The Inner Darkness Video Game Review
Written by Ryan Noble
Released by Nauris Amatniek
Developed by Nauris Amatnieks
Game released on 24 February 2017
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux (Steam)
I only wrote about the Steam release of The Inner Darkness earlier this week, a mysterious pixel-art dimension-switching puzzle-platformer developed solely by Nauris Amatnieks. Over the last few days, I've been lucky enough to snatch up a review copy and play through the game. Join me on the flip-side as I see The Inner Darkness for myself, and discovered both its light side, and its dark.
The first thing I have to mention is that the pixel-art style looks great. Honestly, I'll probably always feel this way about such a visual style because I have a real affinity for it, but it works especially well for The Inner Darkness as it brings a retro feeling to the experience. Amatnieks uses this style to great effect, bringing the game's two dimensions to life. The happy-looking dimension is bright and safe – for the most part – and looks like it could make the perfect world for a Mario or Sonic-esque platformer, but with the tap of a button, everything becomes darker, twisted, and is covered in pulsing red goo.
I personally enjoyed switching between the two dimensions, an interesting feature that was inspired by the “Upside-down” of Stranger Things, Netflix's creepy sci-fi series set in the 80s, and seeing the environmental changes that added character to each. For example, in one dimension you might find a poster of a woman posing in a bikini, and in the other, she may be, well, decapitated. As I'm here for the creep-factor, I much preferred the environments of the latter.
This mechanic also works well with puzzles as you figure out what you need to do by switching between the dimensions, such as avoiding danger or moving boxes to climb to a higher point, and then act it out by switching between the two at strategic moments. Only by using the differences between the two will you be able to continue your journey through the strange place that the unnamed protagonist finds himself in. However, switching to the safer dimension, along with running, uses up stamina.
When it runs out, you must delve back into the darkness for a short time, whether you're ready to go back or not. It adds a certain level of urgency to solving puzzles that require you to switch between dimensions, especially when switching back prematurely can see you impale yourself on spikes stabbing up through the floor.
Urgency is something that The Inner Darkness does well. The protagonist, as well as being confused as hell, is also badly injured from the beginning of the game. His stomach is bleeding and he has no idea why, but he slowly deteriorates as the game progresses to points where he has to crawl because of the pain. For this reason, progression feels like it needs to be speedy, and due to the game's easy-to-understand platforming and puzzles, it is. A few puzzles had me stumped more than others, mainly as a result of my own inability to move around with any kind of finesse using a keyboard, but otherwise the game benefits from good pacing.
One aspect that I felt could have used more urgency was the backing music. I mostly enjoyed the music as it fit the style of the game with its retro chiptune sound, and actually found it relaxing enough to leave the menu music playing as I started writing my review, although it did become a little repetitive within the game. I would have liked the soundtrack to change a little more based on what was happening, or even rise in pitch occasionally for no reason to keep me on my toes, because it could have added more tension to the experience.
Overall, The Inner Darkness is a short, solid experience. I like the game's pixel-art style, and the dimension-switching mechanic lends itself well to urgent platformer and puzzling that drive the game forward. Some puzzles slowed me down much more than I would like, although I could probably accredit this to my own sausage fingers, and the chiptune music could have varied a little more to add another level of tension that I couldn't help but wish was a little more present throughout.
The game can be completed within one or two sittings, but it comes with a fair price tag. Lasting about as long as a short film, which could be about £10 a ticket, it's more than worth its cost and comes with its own satisfying ending that not all films are able to achieve. The Inner Darkness is a solid burst of fun, and sometimes that's really all you need. For any fans of creepy mysteries, pixel-art or puzzles, Amatnieks' first commercial release will keep you more than happy for an hour or two, and I'll be keeping an eye on anything that he works on in the future.
You can switch over to Steam's dimension now, where you'll find The Inner Darkness is available on PC, Mac and Linux for £3.99.