Aspire To Be Free
What would you do if you woke up in a strange tower? Would you want to leave as soon as possible? Even if it meant the tower, and everyone inside it, would perish if you left? This is what’s waiting for you at the opening of Aspire: Ina’s Tale, the latest game from Untold Stories. But don’t let the game’s beautiful visuals or simplistic gameplay fool you: Aspire has depth drawing from the human soul.
Aspire has depth drawing from the human soul.
As mentioned prior, Aspire begins with Ina awaking inside of a strange tower. She is the Heart of the tower and as the side-characters you encounter throughout the game will tell you: a tower can’t survive without it’s heart. If you leave the tower, it will cease to be. It’s a dire truth but Ina yearns to be free and see what’s beyond the tower’s cold, steel walls.
Aspire draws from games like GRIS in that the visuals are high-quality and stunning. You’ll progress through 4 areas in the game as you make your escape. Each area is visually different and takes on a personality of it’s own. Highlighting the distinction between the areas is the outstanding music that accompanies you. I found myself excited to explore each new area as one minute you’re in a dark, grey dungeon and the next you’ll be in a vibrantly verdant forest with some beautiful trees.
When I say the gameplay is simplistic, I must clarify that I don’t mean it’s boring. There are puzzles to figure out, especially as you encounter new powers that allow you grow boxes twice their size, or cause platforms to move, sometimes in tandem. At first blush, the puzzles seem easy. But once you get to the third area, you’ll realize that the puzzles will require some thought. And, in some cases, split second reaction time. But I don’t want to spoil that section for you; it’s a lot of fun.
What if the outside world is a disappointment?
I have to admit that there were times that Ina reminded me a lot of my time playing Celeste. In Celeste, her whole goal is to get to the top of this mountain. As she progresses through her journey, anxiety and doubt settle in, making her afraid of what’s at the top. In the same manner, Ina hits the same notes along her journey. In a discussion with the Architect character, she expresses fear of reaching her goal. Will she have the courage to leave? What if the outside world is a disappointment?
It was this moment that the story touched me in a profound and real way. I won’t divulge too much here but I had those same questions and fears as I transitioned into a new career this year. I can’t help but think that Aspire: Ina’s Tale will be a nice surprise for those who play it. Ina’s journey may be more relatable than some may think. I couldn’t help but find Ina as a character, and the game as a whole, to be remarkably charming.
Aspire: Ina’s Tale, while brief, is a fun escape. Accompanied with beautiful music, streamlined gameplay, and a rather intense boss fight, Aspire was a nice surprise to play in 2021. And I definitely had a lot of fun playing Aspire. Worth noting: there are hidden memories you can collect that require careful thought and execution. I plan on going back and getting the ones I missed, perhaps getting 100% of the achievements along the way.
Aspire: Ina’s Tale is available on Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and PC. If you check it out, share your thoughts with us over on Twitter or in the comments below!
Special thanks to Untold Tales for providing us a review code in exchange for an honest review.
Note to Parents
Aspire: Ina’s Tale is rated E-10+ for Fantasy Violence. There are a few instances where Ina encounters werewolf type creatures and must outrun them. There is another instance of a boss fight that is tense and may be scary to younger gamers. Overall though, I’m confident this is a game that can be enjoyed by the whole family.