I have a lot to say about this game…
In fact, I have so much to say, I don’t know where to begin. Maybe I should start with the statement that I did not finish the game myself and had to watch a playthrough of the ending, just to kind of get some form of closure. Thing is, I am quite annoyed that I didn’t manage to complete the game myself, because I spent 16 hours running around, trying to collect everything or at least as much as humanly possible for myself, because as an achievement hunter there was bound to be some achievement for collecting all the letters at least. Alas, at least for the time being I will definitely put this game aside and who knows, one day I might pick it up again.
So here is the deal. I was actually so close to the ending, probably to the last room, where you finally face David (and for those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, it will become clearer later on, so bear with me), however, like I said, because I wanted to collect as many letters as possible (I had about 5 or 6 left of the whole alphabet), I decided to continue wandering around and explore a bit more before finishing the game. However, just as I was going to collect another letter, I fell in the damn water … once again and I do remember that I got the message that I shouldn’t go into the escape room again, but honestly if the thing that followed is indeed what is supposed to happen and not a glitch, I will be so pissed off. So anyways, basically I had died so many times on one platforming sequence that the escape room had shrunk so much and when I died again, I was left in a black space and an achievement popped up. At first I thought “OMG, something is bound to pop up in my face”, because it’s a dark setting, pitch black even, and then there were the creepy noises and not to mention that the achievement was called “Are you ready?” … well, the answer is “no, I was not ready for what occurred to me”. Apparently I got stuck in this infinite loop, where I am in this dark setting and it seems as if I am infinitely falling and there is a light in the distance (I think it’s a room), just going up, disappearing, appearing and going up again (hence why I think it’s an infinite reset and fall loop situation for me). Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out what to do or how to fix this and this review is way overdue, so I decided to watch the ending on YouTube and to be completely honest, I was pissed off, because I just spent 16 hours of anxiety and mini heart attacks on each jumpscare, just for this to happen and me to have to start all over again, just for the last room … yeah, not gonna happen.
In all honesty, if by any chance the developers do read this review, I wanna know, like, reach out to me and tell me, is this a glitch or what? What is indeed supposed to happen when the escape room reaches its limit?
Well, now that we established this predicament of mine, I believe I gathered more than enough information about the game to write this review, so shall we begin.
At the very core, Inner Voices is a psychological horror game, heavily based on exploration and story building. If we have to look specifically at the horror element of the game, I think it pulls it off good … I wouldn’t go so far as to say perfect, because at one point you do get used to it. At least some jumpscares try to be unpredictable in occurrences. Basically the way Inner Voices handles its horror element is by 80% tension building and 20% jumpscares, there is, however, no consistency in the tension building, happening in the game. You can never really predict, when a jumpscare might occur, however you may remember the places the jumpscares do happen. For example, if you spend more time exploring, looking for collectables and you experience jumpscares, when you get the same room, or if you start the game again, you will remember when something might frighten you and be more mentally prepared. I do recall this happening for me as well. I started the game, but then I had to reset my save, because I thought I had bugged my playthrough out and when I started again, I could breeze through the game, up to the point where I reached it. In fact, I was ready for every single scare, which came up my way. Not to mention that I never did get some scares, that another player did (the one, whose playthrough I watched). I also think I might have skipped a story fragment, but I will talk about this later on. All in all, I believe the horror was well done, because it always kept me on the edge of anxiety of when something might happen, because there is never really that moment of culmination after some good tension building. Basically you are not chased by anything, there is no imminent threat to your character’s life, all there is to it – are jumpscares. To a certain point I do not know if that is a good thing or not, because sometimes you can get bold, knowing that nothing in reality can harm your character and you can just do whatever you want. I do admit I did feel this exact thing, especially at the second half of the game, where I kept on “dying” and “dying” on this annoying platforming sequence. Damn it, I knew that I should have restarted the game then and save myself all this.
