Review – Inmost

Ever since Limbo came out ten years ago, the indie scene started to be flooded with a very specific subgenre I like to call the “depressive art platformer”. It’s a type of game that uses the basis of puzzle platformers in order to tell a usually depressing and tense story involving weak and frail characters thrown into a sad, gray, and ultra hostile world. Developed by Hidden Layer Games, Inmost is the latest entry in this niche group. Let’s see if it can stand right next to Limbo, Inside, Creaks, and all of its depressive peers.

Inmost

My inner demons sure don’t like to respect my privacy.

Inmost doesn’t waste your time. Right from the get-go, it showcases that you’ll be in for a discomforting ride. You’re bombarded with a beautiful, but absolutely depressing, borderline monochromatic color palette that evokes a sense of sadness and loss of hope. You’re thrown into a world with little explanation of what to do and where to go, with death being almost a mandatory learning experience. You’ll quickly learn that you need to avoid these dark blobs scattered throughout the world, as the slightest touch will kill your character. You will also learn how everyone around you has equally lost all hope, with one of the earliest characters you meet complaining about how miserable life is. And those are just the first ten minutes or so. It just gets darker afterwards.

The gameplay varies depending on the character you’re controlling, as you alternate between three of them. I don’t want to enter into details as to who they are and what they do, as Inmost is best enjoyed by knowing very little about its plot and setting. At its core, Inmost is a puzzle platformer. It is looser and more free-form than your average Prince of Persia clone, as you have a higher degree of autonomy over your jumps, for instance. However, this is still the kind of game in which your controls are intentionally stiff, with a high degree of trial and error involved. It also borrows some elements from the metroidvania genre. Depending on who you’re controlling, you’ll either be faster or able to get rid of enemies with combat techniques, but this isn’t its main focus.

Inmost

I like the color palette a lot. Even if it makes me feel like an emo teenager on the inside.

In fact, the gameplay itself isn’t even the game’s focus at all. Its setting and storytelling is. And there lies my main “issue” with Inmost: it just isn’t an entertaining experience. It provides you with decent controls, an efficient gameplay loop, and even some collectibles, but you’re constantly bombarded with a depressive narration and an overall setting so dour that it makes you feel depressed alongside it.

While I did enjoy some other equally depressive games over the past few years, I don’t think any of them were so on-the-nose with the setting and premise as Inmost. Even The Last of Us Part II, a game that makes the saddest emo songs sound like R.E.M.’s “Shiny Happy People” in comparison, had entertaining combat segments. I could simply shut my brain off and enjoy some nonsensical carnage instead of paying attention at how miserable Ellie’s life was at the time. Limbo and Inside, while also equally dour, were more subtle in terms of storytelling. They also put their puzzle-solving gameplay as its main focus. That’s just not the case in here, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just a matter of taste, as well as a matter of the time it is being released, that just makes Inmost a harsher experience.

Inmost

There are times in which Inmost becomes a borderline horror game, and damn it’s effective.

Inmost is the rare case of a really good game that intentionally tries to be discomforting and uneasy due to its themes. I liked its visuals, level structure, and sound design, but it’s hard for me to actively recommend it. It’s just way too downtrodden and depressing in a way that it almost demotivates you to play it for long. Unlike other equally dispiriting games out there, its gameplay, while good, isn’t as addictive or engaging to hook you for hours on end. If you’re okay with a game that’s just here to make you feel like a sad pile of goo, go for it. I commend the developers for what they have achieved, but I don’t think I’ll replay Inmost for the foreseeable future.

 

Graphics: 8.0

Really well-crafted and well-animated pixel art that fits in well with the game’s depressing, borderline monochromatic color palette.

Gameplay: 7.5

The gameplay varies depending on who you’re controlling, but it’s always a mixture between a free-form and a cinematic puzzle platformer. It’s a bit stiff, but you can get used to it after a while.

Sound: 8.0

Not a lot of music is played throughout the game, but when it does, it’s surprisingly decent. The sound effects are eerie, and the very few instances of voice acting sprinkled throughout your adventure are really well-performed. All in all, it’s quality over quantity in here.

Fun Factor: 7.0

It’s a really good game. It features clever puzzles and some surprising instances of tension, but it’s also a very depressing story, one that often makes you feel uneasy.

Final Verdict: 7.5

Inmost is available now on PC and Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Inmost was provided by the publisher.