BY ALEX WAKEFORD
Lately, I’ve found myself really gravitating towards shorter games. Don’t get me wrong, I’m already eyeing up my next Dragon Age series replay, and I have a great fondness for all the games that want to take up dozens of hours of my time. But something I realised that’s been building up is that I’ve not been finishing any games…
I’ve since turned to playing and replaying a lot of games which offer 2-6 hour experiences. Sometimes, I really crave those more intimate, concise, memorable experiences with a defined beginning, middle, and end.
And that’s an itch INMOST absolutely manages to scratch!
INMOST comes as the debut effort from Lithuania-based Hidden Layer Games, published by Chucklefish (Risk of Rain, Starbound). It’s a narrative-driven puzzle platformer that’ll take you on a roughly four-hour journey from the perspective of an adventurous young girl, a stoic knight, and a man in search of answers.
Much of your time will be spent playing as the man, where you’ll be uncovering hidden rooms and solving puzzles that involve finding various tools to clear paths for progression, while avoiding deadly creatures and blobs.
The young girl’s story is where you’ll see more of the direct narrative focus, navigating a mostly empty house with her imagination running wild.
And the knight… well, I won’t spoil too much about those sequences…
As you progress through the game, you’ll come to see how their stories are interlinked – each chapter driving you closer to putting the pieces together.
Each section presents different types of challenges depending on who you’re playing as. Where the knight can go on the offensive against the nightmarish monsters you’ll face, the man and young girl will have to find other ways to deal with their respective encounters, which ensures that the gameplay is kept varied throughout your time playing.
Indeed, in the first major confrontation with one of these creatures, I found myself caught in a violent death loop as I tried various ways of escaping the pursuing monster. If that sounds frustrating, don’t worry. Thanks to a generous checkpoint system (LIMBO comes to mind as a comparison here), I never felt frustrated by my failings.
Many of the obstacles you’ll encounter as the man will kill in one hit (and there is an achievement for completing the game without taking any damage, so there’s plenty of room to challenge yourself here), but INMOST is not interested in punishing you for dying.
It’s an interesting contrast to, for example, GRIS (which we’ve also previously written a love letter to), which is also a game driven by its narrative but is made in such a way where death is impossible. INMOST flips that focus so that death is almost encouraged.
Atmosphere really is front-and-centre here. Despite what might initially appear to be a limited colour palette, perhaps the most immediate comparison that comes to mind is the Ori games. INMOST boasts some of the most stunning visuals you’ll see in 2020; the lighting is especially eye-catching, bringing every environment throughout the game to life.
From desolate groves to Gothic-inspired castles, and all the secrets to find within. Its compelling mixture of dark greys, oozing black, and deep greens and blues will stay in your mind long after the credits have rolled.
Back in 1998, when I was just four-years-old, one of the first games I played on the PlayStation 1 was Amazing Studio’s Heart of Darkness – a game that I credit as being the first to scare me out of my mind.
In this game, you play as a young boy who has a fear of the dark, loses his dog, and then goes all John Wick with a lightning gun through a hellish alien world where these horrifying shadow creatures pursue him as he attempts to rescue his lost pet.
Back then, my age was still in the single digits and the games I’d played were Spyro, Crash Bandicoot, Rayman, and Mario… I had no real conception of ‘a scary game,’ but the unrelenting pace it had as these creatures pursued you is something that has stuck with me in the twenty-two years since then.
While that particular kind of fear isn’t something INMOST directly seeks to replicate, the stylised pixel art aesthetic of its world, characters, and monsters is something which I found evoked that experience from deep in my memory as a reminder of how great pixel art games can be at conveying these feelings of trepidation and anxiety.
I would be remiss not to mention the sound design here, too – from the ambience of these environments to Alexey Nechaev’s score. With a good pair of headphones, you’ll feel every creaking board you step on in this truly immersive soundscape; the sound design in general for this game could well be its own article.
All in all, INMOST is an absolute masterclass in delivering on all the component parts of a memorable experience.
It boasts an emotional story, fun Metroidvania-style gameplay with a variety of puzzle-solving activities, stunning visuals, a memorable artistic style, great music and atmosphere – and none of it outstays its welcome.
It’s a hell of a debut and we can’t wait to see what Hidden Layer Games do next!
By design, Hidden Layer Games and Chucklefish want you to play this game through in a single sitting on a dark, stormy night – reflecting the game’s own atmosphere. As we’re heading into the Autumn months of the year, with the nights coming earlier and the weather getting colder, it’s the perfect time to pick this one up!
Something is lurking in the shadows…
INMOST, by Lithuania-based indie studio Hidden Layer Games, is an emotional and deeply atmospheric narrative-driven puzzle platformer. Uncover the story of an adventurous young girl, a stoic knight and a man in search of answers.
Explore a crumbling, nightmarish landscape, slice through enemies, and spring deadly traps in order to escape the evil that awaits…
INMOST is an intimate story of loss and hope that some may find upsetting. Player discretion is advised.
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