The most unique element of Inner Voices, hence why you can’t really predict many of the scares, is the fact that the game generates randomly. Basically the whole game is a sequence of rooms, which you have to explore and collect some runes in order to progress. The first half of the game you collect those, by experiencing you memories. Those memories are the “story-related rooms” as I like to call them and the game will keep generating them no matter what, because you need to collect the rune from them to proceed. Fun fact: there was one story room, which had a locked door in it and basically I didn’t know where the key for the door was. This is the place I was stuck on my first playthrough and this is the reason why I restarted the save in the first place. So the game kept putting me back in that room and I couldn’t find the key. On the new save, this was the second memory I got and low and behold, when I wasn’t even looking, the key was there in the open drawer … okay, I know I am blind, I also know that in my paranoia I might miss something, but come on, I can’t be that blind. Maybe I missed it, maybe was a glitch, I’ll never know. Anyways, what I was saying is, that all the rooms are randomly generated. Once you go through the door, and it closes behind you, there is no turning back. If you open same door again, the game would have loaded another room for you. All story related rooms are generated in a random order as well, with the exception of the church, which always comes first, but I guess that is because it’s relevant to the story sequence. From there on, you experience everything randomized. All other “filler rooms”, as I called them, are purely randomly generated, however there is some sort of workaround to that. If you want to get a specific room again, all you have to do is stay near one door and keep going through it, until the room you want pops up. I did this quite a lot, when I was exploring for extra letters and was postponing my progress. Also, I noticed the following: the more I explore, the more “new” things happen to me. For example when I keep exploring rooms, instead of progressing, I get occurrences and find more new rooms or parts of rooms, which could not be accessed before. This is somewhat good to one point and bad to another. It’s good, because it stimulates the player to keep exploring, however it’s bad, because you never know whether you actually will get it at all. Also you never really know whether you’ll need to collect all the letters or not.
Might as well mention this, since I keep referring to it. Basically the game has 2 collectables – runes, in the form of an alphabet and some story based notes. I was actually quite happy with my progress thus far, I had collected most of the letters and notes, however, I never really knew why I needed the other ones, beside the ones in order to progress. I have to say, some letters are quite hard to find, others I think I found purely on luck, but I didn’t manage to find them all, due to the save bug. I will probably try again in the future. I quite liked how the runic alphabet looks, gives off this unique feel and I like that it’s related to the English alphabet, so that it’s not completely random. Also the notes contribute greatly to the storyline, but alas I didn’t manage to collect them all as well. I think out of all I needed 5 more. Somewhere along those lines. After you use the needed runes to open the door to proceed, then you collect 4 other ones and go to the ending. I love the fact that the game tells you what is the point of no return, basically where I reached, and if you like, you can go and wander around to collect more stuff, before finishing the game.
The cool thing here, and trust me I really loved it, was the fact that there is this room, where all the collectables are held, the story journal, as well as the ability to manually save. It appears in the form of a small office room, where it has some furniture, a board, where it puts the collected letters, a note explaining some stuff about the Being we encounter, the story journal in the form of a book and an old typewriter, which is used to save the game. I called this “my happy place”, because it was the safe room, which I needed whenever I felt too anxious to proceed or when a jumpscare occurred and I didn’t completely rekt the keyboard. In fact, whatever happened, I knew that if I was there, then nothing can happen to me, so that is where I calmed myself down. It’s also a really nice place to track your progress so far, so I quite liked it. Also something that came out quite thematic is when you click on the metal safe, in order to reset your saved game (I didn’t notice this until the sound popped up), but there is actually a gun and your character shoots himself. I thought it was quite thematic, given the storyline and the general setting of the game.
Speaking of storyline, let us talk about this as well. Without giving out too much, we basically play as John Blake, who is in this unusual purgatory type of setting, made by a being that we address as David. Honestly, I knew he was evil from the very beginning, however I liked when I talked to him, it made me feel calm, for some reason. I wish I had more interaction with David. There is also Dominica, our wife, who, in a way, guides us down the road to recovering our memories. Alas, we do face David in the end and if you had payed attention to the note in the safe room, you do get to pick whether to enslave or unleash him. Honestly, the choices I had made in my playthrough and the way I had built John as a character, I totally would have enslaved him. What is this about choices? Basically, this game lets you make subtle choices, however I don’t think there are much consequences to them. I read that Inner Voices has 5 endings and I have no idea how to achieve the rest of them, however, the choices I made, I found that didn’t really influence my interaction with David, nor the way the plot panned out. In the end, they shot Steve whatsoever, I do get to face David, even in the cutscene where I choose whether to shoot myself or not, still, doesn’t make much of a difference. Only difference is a line or two, after the event occurs. I feel like, these choices are giving us a false sense of control, or maybe some lead to other endings, I cannot truly tell. However I will say that I was bummed that I had missed some story dialogues, because of the ridiculous save and load system that the game has and what better time to talk about it, than now.
