehicle – called an airframe – happens in an ugly, monochrome room that’s in stark and weird contrast with so much beauty elsewhere. Overall, everything is pretty straightforward this early on, with the sticks maneuvering the vehicle and the shoulder buttons used for drifting and diving into water.
Once you’re acquainted with these flight controls, InnerSpace shows off its stylishness in the Sunchamber. It’s almost like floating through an impressionist painting, and it’s here that you learn about how Ancients once resided in these surreal and striking environments. Searching for their relics propels the story forward, with demigods and wind playing vital roles as well.
There’s a pretty chill vibe in the Sunchamber, which also acts as InnerSpace’s hub world. The great music adds to the effect, and I found myself relaxed as I collected white wind orbs and solved simple environmental puzzles like knocking down levers. “So far, so good,” I thought, as this might serve as a wonderful way to unwind from the high-stakes tension of Dead Cells and Fortnite.
However, this changed as I arrived in Mornsea, a world subdued in shades of purple and blue. The main objective here sees you chasing after birds at higher speeds and with more maneuvering through obstacles than we’ve seen before. The sequence also revealed how finicky the controls can be in InnerSpace, especially with a drift that glides too much for my liking. You don’t curve or veer off your course – instead, drifting means you continue moving in your current direction before choosing a new angle. Keep in mind that new angle can literally be up, down, left, right, and anywhere between. Plus, the drift boosts your craft immediately afterward. This might be beneficial for speeding across the skies, but it’s not helpful when you’re attempting to alter directions in a narrow corridor.
Destroying your craft by running into surfaces doesn’t result in any big consequences, other than possibly restarting your chase, which is just irritating. So what I thought was a laid-back experience became a bit more stressful.
There’s nothing wrong with subverting the expectations of an Abzu or Journey-like game, but InnerSpace just doesn’t handle well enough for entertaining, twitch-based interactions. There is a Hopper craft that’s unlockable — and highly recommended — that literally lets you pause when drifting. This completely stops you in your tracks before picking a new direction before blasting back off. And it’s a godsend.
So the Hopper alleviates some of the frustration with its traits, while others aggravate them. The Zephyr Spark is the Sonic the Hedgehog of InnerSpace in that it’s all about going fast. I wanted nothing to do with this craft – sure, it’s probably the preferred choice for chases, but not what I was looking for on my aerial cruises. I also unlocked a Piano model, but honestly, going at a turtle’s pace was my main requirement.
The next issue that arises after the controls is the confusing layout of levels. These worlds see you going upside down, barrel rolling, darting through tunnels, and more. There’s no map, so it’s up to you to keep your bearings, and that’s not always easy and can lead to getting stuck in places. For instance, I kept missing a small passageway in the chamber Eventide, but my persistence finally paid off. Getting lost just comes with the territory in this three- to five-hour journey.
Which, once again, is fine and could even be rewarding under the right circumstances. Yet InnerSpace never tickled my brain enough with puzzles or made me feel clever in my discoveries with subtle level design. Exploration is key, sure, but the puzzles never lead to memorable “Ah-ha!” moments. And the story can’t pick up the weight either.
I loved the theme of the wind, how it carries our memories and needs movement for life. This also connects to conversations about the past and the future. My investment trailed off there, though, as the dialogue never quite peaked past average.
The same can’t be said for the mesmerizing settings where you take flight in InnerSpace. There’s such a wonderful otherworld atmosphere throughout. Seeing each new level served as solid motivation on my journey, even if the story didn’t. I liked spending time in these weird and hypnotizing areas, especially with the accompaniment of an enjoyable electronic soundtrack. Seriously, I can see myself listening to this while making breakfast or writing in the future.