Sometimes our fears are in plain sight. Other times, they are buried deep within our subconscious. The Inner Friend tries to grapple with the latter in an interesting way.
The game has you play as a boy-like figure painted in white. Some of his body is translucent and is apparently missing. The story is minimalist in its approach. There is no voice acting or text to provide background information to players. What you ascertain is simply from exploring your surroundings and observing.
Likewise, the gameplay itself is very minimalist. You can move your character around, jump, and interact with objects in a limited way, but there is no combat. Instead, you will do your best to avoid contact with nightmarish creatures, which will inflict physical harm.
As a metaphor, I think it works fairly well. Real-life emotional traumas can have a physical effect on us. And this game is basically telling the story of a man who is trying to overcome childhood trauma. The game has players confront their fears and nightmares head-on in eerie, dream-like, surrealist worlds. You’ll also encounter objects that you can return to a childhood bedroom, which I think of as a safe space in the mind of the main character.
If this all sounds like an interesting concept, it’s because it is. The problem is with the execution. There are light puzzle-solving segments to mix things up a bit. I did not find them to be all that challenging, though.
There are also moments where you’ll try to escape the game’s nightmarish creatures. These segments feel like a 1990s survival-horror game. Some of the creatures are genuinely creepy, but these encounters do not last for very long.
Soon enough, you find yourself back wandering uninteresting, repeating hallways, classrooms, and hospital wings. Honestly, the blandness of the environments makes the game feel like it was rushed. Being an indie title is no excuse, either. I’ve played plenty of polished indie titles.
Also, as you can see in the video above, I encountered a glitch where my character got stuck. Since there is no crouch or double jump, I could not get out of this crevice and had to restart the game to get back on track. To be clear, it’s the only glitch that I ran into throughout my entire playthrough, but it was annoying nonetheless.
The concept behind The Inner Mind is a good one. And while the gameplay is passable, it does leave quite a bit to be desired. My problem is not with the minimalist approach to the storytelling but with the insipidness of the various environments. It also does not help that I encountered a glitch that forced me to reload the game.
Plus, the story concludes after only a few hours. With basically no incentive to go back and play again, The Inner Friend has to make the most of its few short hours. And while it did have some impact, the seemingly rushed design and limited gameplay leave much to be desired.
Game Freaks 365 received a free review copy.