Basically the game saves your progress every time you collect a rune automatically so you have that. Also you can manually save your progress whenever. This is all good and all, however I do not understand why you always have to start from the first room and have everything randomized again. What if your game crashes on an important moment? What if you decide to stop your play session at the wrong time? I skipped a few dialogues exactly because of that. I stopped my 4 hours long session in a room, thinking it was not part of a story dialogue and thinking that I will get it again. Well, boy was I so wrong to think that. I only found out about this, when I was watching the playthrough of the guy I did for the ending. This is the reason I was always reluctant to stop sessions and had to pay attention where I stop them, in fear of losing important progress. I feel as if I would have found it way better, if we start at the exact same place we stop and maybe in the safe room, instead of the first place we start off from the very beginning of the game. This was a major turn off for me. Also for some reason my journal in the safe room would never keep the information about the altar place and the military camp. It would get deleted both tries and I never did get that info back. Not to mention that I felt as if not everything happening was being documented in there and it was very vague to begin with.
Next up, we gotta talk about puzzles, because this is also a very important part of the game. I generally enjoyed puzzles, with the exception of a few of them and I will detail them here. Most puzzles require you to find an object (split into parts) and build it. Others were more creative than that. For example, I enjoyed the ritual one, and the one, where you had to balance the right amount of cubes on pedestals in order to lift the parts of the bridge (I actually got stuck on that one quite a while, because I hadn’t noticed one cube and one of the pedestals). However, some puzzles are outright tedious to complete. Examples: the one where you have a white room with many doors and you have to walk through the right combination of doors in order to reach the rune. That one was so annoying at the end, because it ended up being such a trial and error sequence. Another one was in the dark room, where you walk around on self-building blocks and that’s basically it – you walk around, until you find the right path to the rune pedestal. And the platforming sequence on which I died so much – it was basically a dark room with scattered furniture all over the place and you had to utilize them to get to the rune piece, however I kept falling in the stupid water, because I could never really tell how accurate I was on the platform and not to mention that I fell right through a platform on a couple of occasions and I’m not sure if this was poor collision or me not being precise enough, however it was so tedious to do … I know I suck at platformers, however, if there was one thing I didn’t need in this type of game, it was definitely a platforming sequence. In my opinion, puzzles could have been worked on a bit more and they could have been made more unique and I know the devs can do it, because the first part of the puzzled, which were connected to John’s memories are actually quite good and it’s always stuff, directly connected to his memories, however, with the exclusion of the cube bridge puzzle, the other three of the second half of the game, where you collect the runes to defeat David, I felt as if they were rushed and up to the point quite bland. This is the part where I rather quickly forgot, I was playing a horror game, because of the repetitiveness of these puzzles. Like I mention, I usually had to spend minimum an hour on each, in order to complete them and trust me, when you do something for an hour, every kind of vibe, a game might give you, fades away.
