Apple Arcade's Heavy Hitter
Every few months a mobile game comes along that makes me say “I can't believe this is on a phone”. While most of those titles involve slightly better FPS controls or is just a decently ported console title like Life is Strange, it's pretty rare that a mobile game can totally capture the quality you would expect from the PC and consoles on that small black mirror you tap 14,000 times a day. Thanks to Apple Arcade’s initiative of bringing quality offline titles to their ecosystem, we're seeing an uptick of quality gaming experiences coming to iPhones with each new wave of releases. One of those is INMOST, a story-driven puzzle platformer from Hidden Layer Games and Chucklefish.
A Story Worth Telling
INMOST is first and foremost a story-driven experience. It’s use of color, music, varying perspectives, and the occasional narration really help move the story along in ways most games cant. The use of an interconnected narrative always intrigues me in any game. When done right, it can make a relatively short game feel much larger than it is. There are a few flaws here, a few times where I didn’t quite know what an NPC was talking about or what I was supposed to be doing. In spite of that, the story wraps itself up pretty neatly at the end and definitely left me satisfied. The game is only a few hours long, so if you’ve got a long flight ahead of you this might be the perfect thing to load up on that phone. Just bring headphones.
Visually INMOST is stunning. While the indie pixel art craze has died down in recent years, this is easily one of the best examples of the style done right since Hotline Miami. There’s a real sense of emptiness and dread with the color palette throughout due to INMOST’s heavy usage of blues, burnt orange, red. The use of light and fog brings a very menacing and hollow feel to the abandoned houses and deadly corridors, all at a scale I've seen very few games accomplish. Not just games with a pixel art style, but games in general. Like most Apple Arcade releases, INMOST runs at different aspect ratios depending on the device. On the iPad Pro, it was running at 4:3 while on my iPhone 11 Pro, it was somewhere between 2:1 and 2.40. It looks like the Switch port will be 16:9. This isn’t a deal-breaker whatsoever, but its something I definitely noticed while playing on various devices.
With all visual mediums, music is an extremely important part of storytelling. Composer Alexey Nechaev deliverers an incredibly haunting score for INMOST, particularly with the use of distant piano flutters and dramatic strings. It’s similar to the works of Grammy-nominated composer Austin Wintory, so if you’re into that then INMOST is absolutely worth checking out for the music alone.
Touching & Platforming
INMOST is a puzzle-platformer that oozes with atmosphere and top-notch art direction. While the words “platformer” and “Mobile” might be an automatic turn off, Hidden Layer Games manages to do the impossible and make a platformer work on a touch screen. The controls are simple and involve very slight sliding and tapping. After a moment, the game felt natural with all three characters, even as the gameplay between them changes dramatically. I would be lying if I didn’t mention a few spots where the touch controls became a burden. However, since the game revives you instantly, I was never discouraged after jumping straight into the arms of a demon for the third time by accident. The game does suggest you play with a controller and I’m sure that on the Switch and PC/Mac port due later this year, controls will be less of an issue. It’s a true testament to the developer's skills that I never wished for physical controls. I would recommend playing this on a smaller device such as an iPhone or iPad mini instead of a normal-sized iPad or the iPad Pro simply due to how uncomfortable a bigger device can get when held like a controller.
Controls aside, INMOST’s gameplay mainly consists of three varying playstyles depending on what character you are controlling. While playing as the soldier, the gameplay is about killing enemies as quickly and efficiently as possible with the occasional grappling hook section to move you around the map. This is in direct contrast with the sections where you play as the little girl who can't run as quickly as the adults and needs to move items around such as chairs and books to get to higher spaces. The third character is the bearded man, his sections have the most “Puzzle-platformer” heavy gameplay to it. Switching between these three characters in their own chapters felt organic and natural thanks to some clever gameplay elements where you’re never thrown into a direct threat after switching characters. There’s also a hint of collecting here with 80 hidden souls to collect as well as an easy way to replay previous levels if you missed something.
INMOST Review | Final Thoughts
INMOST is another example of the perfect blend of interactive storytelling and fun gameplay working in tandem to create something that's both artistically and pleasing as its engaging. The dark and moody tone throughout this platform-puzzler really sells the dreadful and overall bleak world the team at Hidden Layer Games built in order to tell a story that lives up to its warning screen you see when booting the game up. With more titles like this, it's going to be difficult to not recommend Apple Arcade to anyone with an iOS capable device.
TechRaptor reviewed INMOST on iOS via Apple Arcade. The game is set to release on PC and Nintendo Switch in the near future.
- Stunning Visuals and Music
- Fun and Intuitive Puzzles
- Natural Touch Controls
- Frustratingly Difficult Bosses
- Difficult to Play on an iPad