Aspire: Ina’s Tale Review

I’m a sucker for highly stylized visuals in games, and I’m also partial towards 2D platformers, so when Aspire: Ina’s Tale came our way I jumped at the chance to review it. Developer Wondernaut Studio and publisher Untold Tales are responsible for bringing this eye-catching adventure to Xbox consoles. Obviously, graphics aren’t everything so read on to hear what I think about the other three pillars of Xbox Tavern’s rating system.

I think this is the fourth game that I’ve reviewed this year that starts with the playable character in a state of suspended animation and then breaking free. It’s a commonly used trope in video games because it works well as a starting point for an adventure and in this case, it plays a big part in the story of the game. After breaking free from her slumber, Ina is confused and afraid. She can’t remember much of her past but knows she wants to return home; however, she has no idea where that is or who awaits her there. She does know that she must escape her current location, and with that realization, her journey begins.

The gameplay in Aspire: Ina’s Tale is nothing to write home about. It’s your standard puzzle-platformer fare, but slightly more focused on the platforming. Unfortunately, due to the clunky movement mechanics, the platforming portions of the game feel inadequate in comparison to other similar games. Ina moves on the slow side, her jump height is rather low, and the part that I disliked the most is how long certain commonly used animations took to play out such as climbing and crawling.

One highlight of Aspire’s gameplay is the chase sequences where you have to outrun a wicked beast creature, the game combines one of its puzzle mechanics with these sequences to make things more interesting. There is a block that can create light as well as a floating automaton, both of which will temporarily keep the beast at bay and can be used to trigger switches to open doors. Later in the game, you must guide Ina through another chase-style gameplay sequence, this time avoiding a huge mechanical watcher that burns everything on the screen every few seconds (you have to hide behind things in the environment to keep from burning up). I found this part rather frustrating because of the poor movement mechanics. The whole sequence is spread out across three sections and you’ll get to make use of your other abilities along with your puzzle-solving skills.

As you progress through the game you’ll acquire the ability to pick up different crystals. These crystals can be used to transform certain objects (usually blocks). The green crystal increases the size of the object, allowing you to reach higher ledges or allowing a block that is imbued with light to reach more than one switch. The reddish-pink crystal, when inserted, causes the object to move up in the air a short distance. The biggest issue I had with these abilities is that you use the same button to place the crystal as you do to withdraw it; a quick press places it, and it is withdrawn when you hold the button down. This just does not work well when you are juggling more than one crystal at once. The other big issue I had with the puzzle gameplay and the game, in general, is that because the game is rather short (roughly 3 hours) I felt like the puzzle mechanics were not utilized to their fullest extent.

The graphics are easily the game’s strongest feature. The designers went with a beautiful vector art style that uses a lot of colors. All of the areas are very striking in their visual design and I enjoyed that aspect of the game very much – always anticipating how the next area would look. The character design is also top-notch. I’m not really talking about Ina, but more so the other characters you meet on your adventure. They all look extremely interesting and a lot of the dialogue between Ina and these characters is well written.

Aspire features a wonderful soundtrack that matches well with the visual aesthetic of the game. The soundtrack does a great job conveying the mystery of the game world, and the faster-paced tracks add to the tension of certain sections. The sound effects pair well with the game as well, the game world has a mechanical theme and the noises of all the objects help to bring the environment to life.

In terms of longevity, the game doesn’t have much going for it. As I mentioned before it’s pretty short (three to four hours), which some players will appreciate. The game doesn’t offer much in the way of replayability either, once you complete the game and experience the whole thing I don’t see a reason to go back. Unless of course, you happen to be an achievement hunter. The game features a few missable achievements, for collectible-type items as well as for completing sections without dying. Luckily the game makes use of a robust load system, which allows you to load back in at any past checkpoint.

Conclusion

Aspire: Ina’s Tale doesn’t bring anything new to the table. The graphic design is superb, but I can’t recommend you play a game on graphics alone. I think fans of the genre could enjoy this, and for the amount of content I think it is fairly priced, but if you are interested I suggest you wait to pick it up in a sale.

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This game was reviewed based on Xbox One review code, using an Xbox One console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.
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Good
  • Art style is visually appealing, cool character designs
  • Sound design matches with the game well
Bad
  • Movement mechanics and controls are clunky with slow animations for commonly used moves
  • Game doesn't reach its fullest potential partly due to short overall length
6.8
Okay
Gameplay - 5
Graphics - 9
Audio - 8.1
Longevity - 5
Written by
I started my gaming odyssey playing 8-bit console and arcade games. My first Xbox was the 360 and I immediately fell in love with achievement hunting and the overall ecosystem. That love was cemented with my purchase of an Xbox One. I play a bit of everything, but I usually end up playing fast paced games that remind me of my days spent in dark, smoky arcades spending quarter after quarter, telling myself "one more try!". Gamertag: Morbid237.

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