A Space For The Unbound review

If you’ve kept an eye on this pixel art adventure, you’ll know that it’s centered around a cataclysmic event. To the developer’s credit, it does such a good job of absorbing you in the pursuits of high school teens Atma and Raya, that it’s easy to forget the said event will inevitably occur. Instead of awaiting impending doom, I was more fixated on stroking stray cats, skipping school to visit the local arcade, and avoiding beatdowns from the school’s bullies.

A Space For The Unbound takes place in ‘90s era rural Indonesia – a simpler time with internet cafes, arcades full of 2D beat’em ups, and cheesy action movies. High school students Atma and Raya spend most of their spare time together, chalking up plans for the day they hear the school bell ring for the last time. These plans form a bucket list, of which the opening sequence gives you a chance to handpick.

As they attend school and go about daily life, Raya casually asks to cross a few things off the list – commencing impromptu fetch quests. That’s until things start to become a little…peculiar.   

See, neither Atma nor Raya are typical teens – both have supernatural abilities that allow them to alter reality. Atma is our protagonist, with his ‘Spacediving’ ability opening a portal to an unworldly realm where rules no longer apply – be it time, mind, or space. Often this involves a puzzle sequence or a mini-game, with one early example involving taking an old man back in time to where a cherry tree once grew, all in the name of creating the perfect black forest gateau.

Spacedives gradually become more elaborate, occasionally calling for a trip to the real world to find an item or two, before travelling back to otherworldly dimensions. A couple of investigative courtroom scenes additionally feature, in which evidence must be gathered and presented accordingly. Another involves Back to the Future shenanigans, changing the past to alter the future.

It essentially plays out like a modern take on the point-and-click genre. You’re free to explore the small town, talk to fellow students and other reoccurring characters, and have access to a simple inventory via a radial menu. Conversations often have multiple dialogue choices, with some characters showing dismay with blunt responses. The UI is easy to navigate, being both clear and stylish, and there’s also both a quest log and a note of the current objectives. It’s surprising how many recent adventure games have omitted a quest log, much to their detriment.

Other ‘quality of life’ features are present too, including a text log and the ability to save anywhere – handy, seeing each of the six chapters last around two hours.  

The pixel art is incredibly well-drawn, evocative of 32-bit era Capcom titles. An apt comparison, seeing the arcade features a playable Street Fighter II homage, albeit a watered-down button-matching version thereof. Considering the developers are based in Indonesia, the translation job is excellent – lots of jokes hit their mark, and the dialogue is both witty and snappy.

Cracks in the game’s gleaming exterior mostly amount to pacing. After a good five hours of casual busywork and light puzzle solving, the penultimate chapter sees things wildly escalate, giving the impression that something dramatic is about to happen…only for Atma to sneak back into school and solve a complex maths equation, the formula for which is scattered. To say this slaps the brakes on plot development is an understatement. Even calling for a notepad, this puzzle is jarring when compared to the rest – which are mostly memorisation or logic based.

Other faults are mostly minor. A couple of important items are easy to overlook, and most of the game’s 8-10 hour duration is confined to the town, meaning you’ll be spending a lot of time running up and down increasingly familiar streets. It also becomes quite text heavy towards the end, almost feeling like a visual novel, but this is more of an observation than a gripe. Using the final moments to delve into finer plot points is par for the course for most eastern RPGs, after all.

With the exception of the aforementioned maths problem, the puzzles are genuinely pleasurable to solve, each having a payoff that’s either unexpected or comical. Indeed, despite having increasingly predominant themes of depression and anxiety as the conclusion draws near, this is quite a light-hearted experience for the most part.

Innovative and full of surprises, A Space For The Unbound comes highly recommended to those who enjoy games that dare to be different. In this case, a little mawkish too. The bond between Atma and his friends is so endearing that you’ll definitely want to see it through to the end.  

Mojiken’s A Space for the Unbound is out January 19th on all formats. Published by Chorus Worldwide.

SCORE
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