Inua: A Story of Ice and Time is a beautiful narrative adventure that has a great story to tell in an interesting way. It sheds light on the Inuit culture in a nice way that reminds me a little of Never Alone in that it takes a folklore tale and gives it a new retelling.
It’s worth noting that in order to enjoy Inua best, you need to park expectations of big puzzles or gameplay elements. I raise this because the game has been tagged as a point and click adventure but that implies puzzle solving. In reality, whilst you do move a cursor and click on items, if you click everything in your menus, you will continue with the story without any trouble at all. There’s no difficulty here so you can focus on the story. That will put some gamers off but Inua rarely felt like a passive experience. The story and the way how you trigger conversations keeps things fresh.
Inua has a story that takes place over three main characters and three generations. Taïna is a present day journalist trying to uncover the mystery of the crew of the Terror, part of Franklin Expedition of the 19th Century. As you uncover details in present day, you can switch timelines to the crew of the Terror and play as Simon, one of the crew. It might be that a clue is missing in the present day and it isn’t until you swap to Simon and progress that story that the item is then available to click in Taïna’s world. Peter is the third character that is in a 1950’s army mission that bridges the divide too. All this time travelling could be complicated but its kept very simple and a Polar Bear constellation of stars act as hints to guide you if you are stuck.
You shouldn’t get stuck though. Clicking on objects turn them into tokens which every character in that story chapter can then talk or think about. You can click on the character and choose the conversation tokens to advance things. Sometimes you’ll need to click on multiple objects to build a token and towards the end of the game, this idea is spread across time rather than a location. It’s less complicated than it sounds though. As you can choose any token on anyone, some are purely extra character development and not required. I liked this approach to building the world around you and I was invested in everyone’s views even if some potential flashpoints hinted at don’t always come to pass.
All spoken dialogue is voice acted by a very diverse cast. The voice acting is a slightly mixed bag as the Inuit vocal deliveries are slow and feel more read from the page (occasionally with the wrong words being spoken). However, when you get used to their delivery, it marks an interesting observation that repeats over and over – two cultures side by side takes adjustment. The outside world have a disregard for Inuit traditions and community and the Inuit are very weary of outsiders coming in as they bring little respect. These clash of cultures are part of the spine of the story and its this background thread that I took away most from.
Whilst the story is great, the ending is one of those where you can make of it what you want. It’s one of those “its the journey not the destination” things but it left me with food for thought. I really like the graphical style too. Locations are viewed from static perspectives but can be rotated and they have a playful watercolour haze to them. Even better is the stunning soundtrack. I own some of Tanya Tagaq’s work already and her Inuit throat singing is surrounded by vocal and dreamy ambient synths. I could listen to some of the pieces on repeat for ages and bliss out to it and I’ll be picking up the soundtrack separately.
Ultimately, this is a short (3-4 hour) memorable narrative experience that will stick in my mind for a good while. A beautiful soundtrack, warm and inviting storybook visuals and a tale that brings an ancient folklore story to life in a fun way. I’d love to see this token system expanded on in a future title that maybe brings in a bit more puzzle interaction but Inua: A Story of Ice and Time is very worthy of your time as is.
Review copy provided by developer.
Inua: A Tales of Ice and Time
A beautifully told story with some great ideas on letting you enjoy a tale told through three generations. Just know going in this is story firmly first, gameplay and puzzle elements a slim background second.
Looks and sounds beautiful.
A story that uses time travel between protagonists in a simple way.
A great conversation token system that allows you to get more backstory and nuance to characters if you want it.
Fully voice acted from a multi national cast.
Only one real puzzle in the game - everything else is a click to continue.
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