Title: The Inner Friend
Genre: Psychological Horror, Indie, Puzzle, Adventure
Tested On: PlayStation 4
Official Website: TheInnerFriend.com
Release Date: April 28th, 2020
Many games often guide at the very beginning of the story. When it comes to the psychological horror aspects, things go a little differently. The less you know about what is going on, the more intense new events will feel. It’s doubly nerve-racking when you have to navigate through the ins and outs of a broken mind. Why do it alone when you have The Inner Friend?
A few of the games I’ve played can be considered psychological horror. But the ones I’ve found to be most frightening were the ones playing tricks on the mind. While there isn’t a huge emphasis on dialogue, The Inner Friend manages to tell its story well.
The Inner Friend Gameplay
Psychological horror often leaves players with little to no direction. While The Inner Friend doesn’t expressly state what to do, controls have visual representations. There are no words spoken by the main character, which gives the player a sense of foreboding. As I realized my avatar said nothing, it left me wondering if simply walking towards danger would be the end of it. Remember that whatever you face, you have no weapons, no armor, and no special items.
The skill you use The Inner Friend must be a sharp mind. Many of the puzzles have solutions that weren’t someone’s first thought. In the Museum, pictured above, going through one section, I had to avoid laser beams to find certain pick-ups. When I backtracked to the room I came from, I noticed nothing was at all similar. Memorizing how to get from one side of the display room to the other didn’t matter. It was never the same room when I got back. It was an excellent way to tap into the human mind’s paranoia and made the segment much more intense than I first felt.
The main objective of The Inner Friend is to stitch together a person’s memories. Going through these memories, one isn’t entirely sure what happened. For each object the ‘Friend’ recovers in a memory, a new object is added to the room you always return to. While you don’t have powers in the traditional sense, joining together with the ‘shadow’ you see can sometimes create paths or remove obstacles.
A ‘Conversation’ About Mental Health
As I stated earlier, there isn’t much in the way of dialogue. The story of The Inner Friend is told through a series of trippy puzzles and levels. Each level the player navigates is like a traumatic event experienced by the person the ‘shadow’ represents. When I walked through the Hair Salon level, I imagined different reasons for the level existing. Did the person get nicked while getting a trim? Did a violent fight break out?
In recent times, using games to get mental health discussions started has become normal. The Inner Friend does a good job of representing childhood traumas most of us can’t remember. The way in which things play out is reminiscent of The Cell, a movie with Jennifer Lopez about diving into the mind of another.
Where The Inner Friend Falters
The Inner Friend was certainly an interesting adventure. Environments were large, and filled with desolate versions of common locations. A defunct substation level made the fear of shock so apparent, it filled most of the level. That level, I personally found interesting. It actually made shocking a hazard and required me to solve a few puzzles just to continue.
As great as the substation level was, I cannot say the same for the others. While the environments were large in size, there was almost nothing in them. I do love a good visual story, but the ‘visuals‘ of The Inner Friend, I felt were few and far between. Had there been a little more to look for, there might not have been such a lull between events.
There were also a few cases that required a bit of stealth. It had to be the most intense part of the experience and I wish they had given me more of it.
A constantly changing environment can do only so much for a wordless story.
Final Verdict: The Inner Friend is a casual exploration game with horror elements. While the environments can be awe-inspiring at times, the largest of them contain almost nothing. If you are looking for something laid back that doesn’t take much of your time, this is a good title to get. If you’re looking for intense psychological horror, other titles may be more suited to your needs. The Inner Friend is out now on Steam, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.
- Visually appealing
- Story told through mostly visuals
- Very short
- Large environments felt empty
- Low replay value
Writer, Star Wars Fan, Lover of Chonky Cats. I live in the almond capital of California (and the world, apparently) with my wife and our two cats, Mr. Spooky and Cupcake. Since I got my first system at five years old, I’ve had a burning passion to both create and write about video games. When I’m not busy playing classic RPGs or lucking out on Apex Legends, my wife and I will sit and contemplate what video games aliens would be playing.