Explore An Enclosed Yet Unbound World In ‘InnerSpace’Filed inside: Games
As time has gone on, we’ve seen the altitude of our video game-based ships rise and rise, from WWII dogfights up to planet-cracking cruisers in space. Now, an indie studio has taken a new look at how we view the space around us in InnerSpace, an exploration-based flight game set in a series of interconnected inverted planet-like spheres.
This is a game set in a universe unbound by the rules that govern our own, while a force akin to gravity does exist, it pulls things outward, with oceans enclosing the sky like a thick, blue atmosphere, with the remnants of lost civilizations peppered throughout.
You’re a cartographer, tasked with exploring and mapping the unknown spheres out there. This isn’t a space built around a singular culture or civilization, rather focused on the long-term cycles surrounding the birth and death of the different inhabitants, collecting throughout the strata like once-living tree rings.
Each sphere is unique, with its own landscapes and and different sorts of fauna, even divine beings, ascended to a new existence by the power of the subjects’ worship. Not everything in the game exists to kill you, it’s all in the game to be a part of the experience, to further your knowledge of this world as you move through it.
It’s a game built out of the concept of exploration, rather than having exploration as a component of it. It draws heavy inspiration from games such as Proteus and Shadow of the Colossus, games that feature strangely empty yet powerful worlds. InnerSpace hypotethetically has more to encounter than SotC, but the inspiration is plain to see in the massive petrified remains of beings long dead and the wide expanses of loose vegetation.
One of the most intriguing parts of the exploration is just how free to move through the space you are, from both a traversal and a narrative perspective. The story isn’t told in a series of scripted events, rather it is ethereal. It is meant to be absorbed by proximity, expounded on by your interactions not only with the environment around you, but also with the few other characters you meet.
As the cartographer, you collect unique relics in order to reveal maps of the nearby areas in greater detail, allowing for more ease of exploration. Delivering these relics to the Archaeologist will also give more insight into the history of the area it was found in. These areas aren’t locked behind gates at any point, you’re free to move through them as you see fit and discover the world at your pace, move where you like, and experience it in your own order.
As the Archaeologist examines relics, you’ll also unlock upgrades for more abilities to allow for easier movement or to avoid or engage threats.
Your plane isn’t bound in the same ways by traditional physics, either. You’ll not be required to perform proper banks and try to fight gravity to keep yourself airborne. Your plane can stall practically at will and restart, allowing for dramatic aerial “drifts”. You’re able to boost about and employ a number of methods to interact with the environment from afar (in the form of guns that become more effective as your speed increases) or right up close (bladed wings for cutting wires on bridges or dissuading angry fauna).
Environments are similarly dynamic, you’ll fly through glass, vaporize rocks, and otherwise affect the world around you when necessary, whether to escape your foes or reveal hidden structures.
When the flying loses its luster (which seems like it would take a long time), the plane can quickly convert into a submarine to open up a whole new form of areas to explore. The game makes a strong distinction between air and water, and seeing the water floating above you at all times is at once awe-inspiring and disconcerting, and passing through it not only affords a new way to see the world around you, but also affords more tactical opportunities to get the drop on your enemies.
Though you very likely won’t have heard the name PolyKnight Studios before, they’re not a completely unproven studio. As a small outfit based in Dallas, Texas, the team has come together on projects not only through programs during their studies, but also entered several game jams, and has now moved into professional game development. Some of their older projects include Furball and WhiteWall, the latter of which won the Best Overall award at a Dallas-based game jam.
The whole experience is well-contained in a minimal look with bright colors, unburdened by complex textures and realistic animations, further removing the world from the basis of our own. The colors are bright when they need to be, and constrained when necessary in order to foster a better sense of motion through large swaths of space, and the ethereal soundtrack is haunting and evocative of the forgotten races encased in the rock all around you.
InnerSpace is a game that truly feels as though it might embody the moniker of a “game” in name only, toeing the line between game and interactive experience. It’s refreshing to find a group of people willing to put a bolder idea out there, one that defies traditional concepts in more than a singular and obvious way.
InnerSpace is in the last week of its KickStarter, and has raised just over 60 percent of the funds the studio has asked for. It will be available on Mac, PC, and Linux through Steam and will also be distributed via the Humble Bundle. heck it out if you fancy yourself an explorer of the highest magnitude.