Friday, August 17

Review: The Inner World and The Inner World - The Last Wind Monk [Nintendo Switch eShop]



There’s always a bit of a challenge when reviewing games that are distinct in their release but that are obviously related. Such is the case with both The Inner World and it’s sequel, The Last Wind Monk. While I’ll be sure to give space to the strengths and flaws of both individual titles, but since they share quite a bit in common it seemed less redundant to cover them in the same space, though ultimately this will be two scored reviews in one.


The short summary is that both of them share a charming hand drawn art style and feature colorful characters that have often witty dialogue that is fun to simply experiment with. Rather than being heavily driven by purpose, solutions here are more of a meandering sort, where you’ll start out with high-level objectives and then run into weirdness and fun along the way. Of course, finding items and then often combining them to find typically unorthodox solutions to the problems and puzzles you’re presented with comes with the territory, but for the most part the humor helps greatly in minimizing the frustrations along the way. To help you chisel your way through some of the impossibly hard to crack item puzzles the game thankfully provides an easy access hint system that attempts to dole out a clue at a time to first nudge you along but if need be it will pretty well spell out what you need to do. The shame is this is pretty well necessary, and often, but considering this is pretty well a typical issue for this genre the baked in solution is a nice way of helping to compensate.


The original title plays out more as a fish out of water story, where you’ll control the sheltered and somewhat meek Robert, who has been raised by the powerful and somewhat dickish Conroy. When things go awry with an incident involving a pigeon Robert chases him down a pipe and finds himself out in the world, a bit confused and bewildered but with a purpose. Over the course of the game he comes to understand the truth about his world, himself, and the person he’s been serving all this time. The biggest issue with the original, especially in contrast with its sequel is that it lacks touchscreen support and that makes the controls quite cumbersome. You can thankfully cycle through on-screen hot spots and then choose actions for them but this isn’t an ideal way to play and it does sometimes make what should be simple strings of actions unnecessarily hard.


The sequel, and I’ll try to remain vague so as not to ruin the story, continues three years after the conclusion of the original. While there’s still certainly humor to be found, the innocent out in the world theme of the first title is replaced with darker and more sinister threads that even risk getting a bit too close to our own reality for people who enjoy the pure escape of games. Persecution, ignorance, and hatred of “others” are a big part of the story and the less innocent but still pretty humble Robert will need to show more growth, with the help of his friends Laura and Peck (yes, the pigeon from the first game *SPOILER*). What’s most notable about this sequel, though, is that it was obviously written with touchscreens in mind and not only are touch controls supported but even the scaling of critical elements have been made a bit bigger with small screens in mind versus likely having been designed primarily for PCs. The other big change that improves the experience quite a bit is that you’re able to toggle between characters, allowing each to bring their own skills to bear. In theory this could make the puzzles more confusing but instead for me it helped make at least some of them more sensible.


Overall, if you’re a fan of the genre, appreciate clever writing with unusual characters, and have a degree of tolerance for some good old convoluted puzzle solutions both Inner World titles deliver. My apologies if you were hoping to know more about the stories, I tend to stick more to generalities in these reviews because that’s always a crucial piece of the experience, and ruined surprises simply aren’t as fun. If you’re not ready to fully dive in with both titles but want to check out what the series has to offer you’ll clearly want to opt for the sequel, especially on the Switch, given the touchscreen support and optimization even if the story is a bit more heavy.

The Inner World Score: 6.5

Pros:
  • A pretty light-hearted and fun affair, full of clever dialogue and unusual characters
  • Terrific hand-drawn art style
  • A nice tiered hint system that tries to dole out only as much information you need, just you’ll unfortunately use it a lot most likely

Cons:
  • No touchscreen support
  • Navigation is doable but is also quite cumbersome
  • Some truly strange solutions to puzzles that not even the hint system can always adequately spell out

The Inner World - The Last Wind Monk Score: 8

Pros:
  • Touchscreen controls and optimization for a smaller screen make it far more approachable on Switch
  • The dynamic of switching between characters opens new possibilities with puzzles and added fun
  • A nice tiered hint system that tries to dole out only as much information you need, just you’ll unfortunately use it a lot most likely

Cons:
  • While there’s humor the much more serious tone of some of its themes may be a bit too closely aligned with the real world for some
  • Some truly strange solutions to puzzles that not even the hint system can always adequately spell out