Game: Aspire: Ina’s Tale
Genre: Adventure, Puzzle, Platformer
System: Nintendo Switch (Also on Steam (Windows) & Xbox)
Developer|Publisher: Wondernaut Studio | Untold Tales
Age Rating: EU 7+ | US Everyone
Price: US $12.99 | UK £11.69 | EU € 12,99
Release Date: December 17th, 2021
Review code provided with many thanks to Wire Tap Media
Aspire: Ina’s Tale is a 2D puzzle platformer that comes to us from Brazilian developer, Wondernaut Studio. A title that takes inspiration from the likes of GRIS and Limbo. But does Aspire have what it takes to make its own mark next to its peers? Get your comfy blanket out, settle in and let’s find out.
Aspire has the player take control of Ina. A young girl who has awoken in an unusual tower searching for a way out. Soon Ina discovers the tower itself is feeding off the dreams of its inhabitants. Ina must traverse the complexity of the tower by solving puzzles and occasionally running away from the odd monster. But it’s not all scary, Ina will also meet a few interesting characters along the way, as well as learn to understand why she is in the tower to begin with. If you’re familiar with cinematic platformers like Limbo and Inside then you will become quite familiar with this narrative design.
Unlike these games, Ina does add more narrative to its story through text boxes to give more context to the plot. The game even occasionally offers multiple dialogue choices for the player, but your decisions don’t appear to have a significant impact on what happens next. Like the games mentioned, I would say the payoff to the story will be hit and miss for some players. I wouldn’t say I personally took much from it but that’s not to say other players won’t find some deep meaning in the game’s message. If you’re looking for a game with the ‘feels’ you have come to the right place.
A Fine Painting
What instantly stood out to me was the game’s graphics and soundtrack. The game presents itself in a beautiful almost painting-like 2D style, which is filled with a decent variety of environments that mix the serenity of nature with a mechanical like design. There is also excellent lighting in some scenes. I thoroughly enjoyed taking screenshots of this game for review and would honestly be happy to have some of the game’s art on my wall, if that was ever possible.
Then, of course, to top it off you have a beautiful soundtrack that moves from a chilled meditative score while you’re puzzle-solving to faster and tense sounds when you’re needing to run. Another score I wouldn’t mind having on in the background while writing this review. But for now, I’ll settle for the GRIS soundtrack until this one is available to purchase on Steam.
Platform and Puzzle
Gameplay-wise there is a nice mix of platforming and puzzling. The puzzle sections mostly have you pushing blocks about or activating platforms with little glowing orbs you find. The difficulty is pretty easy to just below moderate. It feels that most gamers would be able to figure out how to get through the puzzle sections without any assistance. I only personally hit a wall a few times but pulled through by observing the environment and experimenting with the tools in front of me.
On a few occasions, your platform skills will also be tested as you run from a threat. Near the end of the game, the two gameplay styles are kinda together. For the most part, I liked the formula, but when the puzzles really start to gain some momentum the game ends. So I was left kinda expecting more. But for the casual players, this may feel ideal.
Controls are where things become a little muddled for me. Now it’s pretty common practice for cinematic platformers to have kinda awkward controls and Aspire is no stranger to this. You need to jump at the right moment to latch onto a platform and swinging on ropes proved to be far fiddly than it should be. One section near the end of the game requires you to swing off the rope at a specific height to grab onto a platform which felt more irritating than it should have been.
Moving blocks is straightforward for the puzzle sections. But when it comes time to infuse them with a coloured orb I felt like I had to really slam the face button down for it to be active. There are also times where you are carrying multiple orbs at once and it’s not always clear which one you have selected, which makes some of the games more fast past sections a tad irritating, particularly when death (which comes after a single hit) means you have to repeat the whole process again.
Short and Sweet
Aspire probably clocks in at just below five hours of gameplay. As is the case with these types of games your first run through maybe the only time you’ll play. There are a few secrets to discover if you fancy another trip through the game to find everything though. The game has regular checkpoints so if you do need to step away you can. Some will appreciate the short length, particularly if you have a busy schedule and want a game you know you will see to its conclusion.
Conclusion – Don’t Dream it’s Over
Aspire: Ina’s Tales, ticks all the right boxes for a puzzle platformer. I don’t feel that the game quite lives up to other games in this genre but it’s a very good attempt from the developers. What works best is the beautiful art style, music and an experience that most certainly doesn’t outstay its welcome. However, the slightly awkward controls is a design that may not work for everyone. I enjoyed my playthrough and the developers have certainly sold me on their soundtrack. If you’re looking for a title to enjoy on the sofa with a blanket and a good drink with your headphones plugged in then Aspire is a good choice to make on Nintendo Switch.
Final Verdict: I Like it