InnerSpace sadly isn’t a video game version of the superb 1987 film starring Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan and Martin Short. In the film, Dennis Quaid’s character is shrunk to a ridiculously tiny size in order to be injected into a rabbit. As with most films, everything goes wrong and he actually ends up inside Martin Short. The film, even though it carries some bad special effects now, does a great job of creating the scope of a tiny craft in a huge alien environment. There’s always a fear of Quaid ending up where he shouldn’t be and disaster ensuing…
That same sense of awe-inspiring adventure is firmly in place in this game of the same name, InnerSpace. Here, the player controls a craft similar to a drawing of a plane from Da Vinci in a world where the inhabitants have long died off. A being called The Archaeologist has built your AI and brought you into this world in order to explore and find out what occurred. You are The Cartographer and all that is asked of you is to find relics of the past civilisation.
There is no combat. You can’t shoot bullets or plasma. There is no deep narrative or branching story guided by dialogue choices. However, there is a truly beautiful world that feels endless and you have, in your hands, the controls of a craft that swoops, arcs and dives with amazing grace. This is a game about feeling alive in a world, seemingly, filled with death. That doesn’t mean that the vistas are bleak or oppressive – each area sparkles and creates moments of gasping excitement as you air brake through gaps or barrel roll between statues. It’s a very cinematic game.
This is a little lost when playing handheld because of the size of the screen, but the clarity of the view does mean that beauty isn’t particularly diminished. The biggest issue to be found can be in controlling the craft. I’ll freely admit, I’ve always been a little ham-fisted when it comes to controlling flying craft in video games. But there were many times when I crashed or lost my bearings, making simple moves feel a little frustrating. Thankfully it takes a lot of crashing for your craft to expire. InnerSpace is a forgiving game because it’s about taking time and discovering.
As you do discover relics, your airframe can be upgraded meaning new movements or the ability to collect more wind, which is basically the game’s currency and was once fuel for the ancient demigods. It doesn’t take long before the biggest upgrade is bestowed on you – the chance to explore underwater. Now there are effectively two worlds to explore and journey through. Underwater, the craft cuts through the water like air, making it look even more wondrous. The water feels a lot more sedate, with less fear of danger, which is refreshing.
It’s obvious that the development team knew how hard it would be to handle the craft around and still take in the world. In a great move, they implement perches around the level where you can dock your ship and move the camera around before you launch back out to whatever has caught your eye.
A part of me wishes there was more to sink my teeth into with InnerSpace – a proper narrative, maybe, but that takes away from what a lovely experience it is. It takes away from how it looks, sounds and moves. Most of all, it would make the game something very different and that would be a real shame because this is a very charming concept fleshed out with a great eye for detail.