ReviewsReview: Aspire: Ina's Tale

Review: Aspire: Ina’s Tale

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Sleep is a weird and wonderful thing. It is one of our greatest mysteries, and it’s for this reason many developers are obsessed with it. Moreover, surrealism paves the way for some bizarre and original ideas. Therefore, it always intrigues me when this is a core concept in any game. Aspire: Ina’s Tale takes this to the next level in its dreamy gameplay and classic side-scrolling action.

Developed by Wondernaut Studio and published by Untold Tales, this is a platform adventure title. It has striking visuals, emotive audio, and a strange plot. However, many of its mechanics are dated, and this somewhat undermines the beautiful finish.

Aspire: Ina’s Tale is weird, but it plays it safe.

The dreamscape concept isn’t new. Developers and producers alike have utilised it for years and I’ve come to terms with that. You may think it lacks originality, but this is one theme that keeps producing amazing content. The bizarre nature of these ideas allows any creative mind to do as they wish, and that’s fine by me. Aspire: Ina’s Tale makes the most of this freedom, and I enjoyed its unusual ride.

You control Ina, a young girl who has awoken in an unknown land. She doesn’t know why she has been captured but knows she must escape. Sadly for her, the tower is alive, and it needs her to stay in an eternal slumber to survive. The power and traps used to hold its victims’ prisoner are also its downfall. Subsequently, Ina must harness new abilities and overcome obstacles to escape this dreamy world.

Don’t worry about the creepy statue.

Sounds exciting, but it’s very run-of-the-mill!

The plot sounds exciting, and as the opening cinematic ended, I couldn’t wait to start. Yet, as the action rolled on, I was left feeling underwhelmed. The promise of an exciting and unusual adventure was replaced with a standard and well-trodden blend of elements. Now, this isn’t a bad thing, however, I expected it to have more flair and to evolve past the norm.

Much of the gameplay focuses on gathering orbs to power platforms, unlock doors, and so forth. You must place these coloured crystals in receptacles and, in turn, these will open your path. There are many to collect, and each has a different role to play. The most noticeable and well-used was the unlocking of doors, or the energising of orbs. This was a key component within the gameplay and was also used to support a secondary layer.

Alongside the normal unlock to progress mechanics, there are moments when Ina is chased. Gargantuan monsters attempt to capture her to fulfil the tower’s wishes. Therefore, you must escape! Using the power of the orbs, you’ll lock doors and move platforms to hinder their progress. Furthermore, the scenery becomes a key component in escaping their clutches. These additional moments were essential in breaking up the standard platforming gameplay. Consequently, it added some much-needed depth and variety to the action.

A world that is full of beauty.

Aspire: Ina’s Tale is visually spectacular. 

It’s rare that an indie game is jaw-droppingly beautiful. However, Aspire: Ina’s Tale is spectacular. Its crisp lines, vivid colours, and varied landscapes make it a treat on the eyes. Each area you explore is interesting and unique, and the characters you encounter add to the wonderment. The developers have done an incredible job of producing a polished and awe-inspiring game.

The surreal and bizarre plot is infused into the action thanks to the airy soundtrack. The soft, yet dramatic music plays throughout, and its pace and tone reflect each unique moment. On top of this, there are some unusual sound effects that add to the dreamy nature. 

The audio and visual elements of Aspire: Ina’s Tale make it stand out from its peers. It’s laced with emotion while being utterly beautiful. I fell for its charms immediately and I loved the unique world I explored. 

So many moody images.

Cumbersome controls. 

I’m not sure if the lethargic controls were deliberate, but I’m certain they will be divisive. Ina is a young and scared girl who is running for her life. Therefore, it’s understandable that she would move a little tentatively. However, every action feels drawn out, and this makes it frustrating to play. Her clumsy approach to overcoming the simplest of obstacles was annoying! The developers should have made this much smoother, as it would enhance the experience. Moreover, the button mapping could have been simpler. Utilising the same button for each orb you collected was unwise as it made it difficult to select the correct one. These complaints are minor, but if it was tidied up, it would make it more user-friendly. 

Sadly, there are more shortcomings in this wonderful title. Its short time frame demands around 4 hours of your time and this wasn’t enough! With such a beautiful world to explore, I wanted much more. Unfortunately, this impacts both its longevity and replay value. Fortunately, though, the first run is so enjoyable that it’s still great value. 

Aspire: Ina’s Tale doesn’t go far enough. 

With such potential on show, it was disappointing that Aspire: Ina’s Tale didn’t go far enough. I desperately wanted to see it evolving, but this was never to be. The developers played it safe, and this was at the detriment of the end product. Though it could have been spectacular, it was still great, albeit very familiar. I enjoyed it and I recommend you to buy it here! Will Ina escape the clutches and attention of the tower? Grab the orbs, solve the puzzles, and avoid the attention of the beasts. 

SUMMARY

Aspire: Ina's Tale is a beautiful and atmospheric title that uses well-trodden mechanics. It could have been exceptional but it needed more depth.

+ Stunning graphics.
+ Atmospheric audio.
+ A surreal story.
- Cumbersome controls.
- It lacks longevity.
- It lacks depth.

(Reviewed on the Xbox Series X. Also available on PC and Nintendo Switch.
Daniel Waite
Daniel Waite
My gaming career started on an Amiga and spans many consoles! Currently, I game using an MSI laptop and Xbox Series X. A fan of every genre, I love to give anything a go. Former editor and reviewer for www.bonusstage.co.uk, I'm loving my new home here at Movies Games and Tech. I can be contacted for gaming reviews on the following email: [email protected]

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Aspire: Ina's Tale is a beautiful and atmospheric title that uses well-trodden mechanics. It could have been exceptional but it needed more depth.<br/> <br/> + Stunning graphics. <br/> + Atmospheric audio. <br/> + A surreal story. <br/> - Cumbersome controls. <br/> - It lacks longevity. <br/> - It lacks depth. <br/> <br/> (Reviewed on the Xbox Series X. Also available on PC and Nintendo Switch.<br/>Review: Aspire: Ina's Tale