We managed to spend a little time with the upcoming The Inner World: The Last Wind Monk ahead of it’s release later this month. This preview is written based off our time spent with the starting few screens of the up-and-coming adventure title. Keep your eyes peeled for our review closer to launch.
Continuing the adventures of flute-nosed Robert, The Last Wind Monk’s story is the result of one of its protagonist’s misconceptions. Specifically, the oft-held notion that toppling an oppressive regime and leaving the aftermath to fix itself will lead to a magical time of peace where the world is full of rainbows and unicorns.
Well, there are rainbows are unicorns in the inner world of Asposia, but that’s not the point.
Much like its prequel, The Last Wind Monk is a point-and-click adventure from Studio Fizbin, but you don’t need to know a thing about the ongoing story before diving in. What you will need are your wits and a convenient thinking cap, because the puzzles get tricky and you’ll need to think in anything but a straight line to figure some of them out.
At the basic level, it operates like any other point-and-click title, letting you right-click to highlight hotspots on the screen or opt for the more stubborn ‘point-and-hope’ approach. You can switch between control of up to three characters, which becomes a useful mechanic to consider when one is stronger, one has quest-specific knowledge and one can fly. Using each to their respective strengths is something that must be taken into consideration.
Asposia is a world in the centre of a space surrounded by infinite earth. Without fresh air, its people would suffocate, but this disaster is kept at bay by four wind fountains which pump air into the inner world. Until recently, that is. The new ruler of Asposia, Elan, is fanatically devoted to the ruler who came before him. He has placed the blame for his petrification on the shoulders of all flute-noses and ordered the persecution of their race across his domain, despite the fact that they were instrumental in toppling what was in truth a corrupt and fraudulent regime.
And so you have a double purpose: first to avoid persecution as a flute-nose yourself under Elan’s rule; and second to find the last Wind Monk in a bid to stop the the wind fountains falling silent and suffocating the world. It’s a task which will see you travel all across Asposia, through every topsy-turvy departures terminal and on every rickety cable car.
Sometimes you’ll have to look beyond the scenery to solve a puzzle and interact with one of Asposia’s residents to progress. During conversation, you can select from a number of topics which appear in your inventory bar as representative icons. You can broach a subject several times to get more detailed answers and one line of discussion may well open up a new topic, with new ways to solve a puzzle. In the same way that you combine items, you can drag an item over to a character to give it to them (or similar).
On the surface, The Last Wind Monk somehow manages to feel like it has too many and too few items all at once. It isn’t littered with object of no use like many others in the genre, but the uses and combinations of objects don’t tend to be intuitive. While some puzzles are fairly logical in the approach to solving them, others require great mental leaps. This may come naturally for some, but others can at least rest assured that Fizbin Studio have put an excellent hints system in place. You can click to reveal more information, each step giving just one tiny extra hint toward your goal. It’s a system prone to feeling more like a gentle nudge in the right direction rather than an outright cheat, unless you abuse it.
It’s difficult to lose interest, though, as despite any tedium which may result from wandering around the same point-and-click location and failing to put two and two together, there are just the right number of ‘alternative’ puzzles to keep the pace fresh. Again, some of these are quite difficult and involve a lot of lateral thinking, but it’s better to be slightly too difficult with hints available than it is to be too easy. Each step you complete in a stage advances the story a little bit as well, so you always feel like you’re making progress and you’re always invested in the outcome of solving a puzzle.
Sometimes in point-and-click adventures it can feel like NPCs are there for nothing other than populating the world, which is fine in itself, but The Last Wind Monk weaves them into the story and puzzles. Their dialogue is witty and unique to their personality, which offers another look into the rich world they inhabit. Some of their voices feel a little slow and stilted or lacking intonation, but others are excellent. All of this is brought to life in lively, hand-drawn scenes which seem to have more detail every time you look. Asposia feels real, fleshed out and alive, not just through the story that carries you along but through its art.
With a solid story, a good pinch of humour and a bundle of quirky illustration The Last Monk is certainly a point-and-click title to keep a look out for.