Let’s talk about the escape room … the one that effed me up. I call it escape room, because in the room, there is a big chalk board and on it is written “escape room”. It basically means that we have to escape the room, but the name stuck to it for me. Basically it consists of a few rooms. The main room has some object in it, the one to the left is a dark room with tall black statues in it and to the right we have a small maze formed of cells and the creepy “HAHAHA” walls (damn the joker cannot contain himself). Basically every time you “die”, and trust me this is such a relevant term in this game, you are sent to the escape room and the goal is to find the key and … well, escape. Honestly, I grew to detest this room, because I visited it so much, during that platforming sequence, where I kept dying and dying over and over again. And trust me the key can be anywhere in the room and dayum is it hard to see. It’s a small golden key and it has occurred to me that I spent a good amount of 30 minutes, just running around, searching for the key. I noticed, I don’t know if I’m right or not, but after a while, if you don’t find the key, it starts glowing, basically telling you “heeeeeeeeeeey, I’m over here, take me and leave already”. I’m not even gonna mention those times where I try finding the key in the most unusual places and it ends up being on the table or on the ground in front of the door I have to unlock. And to be honest, it’s not that easy to see the key when it’s on the ground, because it’s so small and it sometimes camouflages with it. Not to mention that one time I found it on a fallen painting and I, myself, do not even know how I spotted that, because it had camouflaged so well with it. To be honest, I spend more time searching for keys, which end up being on usual places, maybe that’s the reason I find the less obvious ones faster. Anyways, the cool thing about this room is that it gets smaller every time you return to it and it actually took me quite a few returns to the room to notice that. I noticed it in the room with the statues, where I found out that some of them were missing. The first one I noticed was that dreaded “HAHAHA” room where 2 of those side rooms were missing. I didn’t even consider such a possibility at the time though. However, I do have to say that as good as the room is, it kind of loses its tension over time. Because nothing really happens in it, and trust me I do not mind that at all, the last thing I need is for some jumpscare to pop in my face, while I’m searching for such a small key. I was actually quite anxious in this room the first few times, when I visited it, because I was actually expecting for something of the sorts to happen, but when I began returning more frequently, I was kind of just storming through it, thinking only about the key and not really paying attention to anything else, or the possibility of it, for that matter.
Physics is the next thing I wanna mention, because, god were they wonky as hell. I know this is a made up world and the rules of physics do not really apply to it, however, some occurrences were outright wonky. Chairs, barrels, movable objects flying around just by me slightly touching them. When I put some stuff on the ground or on a table, they start getting seizures and make weird noises, which don’t improve my general situation of anxiety, made by the rest of the setting. Not to mention when you pick something up and have to carry it somewhere else, a lot of the time it gets lost somewhere off camera, because of how wonky that is. Truth be told, I would have preferred the use of an inventory, rather than this carry game I was doing, because at times it did get quite bothersome. For example when you have to carry multiple things to a certain place and they are scattered everywhere. It wasn’t that big of a deal, just my preference. I actually admit that I did get scared once or twice from wonky physics.
Finally, and just because I have left this for last, doesn’t mean that it’s the least important, in fact it’s in the core of tension building, we have sound. I really don’t have any complaints about the sound. It was definitely on point the whole time and contributed greatly for the atmosphere, which the game creates. However, voice acting on the other hand was kind of poor in quality. I know this is an indie game and the budget is not on par with a triple A game, however that doesn’t mean that a person cannot attempt to perform the voice acting better. I liked Dominica’s voice actress, I feel like David should have had a more tampered voice, in order to make him sound creepier, however John on the other hand … sorry to say this, but I did not like his acting even the slightest bit and if I have to put it frankly, it was so bad, it got on my nerves every time. It’s fine when he just reads out the lines, but when he has to put in some emotion – anger or sadness for example, it’s so plastic, I cannot even. Made me wanna punch him in the face a lot of the times. Sorry to the person voicing him, alas, I’m just here to point good and bad things in the game.
Verdict. Okay, I think I covered everything I wanted to say in this review. I know it may seem like a mess, but from all that I experienced, I have to say I’d give the game a 6/10. It’s a good game, however, still some things needed to be better made, for it to get a higher score. Not to mention all the glitches I was getting and the big one that screwed my save. To be honest, if it is not a glitch, it’s just disappointing in a way. Also my game crashed a few times and it didn’t want to launch a few other times, so it was a struggle on a few occasions. But I can still say that it is a great game and it is worth the try. I absolutely loved the random effect they tried to achieve with Inner Voices and I believe, that to some extent, more games need to utilize RNG in this particular way.
And just because I had so many fun moments, let’s end on a fun fact: there is this huge ball-like room with projectors casting light on the ground. For a few times I thought I was seeing a peacock in the distance, but then a huge spider was crawling and I though “hmm, what if it wasn’t a peacock, but the spider’s butt at the end light, however none of the times I saw the spider crawl, did it reach to the end, so maybe I did see a peacock!