It’s safe to say that adventure games tend to whisk us away to worlds that — when they’re not fascinatingly familiar — are far different to what we’re used to. Some of the most outlandishly whimsical examples of the genre, like Samorost or Violett or even sections of Fran Bow, weave in surrealism and sensational storylines together with puzzles and aesthetics you won’t find anywhere else.
Why ruminate on these lovely thoughts today? Well, during May 2022, Xbox Live Gold is welcoming The Inner World to its giveaway games roster — and it’s inspired us to fondly remember the brilliance of Robert’s adventures on his strange little planet.
As the title might well hint towards, The Inner World takes place on a planet that’s inside-out, from the conventional point of view. Whereas we on Earth live on the outer surface, being the silly sort of people we are, the wistful folks of The Inner World live on the internal surface of their world.
It curls out and away in an enormous sphere in all directions — getting from one side of the world to another involves taking a cable-car through a suspended station in the middle and trying not to think about gravity too much.
As a setting, it’s wonderfully inventive, populated by gadgets and peculiar creatures that challenge your conventional outlook on puzzles and how to solve them. It’s not all surrealism though — this world runs on its own internal logic, and you sometimes have the cynical pigeon Peck on hand to help.
Par for the course for any adventure game, our hero Robert is a downtrodden yet plucky little fellow who has a tendency for meeting people who are
a) deeply peculiar, and
b) apt to prevent him from doing ordinarily quite reasonable things without being bribed or distracted or outfoxed in some way.
Naturally, Robert’s also got no qualms about stuffing everything he finds into his trousers, irrespective of ownership.
He’s not in this alone, of course — what’s an adventure game without a female lead with far more backbone than the protagonist? — yet Robert’s journey to uncover the truth behind both the fascist regime ruling The Inner World and the dastardly deviations empowering the monsters flying around turning people into stone will take him to plenty of bizarre locales.
Towns, swamps, fortresses and ruins await Robert and his entourage as he outfoxes cookie-obsessed curators, dumpy little swamp monsters and strangely sniffy sky-station gentlemen.
Brought to life by lively voice acting, a sumptuous score (the music’s even on Spotify!) and a punchy semi-90s art style, The Inner World is a modern classic of adventure games that’s sorely underloved by players both experienced and new.
Even if you’re not an XBox gamer, take this chance for renewed interest in this game and it’s sequel to get stuck in. The charm, puzzles, imaginative landscapes and surprisingly dark undercurrents in the storyline might well spirit you away.