The Inner Friend (PS4) Review - Do you have a friend in me
PLAYIND is a Montreal-based developer who describes as a digital media developer and games. For fifteen years, the company strictly developed digital media for interactive environments used for advertising, museums, media events, concerts and international exhibitions. In 2018, they released their first game, The Inner Friend, on PC. Since April 2020, the game is now available on consoles.
Given the business history, it is not surprising that The Inner Friend appears as a very neat and well-produced work. From a technical point of view, the game is very smooth. That said, what is also apparent is that a company does something new for the first time, because as a game, it lacks a little play mechanics and does not show up as a coherent element of narration. Aesthetics leans further towards the creation of a work of art, such as a painting or sculpture, rather than providing a game experience with levels of depth of play mechanics.
The lack of concentration on the game comes from the main vanity of the game. You play a character who seems to be a kind of companion of another character whose identity is ambiguous. It seems that the creators of the game did not want to be precise on this person with the inference they could be you or me or someone we know. However, this ambiguity leaves the cold player. It's a maxim recounting a story that a story is better adopted by others when it tells a specific story. The public refers to the details - whether it is a farmhouse on a desert planet that aspires to the adventure or a completely satisfied hobbit living in a quiet and beautiful region of the middle of the middle. The two are put on great adventures and both are loved by the public because we can relate to them.
This is not the case with The Inner Friend. The things we learn about the main character of our trip as a ghost or shadow form, as the developer calls him the character's character, are based on common cultural touches. References to Pink Floyd - The Wall School and School Masters or Alice in Wonderland falling under the mirror or 2001: A Space Odyssey finishing sequences in the hotel room after crossing the Stargate, are shared cultural experiences. But they are not specific to the main character we are trying to learn. It is this lack of specificity of the character who is the main fault of the game.
To be fair, there are attempts to provide details to the main character through the various collection objects found throughout the level, but they are also generic. A globe, teddy bear, drawings and toys are scattered through the levels to be recovered and returned to the main character chamber. What is missing, however, is the meaning of each of the elements for the main character. Why are they important? That, we never learn.
While the environments in which you are traveling are detailed and varied, your interactions are limited to three mechanisms: the race, the jump and a global action. R2 serves as a button of action and what it does depends on the context in the environment. It can be to recover an object or move an object or open a door or call a companion - which is supposed to be the main character of the game. Sometimes you will have to avoid an enemy and it is here that Orders are lacking responsiveness. You can easily captured if you do not pay attention and since there are no actions or objects of combat or defense, be evasive is the key. There is also a puzzle that requires a diagonal movement whose non-compliance means a reset and must start again. This has transformed a medium difficulty puzzle into a frustrating exercise.
As you progress in the different levels, different ages of the main character are explored, but for the two or three hours of play, you end up with too many questions. What makes the experience interesting, it is the graphics and music that create effective atmospheres and create a level of tension that goes hand in hand with the vulnerability of your character. Fortunately, if you die, resets are fast and bring you back to a close spot where you have expired before. For a first game effort, PlayMind has designed a decent experience that shines technically but lacks clarity of narration and game depth.
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