by Sean Martin
previewed on PC
Inmost, a dark platform puzzler by Hidden Layer Games, was one that stood out at Rezzed 2019. The game at first seems to be in a somewhat similar vein to Limbo — an exploration of a haunting world, solving puzzles, and dying A LOT as you try to unravel each predicament. But you don’t need to play Inmost for long to realize its hidden depths, the cute pixel art style belying its untold mysteries. The demo began with a little girl locked in a room on a stormy night. You had to push and pull furniture to find an escape route, but once out of the room, it quickly becomes clear that something is wrong with the house. Spectres being to appear, and as the girl tries to escape, one bangs on the front door. The story then cuts to an entirely different character.
When playing as the second character, the man, the gameplay was that of a puzzle-platformer, jumping and climbing, pushing and pulling objects, in the search for items to let you interact with the environment. The puzzles were good — a nice balance of difficulty for an initial introduction to the game. There were also a variety of weird NPCs, a man hiding in the attic, and a downtrodden boy who dropped his house-key into a well. As I walked past him, I unwittingly pushed him into the mud, and he dejectedly accepted that it was his fate to be stepped on. Inmost is haunting and fairly morbid, but it seems to find a way to inject humour into itself, almost appearing hilariously morbid at times. I’ll be interested to see whether this tone is cultivated as the game develops.
At one point while playing, there was a sudden flash, to the man, now old, putting on his clothes and going downstairs to leave the house, regretfully recounting his life. Just as with the little girl, these flash-backs and flash-forwards are wonderfully interesting. I love the way they are used so far, without a context of time, and with that age quality, it channels that generational curse aspect which is so effective in Lovecraftian games. It feels somewhat similar to Eternal Darkness (due to its links with a singular location). Even more than that, without the context of time, and with many playable characters split over the game, we don’t know which character is the protagonist, where the present lies, or how it might reveal itself. Inmost could pull off a coup de grace as powerful as Second Sight’s narrative conclusion. Which is cool, as since Second Sight I’ve never seen a game mess as effectively with a players sense of understood time.
All of these pieces come together to create a really unique-feeling platformer — dark and satisfying puzzles like Limbo, yet far more interesting tonally, with huge narrative potential, tapping into that generational quality of Lovecraft. I love it when platformers show they can do anything non-platformers can, just like how Hollow Knight basically created a metroidvania successfully fulfilling so many aspects of the souls series. That I suspect is one of the many reasons Hollow Knight became as hugely popular as it has. It is also the reason I think, that if Inmost can continue to accomplish the same, it will prove to be just as successful.