By Michael Fontanini / November 7th, 2017
|Release Date||October 5th, 2017|
|Genre||Adventure, First-Person, Indie, Walking Simulator|
You wake up in a prison with no recollection of what is going on. How did you get here and what exactly is going on? As you look around, you start finding odd clues around you in other cells in the prison of Inmates, but nothing makes sense yet. Is it all just a strange dream or something more? Can you solve the mystery of how you got here and what’s going on?
The game starts with you in the bottom of a huge shaft dug deep into the ground. A spiral staircase winds up around the rough, stone walls toward the top of the shaft high above, where sunlight filters in. Along the way up, you’ll experience several quakes, which oddly stop you from moving until the shaking subsides. Jonathan is only able to walk and interact with things in the environment.
After the intro sequence in the shaft, you wake up in a prison cell. The door is not locked, so you are able to leave and take a look around in the other prison cells. You’ll sometimes find matchboxes and papers you can read. Each match box adds a couple matches to your counter in the lower right of the screen. You can use a match at any time by right-clicking to gain some extra light for a few seconds. The papers you’ll find sometimes have clues or other things written on them. You can rarely find other items, such as a key to unlock a door so you can advance further.
After exploring the other cells on the second floor and a corridor, you’ll find a key that will allow you to unlock the gate leading to the ground floor. There are security offices at the corners of the prison, and sometimes you can find matchboxes in them, or even a puzzle. The puzzles in Inmates are generally pretty simple and not too hard to figure out. For example, there is one puzzle with four levers on a wall. It’s somewhat like a lights out game, but you just have to get all four levers to be flipped on. The puzzles vary a good bit, though.
As you walk around exploring the prison and searching for clues about what’s going on, you are generally all alone in that there aren’t any real enemies in the game. There are a few encounters, but they are not dangerous and just trigger a cutscene that advances the game a bit. For example, a security officer named Roy knocks you out and then you come to as he drags you to the basement. There are also some encounters that are there just for the creep factor, like a human in a cell with their head shaking in a very quick, bizarre manner, along with glowing eyes.
The gameplay of Inmates is not too bad, but don’t expect it to be as great as some other horror games. The subconscious areas like the one shown above are where the game’s bigger puzzles are, but they still aren’t that hard in most cases. The one shown above was the most annoying one as there are four levers with a number of positions. Each position has a symbol. The clues are on the door floating in the center of the room, the last place players expect to find it. This caused me to get stuck on this puzzle for a while. The room itself has six sides, each of which is a clone of the same small library-style room. You can fly around the area, but the controls are wonky and annoying since the camera sometimes rotates onto its side as you move. When each lever has the correct symbol showing, the door in the center opens, allowing you to enter its bright light to leave and wake up back in the prison again.
The story is not bad at all, and Jonathan’s own psychology will play a large role by the end. I only encountered one significant bug with Inmates. In the current version of the game the mouse cursor is sometimes invisible on the main menu when you start up Inmates. Restarting the game usually fixes it.
The graphics in Inmates are pretty decent, though certainly not the best. Their biggest flaw is probably the heavy use of post processing effects like film grain, or worse, the double vision effect in the intro sequence. You can see this in the screenshots in this review, as they look a bit muddy. There are no options to turn these effects off, either. In fact, the only graphics options you have are Low/Medium/High for quality, plus toggle options for Motion Blur and VSync. The screenshots in this review were all taken with the graphics quality set to High. Inmates mostly relies on its creepy locales and imagery to make you feel uneasy, as there are very few jump scares and they aren’t that scary.
The ambient sound effects are fairly effective at creating tension. Sometimes you’ll hear Jonathan’s breathing, for example. There is voice acting at certain points, but it is not convincing. The emotion in the character’s voices just doesn’t seem authentic in many cases. For example, the sound of fear in Jonathan’s voice just doesn’t sound like real fear.
Overall, Inmates is a decent experience but it is definitely a bit lacking. There is enjoyment to be had, although the game is also pretty short. I took me about three hours to finish the game. I also went back into the game for one achievement that I was missing and logged another 20 minutes or so. Inmates has a total of 12 achievements, most of which you will get on your first playthrough. The levels definitely have a creepy vibe, but the previously mentioned flaws temper it a bit. It ends up being one of those titles that just doesn’t reach its full potential. Inmates is available on Steam for $9.99. Can you discover how you ended up in this prison, is your name really Jonathan, or is it all in your head?
Review Copy Provided by Publisher
Davit AndreasyanIceberg InteractiveInmatesSteam