Genre: Action, Arcade, Adventure
System: Steam (Windows & Linux) (Also on Nintendo Switch, Xbox and PS4)
Developer|Publisher: DragonBear Studios | Twin Sails Interactive
Controller Support: Yes
Price: UK £ 16.73 | US $16.99 | EU € 16,99
Release Date: March 28th, 2023
Review code provided with many thanks to Sandbox Strategies PR.
Run an Inn With Friends
Innchanted is a cute-looking timed-based co-op adventure similar in vein to games like Overcooked. It can be enjoyed alone or with up to 4 players locally, online or a combo of both. Many indie developers have taken a stab at this formula with mixed results. Developing a good co-op to enjoy with loved ones is not an easy endeavour, but developer DragonBear Studios brought enough magic to their experience to make it something I absolutely recommend, especially if you can play with friends.
The premise is a rather odd one. Yarrul’s family Inn has been taken over by a crazed wizard, and he offers you and your friends a challenge. Run the Inn better, or he’ll claim the tavern for himself. Rather than walking away to find adventure elsewhere, you take him up on this challenge; only you soon find running the Inn is not as simple as it seems. Customers are demanding; thieves want to steal your money, rabid turnips are trying to mess with your supplies and the wizard himself likes to occasionally stop by to cause havoc. But with the power of friendship, you’ll step up to the challenge and reclaim the Inn.
As plots go, it does the job. There is a lot of dialogue among the characters between the levels, but I didn’t have a lot of interest in it. The developers clearly put a lot of work into this but a lot of the humour just felt forced and unnecessary. Since this is more of an arcade experience, I was much keener to skip many of these segments to get to the next level. The gameplay was much more of a draw.
A Day on The Job
The gameplay feels familiar if you’ve played games like Overcooked, but Innchanted does do plenty to set itself apart. Each level requires you to fulfil various orders under an overall time limit or in this case, closing time. The customer takes a seat and asks what they want in a speech bubble, and you humbly oblige. Initially, these orders are simple, like grabbing potions and food. But it doesn’t take long before you need to start mixing potions and items together in cauldrons to create more complex concoctions like magical steaks and enchanted spears.
Once a customer is satisfied, they leave you shells (the game’s currency) which you must then grab and dump in your treasure chest to the bank. You then keep repeating this process until the shift is complete hoping to earn up to a 4-star rating.
Fill the Potion Dispensers
There are more complexities than this, though. Potion dispensers need to be kept topped up regularly, certain customers request specific seating, some want their giant wombat stroked, thieves will attempt to rob your chest unless stopped, and odd monsters will invade your Inn, making areas inaccessible unless destroyed.
Potions are not just for customers; players can consume them to grant temporary perks such as strength to break boulders or improve charisma to get customers to open up to you about what they want. Levels are separated into the morning and afternoon shifts, with a potential 4-star rating obtainable from each, depending on your performance. Unlike many games like these, your hard-earned shells can be cashed in for upgrades to make the game a little more manageable, such as reduced cook time or increased melee damage. The effects of these upgrades were noticeable in-game making them well worth the investment.
Between levels, you can chill out in the Inn, practise your skills, and talk to NPCs. There’s also the option to pick a chore, such as business, leading you to pick two options to solve a problem. Picking correctly will grant a perk for the next level or, alternatively, a debuff to make things a little harder. Or possibly no effect at all. This seemed like a cool idea, and each individual player could partake. But the solutions to the problem are always the same, so it didn’t take long for us to memorize the solution to always gain a buff. A roll of the dice may have been a better option allowing the player to take a risk. Still, it’s a pretty unique feature.
A surprising feature was how competent the AI companion was. Usually, in games like this, you are given an AI assistant in solo mode. But here, you can call them in even in a 3-player game. This buddy can be programmed to fulfil set duties like re-filling dispensers and fulfilling customer orders. To our surprise, they were competent at it to the extent that they would even combine potions to fill orders. These orders can be changed on the fly, and later on in the game, it made sense to mix things up. The minor downside is they move at a slower pace to you. We noticed you only get one AI companion regardless of how many players are in the game.
A Little Stressful
The game started out incredibly easy. As veteran players in this genre, my wife and my best buddy had no problem gaining three stars (sometimes 4) on the initial levels. But as soon as I pointed this out, the curve didn’t take long to steepen. The game gets to a point where you are juggling a lot of mechanics at once and in a specific order. We were on top of it with three players and AI assistance, but we noticed things were much more challenging when we dropped a player.
There was even a point where my friend and I were so stressed out with the orders we kinda forgot how to brew specific potions. Fortunately, the game does give you a light hint. We still welcomed the challenge, but this might not win you over if you don’t like the hectic stress of these types of games. Accessibility options are available in the options to make things a tad easier. Luckily you don’t need to score many points to progress.
Cute with Niggles
Graphics are cutesy and family-friendly. The presentation is colourful and welcoming, despite the stressful gameplay. There’s certainly an Australian flavour to the fantasy world, with Koalas and Wombats prominently featured. You can change the cosmetic of the Inn with different tables, wall ornaments, carpets and other items. You can unlock new character cosmetics, but many felt like minor variants. The music is okay, but it didn’t grab me, but that’s probably fine since you’ll spend much of your gameplay shouting orders at your friends.
We did encounter some pretty significant niggles during our online play. My online buddy encountered major invisible walls, making navigating the levels very hard. Some levels require you to push levels to access different rooms and close off others. But for my friend, all the walls appeared open. He also noted a drop in performance and an odd weird glitch, none of which I experienced as the player host. What I did appreciate in this game is you can play locally and online, meaning I could play with my wife and buddy from across the world simultaneously. The game also features a cross-play code to play with people on other consoles, which is very welcome.
Conclusion – It Just Works
Overall, Innchanted is a fun, hectic co-op experience. This is definitely one to recommend for the co-op night. As one of the customers quotes in the Inn, ‘It just works.’ While I was very impressed with the companion AI, this is still a game I would recommend playing with friends rather than alone. Currently, local appears to be the best experience, but hopefully, the online issues will be cleared up to improve the experience. Even with the niggles this is still something I recommend and will absolutely stay on rotation on my weekly game night with the coolest people in my life. We probably weren’t the best Innkeepers, but we sure had a lot of fun trying.
Final Verdict: I Like it a Lot