Review: The Inner Darkness

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It’s rare that I end up with a game I enjoy that I can’t recommend. Usually it’s the opposite, I’ll have a game that I don’t personally enjoy or have problems with but recognize that it has enough merits to get by. I wish that was the case with The Inner Darkness, but in the final analysis I just couldn’t find enough to support it. It has all the parts I love about indie games, the platforming and the pixels, but they don’t come together to form a very satisfying experience.

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Your little dude wakes up in a darkened field, at the center of some shadow world of black trees and meat tendrils. He doesn’t know the how’s or why’s of any of it but he’s got a bleeding stomach wound and he needs help. Fortunately that doesn’t impede his jumping and sprinting, and after some perfunctory platforming he finds he can flip between the evil meat world and sunny pastoral world. There are key differences between the two (besides the ambiance) that will help him overcome the obstacles he’ll face, and along the way he’ll find strange clues to the overarching mystery of his surroundings and his condition.

I’ll be blunt: you’ve heard this story before. Your chatty little dude will muse at every tentacle and light fixture in ways that will be familiar to players of indie offerings, and the twist at the end is one that a hundred games have already had their way with. It’s not a bad story, definitely not for a game as small in scope as this, and I even appreciate your character’s lines for the most part. But it cuts right to the core of my problem with this game, which is that it doesn’t offer anything you haven’t seen before. You can absolutely get tired of good stories, and I am absolutely tired of this one.

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The platforming to see said story through is only a few days fresher than the narrative. Dimension-flipping is at the heart of the puzzles, with bridges only appearing in the sunny world, meat blocks only in the meat world, and spikes sprinkled liberally between the two. You’ll have blocks to push to get over tall walls, you’ll have mid-air dimension-flips to execute over platforms, you’ll have gravity-flipping orbs to fiddle with, and so on. The challenges get a little taxing by the end and there is one change of pace segment to be found there as well, but again, it’s a very familiar puzzle platformer. You push one crate, you’ve pushed them all.

None of this is really enough to sink the game, but the length might do it. The Inner World is only going to last you about 40 minutes, slightly longer if you get stuck on any of the puzzles. That’s a scarce amount of platforming across what I’d call three major areas, with only two environments between them. I like the pixel art well enough but that doesn’t leave much variety to appreciate, and there’s nothing besides the trek to the end. No power-ups, no collectibles, no secrets, nothing.

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I gave this one a chance, I really did, but the deciding factor was probably a random hard crash near the end that forced me to reboot my PC. For such a short, baseline experience, any kind of instability is just unacceptable. Then again, maybe it was how mundane it all was. In a perfect vacuum, The Inner World is a fine little game. But we don’t live in a perfect vacuum, we live in the reality where there are 1,579 other platformers to play on Steam, and probably more than that by the time I post this review. At least some of those have done what this game does better, and while I appreciate the simplicity of this title, I can’t honestly recommend it to anyone in light of the other options out there.

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