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‘Inmost’ Delivers Atmospheric Unease with Staunch Success

Despite some gamefeel fumbles, Hidden Layer Games’ Inmost delivers a hauntingly grim tale in a world shrouded in darkness.



Inmost Indie Snippet

With massive budgets and cutting edge visuals behind modern horror series like Resident Evil and The Evil Within, being able to convey dread and terror via pixel art can be a tall order. Inmost stands as proof that staunch dedication to environmental design and fantastic sound direction, and a unique concept can be just as important as many budget. The result is one of the most atmospheric and thrilling puzzle-platformers available on Switch despite some glaring blemishes.

Narrative Excellence

Without diving into the contents of the story to avoid ruining one of Inmost’s greatest strengths, it structurally alternates between three characters in vastly different life scenarios. There’s a little girl stuck at home with less-than-loving parents, a wandering man out exploring an old castle, and a corrupt knight embarking on various dastardly missions. Each character feels drastically different to play as from the last, and each has different abilities they can leverage. Whereas the child is short, weak, and can’t do much more than climb things and wander around, the man fills an all-around capable role and can use tools, leap over gaps, and push aside heavy objects to traverse the environment around him. Then there’s the knight, a combat-focused character who gives up the ability to jump for a massive sword, armor that allows him to take hits, and a handy grappling hook for increased mobility.

Inmost does a great job of emphasizing the contrast between filling these different roles and their places in the world. Playing as the helpless child and witnessing how she’s gradually adapting to the traumatic environment around her is heartbreaking. Meanwhile, the corrupt knight handily decimates the very foes players have to run from when controlling the wandering man. Whereas just touching the evil black goo would mean a respawn for either of the other characters, the knight can slash it away like it’s nothing. It’s an undeniably impressive way of leveraging the use of multiple protagonists, and its aid in storytelling–at least in the opening hours of the game–is quite well done.

In terms of actual time spent, players will find most of their playthrough revolving around the wandering man as he solves genuinely head-scratching environmental puzzles and works his way past all manner of traps and horrifying creatures. Unfortunately, the actual structure of these puzzles can be fairly obtuse. Some (like in the image above) are simple yet rewarding and deliver satisfying “Eureka!” moments on a steady basis. Others involve trial and error and clumsily bumbling around because it’s not always clear what can be interacted with and what’s simply part of the environment. This mixed bag of sometimes-intuitive, sometimes-frustrating puzzle design and the lack of a hint system means that those mainly playing Inmost for its narrative likely won’t see the end without referencing some sort of outside guide to help them along.

Beautiful as the Night Sky

Thankfully, the man’s sections of the story are also where Inmost’s presentation values shine the brightest. The dank, dimly-lit interiors of caves and castles spark to life thanks to some fantastic lighting that indicates safety without compromising the generally eerie atmosphere. Evil gunk hangs from the walls and ceilings and bubbles menacingly once you step near, indicating with both visual and audio cues to quickly evade to safety. Humans and larger creatures taken over by the substance are equally unsettling, with stilted movement and ear-piercing shrieks selling the pain they’re in as they try to lead you to a gruesome end. In terms of environmental design and overall Inmost is undoubtedly an achievement.

However, with as visceral as the sound and visual effects are, the lack of HD rumble (or even standard rumble) is all the more shocking. Platforming as the man, slicing through wreckage as the knight, and the tense moments while running away from monsters all beg for some sort of feedback. Compounding this issue is the fact that some actions in Inmost can feel a bit too cinematic for their own good. When one just has to press a button and wait for an axe picking animation to finish playing instead of actually controlling every swing of the axe, there’s a certain loss of tactileness that brings players out of the experience. The child and man and plagued by this gamefeel issue constantly.

All of that said, Inmost is still a highly-polished, properly creepy puzzle-platformer. Though the puzzles themselves aren’t consistently strong and the Switch’s capabilities aren’t used to their fullest, the dynamic storytelling and fantastic worldbuilding going on here are certainly worth experiencing.

Brent fell head over heels for writing at the ripe age of seven and hasn't looked back since. His first love is the JRPG, but he can enjoy anything with a good hook and a pop of color. When he isn't writing about the latest indie release or binging gaming coverage on YouTube, you can find Brent watching and critiquing all manner of anime. Send him indie or anime recommendations @CreamBasics on Twitter.