Aspire: Ina’s Tale Review
The indie scene is thriving with developers creating new and original titles that are taking the industry to uncharted areas. With the landscape of the industry shifting, more people are looking towards independent companies to find different experiences over the myriad of ‘copy and paste’ triple-A releases. Whilst some titles focus on the core gameplay, others look to use the medium as an expressive piece of art. Looking to follow the path led by pioneers such as Johnathan Blow and Playdead is Aspire: Ina’s Tale, but will this beautiful puzzle platformer capture the magic that imbues its influences?
Confined to the innards of an imposing tower, you must break free from its shackles in order to escape. Mystery enshrouds the world and the further you delve, the more you’ll discover about the inhabitants and the environment. Although the premise is intriguing, the delivery of the narrative is mediocre, being completely outshined by its evocative art styles.
An Artistic Display
Aspire: Ina’s Tale’s aesthetics are incredible. The influences of Giorgio de Chirico and Salvador Dali are present in the architecture and landscapes, however, these give an ethereal coat, creating a truly fascinating world. Areas are diverse offering a broad color palette that helps to make sections distinct. Stark lights pierce through the environment contrasting the deep shadows of the interiors, opposing the soft, renaissance-style exteriors.
Adding to the mystical atmosphere is the beautiful score. Subtle sounds build creating a delightful symphony that compliments the visuals. Haunting and emotive, the music helps to communicate the journey of the protagonist. Sound effects echo through the vast environments, signaling the enormity of the tower. The excellent use of spatial sounds creates an enigma that resides throughout.
During your magical journey, you will need to solve a litany of puzzles to progress through areas. The majority of puzzles are logic-based that require you to move objects and pull levers to solve. Ina can contain magical elements and place them onto items that alter their property. This means that you can expand and levitate blocks to help overcome conundrums. Lanterns that contain mythical powers can transfer abilities, however, you are unable to jump while holding this, which causes some moments of frustration. Due to this, you’ll have to constantly drop and move items to progress.
A Puzzling Problem
The puzzles themselves are well designed offering a suitable level of challenge. In the final third, you’ll begin to mix skills in large, intricate segments. Unfortunately, some issues will surface at this point. Switching between magical properties is achieved with the right bumper but knowing which you have selected is difficult to decipher. Whilst I appreciate the lack of a HUD, an overt visual prompt would have helped with these sections. In addition to this, I did find myself stumped on a couple of puzzles due to bugs that had unknowingly occurred. After exhausting all avenues, I reloaded the game only to see that a previously inactive item was now interactable. Luckily, checkpoints are generously positioned so only a little progress was lost.
Simple platforming segments bookend the core gameplay which grows in complexity over time. Ina’s movement is a little sluggish but is suitable for the platforming sequences. These sections help to give variety and pace to the game. At times, a rope dangles between platforms requiring you to swing from one to the other. Although it’s sufficient, there is a lack of momentum when attempting to pendulate. As a result, you’ll often miss ledges and have to redo areas.
A Tailored Experience
With no collectibles and a short story, there’s no incentive to revisit the game. Whilst this may sound like an issue, it really isn’t. Aspire: Ina’s Tale is a focused experience that achieves what it sets out to do. Concluding before it outstays its welcome, you will leave feeling content after the roughly 5-hour runtime.
Aspire: Ina’s Tale is an audacious game that manages to create a remarkable world which you’ll want to explore. The incredible design is consistent for the duration making each area a joy to discover. Puzzles vary and offer a suitable level of challenge, however, the stiff movement in platforming segments hinders the experience. Whilst the game’s runtime is relatively short, this memorable stroll through a stunning gallery is worth your time.
*** A Nintendo Switch key provided by the publisher ***
- Beautiful Art Direction
- Fun, Low Stakes Puzzles
- Sumptuous Soundtrack
- Sluggish Movement
- A Few Bugs
- Platforming Segments