There is a beauty, in this.

That is, I think, the most core piece of this game I find myself looking at. InnerSpace is not the first game-as-artistic-expression game I've looked at here, and it's far from the first I've played, but it's a good one that uses its tools well.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. What's our core premise of this game? Well, keeping to the very core premise, since a lot of this game is in discovery...You are the Cartographer, a flying drone that has just been activated by the Archeologist. Your mission, is simple. The Archeologist navigates via submarine in a cavernous, confined land known as the Inverse, which means anything significantly above the water-line is beyond them. You are to navigate, to help find relics, and to help understand the history of the Inverse, and the Ancients who once called it home.

It's a simple enough premise, really. The game has a very mellow nature to it. Without any real enemies, a lot of what you're doing is just the raw navigation, and the joys of flight and discovery. It took me a fair bit of testing to even confirm you could die, and I only managed it by throwing myself into a twisted set of nooks and crannies so I couldn't get bounced out cleanly; it was less of me running out of HP, and more of the game thinking I was stuck against the wall and helpfully putting me back at a clean checkpoint.

Of course, that premise in turn fuels a lot of the artistic-statement side of the game. You're a Cartographer working with an Archeologist. Your entire job, your entire reason for being in this place, and given you're a drone, your entire reason to exist...Is to capture the stories of a people long gone. To find their tale and ensure they are not forgotten.

The actual way you do this is pretty straightforward. As the Cartographer, you only have a few key verbs. The biggest one is, of course, free navigation within 3D space. For the most part, you collect Relics simply by touching them, which may or may not require completing some series of navigation puzzles to get to it first. Some of these Relics are purely for show, while others get you new Airframes and abilities; Your very first upgrade gives you the ability to dive underwater and navigate that whole space, for instance.

It's navigation, ironically enough, that really hits the game in a weak spot, though. Because you have total freedom, and the spaces are both large and intricate, it's very easy to get lost. Without any real map system, at least that I found in my time with the game, sorting out my bearings often came down to trying to find a landmark and reorient myself to a consistent interaction with it. And one of the game's more lovely visual tricks, to bring these empty spaces back to life in a way reminiscent of Okami as you free up the Wind energy that the Ancients used, also messes with your sense of location.

Now, I have to admit, this is a pretty hefty blow. For a game ultimately about navigation to have a flaw like this in its navigation...I mean, real talk. If that's a dealbreaker for you, I get it. If you're not super great at navigating to begin with, especially visually and via landmarks, it's gonna be a mess.

And that's a shame, because there's a lot to like here. The story as presented through this history of a long-gone people is lovingly crafted. The interaction between the Archaeologist, and the Cartographer as their only real source of interaction, is really well done. And I can't say enough that the visuals are just gorgeous, wonderfully stylized and crisply presented.

Which kind of puts me in a pickle. It's hard to really, truly recommend a game if it's got a central flaw like that...But it's also not necessarily a flaw that's baked into the core design. In theory, a map system could be patched in. And the moments in the game, the writing and art, are absolutely good enough, and visually distinct enough, that I'm not gonna throw down a Don't Buy.

And of course, there's kind of another elephant in the room. I played the PS4 version...But, let's be real, you're probably going to be interested in InnerSpace on either Steam or the Switch. I can't speak to how those perform, which leaves me further without a core certainty to lean on.

So, that kind of brings us to the core question I have to ask, and one of the things that's had me holding off on this review for so long. Is it worth it? And that's kind of two questions. Because there's the experience side, the question of artistic expression and some really beautiful stuff that gets held back by some key absences...And then, there's the consumer product side. Is this going to give you 20 dollars worth of fun, assuming you get the game at full price?

That's...That's a hard thing to answer, is the problem. There's a lot to like in InnerSpace, but a lot to find lacking. I know I don't regret my time with it, but, well, I also tend to have a lot of respect for ambitious attempts, even if they stumble.

I guess, despite me being the reviewer, I kind of have to leave the hard choice in your hands. Spend some time looking at gameplay footage, especially for the platform you're interested in, and see what you think.