I have been excited about Inward for many reasons, one of which is that it comes from a fellow Asian-Indian indie creator that focuses on the power of personal growth. Said creator is an utter sweetheart and a delight to talk to on Discord when asking questions about the game.
Inward, in many ways, is a sequel to Playne. We are rebuilding an island using the power of meditation, as well as our memories. A canine named Ammu (I can't figure out if he's a fox, a wolf, or something in between) provides the necessary backstory when we unlock enough of those memories.
What is the difference between Playne and Inward? For one, we are not just rebuilding an island or finding lore, but finding out who we are. Apparently, we have forgotten who we are, and the more we sit to rest and ponder, the more that we will be able to rebuild. Ammu reassures us that everything will become clear.
Inward also doesn't penalize you for missing a day for at least ten days - as long as I've been playing it. We can take a break, and then go back to the island. Playne notes when you've missed a day, such as when I can't take my gaming laptop while I travel. With Inward, time only moves when you load the game. As a result, there's less pressure.
The third difference, in my experience, is Ammu doesn't have any regular affirmations or advice, though I was told that may be a bug. During Playne, the fox advises us to go out and mingle with nature, remember to think of five things we appreciate, and so forth. Ammu, on the other hand, is watching us, and waiting for time to move. I do wonder what his endgame is and what he hopes for us to remember.
I'm not leaving Playne, for the record. The game is on as I am typing this article so that I can meditate after. As an amateur at meditation, I've become too attached to the island with trees, where the fox doles out its sage advice. Even if I don't mingle or go out as much as I could, it is nice to remember.
Welcome To An Island That Needs Your Thoughts
So far, the story of Inward is simple. We arrive on a barren island, where a canine named Ammu explains to us that time has stopped, but we can move time by doing meditation. Ten minutes is the default, though we can adjust it to more or less. The more we meditate, the more days pass.
It may seem like there's not much gameplay and on the surface that may be true. Like with Playne, the real activity is when you are not on the keyboard. It's when you either sit or lie down, take out a yoga mat, and breathe. This is nice.
I also like that we can unlock more grass for the island, and shape the trees that we wish to plant. Unlike with Stardew Valley where gardening involves pleasing people, here we just choose what looks pretty to us. The creators will also plant trees on the players' behalf in real life once we reach a certain threshold for planting.
Does Meditation Work In A Linear Fashion?
Alas, no. If it did, then I wouldn't still be tense and pressing stress out of my neck and leg muscles using a massage gun and some stretches. You can go to a class, sit for an hour and find your zen. Then you return home and still have to deal with the mundane aspects of life, from chores to people that believe that you have to serve as their number one source of reliability. There are sometimes situations that no calming deep breath can fix.
Games remind us of this dissonance. As Celeste demonstrated when the main character tries to breathe away her dark side, you sometimes cannot use a floating feather to deal with your flaws becoming the personification of a shadow that you need to talk with sincerely.
Inward Is A Fun Meditation Tool
Inward is great because it creates a safe space where we can sit and breathe. No chaos interrupts this island, just the promise of flowers, grass, and sunlight. Still, I do hope that we get more lore, and find out what caused time to stop.
Inward is available on Steam and is free on early access. Don't forget to check it out today!
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