Title: The Inner Friend
Genre: Action & Adventure, Puzzle & Trivia
Platform: Xbox One
Age Rating: PEGI 16
Release Date: 27/04/2020
Price: £12.49 – Rapid Reviews was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
I jumped at the chance to review The Inner Friend; the release trailer and game description seemed to promise a unique gaming experience ahead. The Inner Friend certainly has a very original feel to it and is (as described by Playmind, the Developers) immersive from the very beginning.
The opening cinematic cut scene gave me the impression of being Alice (from Alice in Wonderland) tumbling down the rabbit hole into the unknown. Almost immediately I found myself captivated by the depth of meaning conveyed by the music and thought-provoking images.
Since there is no dialogue, you rely on audio and visual cues to navigate your way through each scenario and the game is played very intuitively by interpreting clues about where to go and what to do as you progress from level to level. As well as the absence of dialogue there are no text hints or instructions, this means that a lot of the story-line is also left open to the player’s interpretation.
Your character is quite simple to control. Apart from moving them physically and controlling where they look, you only have two other buttons to worry about, ‘jump’ and ‘interact’. It’s obvious when you need to interact with something as it has a white/translucent glow and when you approach it, an image of the ‘interact’ button appears on screen.
In each level you meet different challenges and puzzles to solve. For some of the puzzles you need to place your character quite precisely and this is made a little more difficult by the view/movement perspective; forwards is where your character is looking, so ‘up’ on the left stick doesn’t always take you where you think it will in tight spaces.
I found the puzzles themselves enjoyable and varied. You spend a lot of time observing how things happen to work out timings to get past obstacles and stay unseen or weighing up what all the visual and auditory clues are telling you. You learn to be alert to the sounds and sights surrounding your character in this rich mode of communication.
I think that the lack of dialogue in the game contributes towards the immersive feel. It might sound as if this would detract from game-play in some way, but I didn’t realise that it was missing until I’d completed the first level – and it came as a bit of a surprise because of how much information I had taken in.
There’s something compelling about the way you work out what the game is trying to tell you and I don’t think adding words could have improved it in any way. In fact, I think dialogue would have removed most of the mystery and intrigue.
Your character does communicate by making indistinguishable sounds at times to ‘call out’ to the Shadow you follow throughout the game. The Shadow answers with an equally indistinguishable noise. I found these sounds both endearing and childlike. It’s perhaps this childlike aspect to your character and the Shadow you follow that adds a particularly eery feel to the scenes where you are chased by the ‘fears’.
I absolutely adored the soundtrack to the Inner Friend. It is beautifully haunting and matches the pace and tone of each scene perfectly. The game is equally impressive on a visual level – from the bizarre imaginings that are the ‘fears’ you must escape to the artwork for the levels themselves. I was particularly impressed with the Parking Lot and the Ruins.
As part of the storyline you collect a few of the collectibles but if you want to find them all you have to look in places a little off the beaten track. There’s a treat for you if you get them all, a ‘Hidden Cinematic’ to unlock and watch. If you didn’t get all the collectibles in your first run through you can go back and play level by level to find them, and of course just for the pleasure of playing your favourite level again.
You can also use the level replay feature to help you earn achievements, some of which are for completing some of the tougher puzzles in one go or for completing them in a certain number of steps. You might need a bit of practice for those – I certainly do! I won’t spoil it for you but one of the achievements is a bit macabre – I was surprised when it popped up!
Should you buy The Inner Friend? From me it’s a yes. If you fancy something a bit different from one of the usual formulas, where the instructions are not handed to you on a plate coupled with compelling visuals, an emotive soundtrack and storyline, this game is for you.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can buy The Inner Friend for the Xbox One in the Microsoft Store.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.