Released day-and-date with its predecessor on Switch, The Inner World - The Last Wind Monk continues the quirky, comic adventure of the hapless-yet-endearing Robert and his sassy counterpart, Laura. This is an iteration on the point-and-click original with all its character and humour (and inscrutable puzzles), plus a variety of subtle yet substantial improvements. Anyone of the opinion that ‘politics have no place in video games’ should move along – Studio Fizbin has followed the ‘darker second chapter’ template and parallels with real-life events past and (depressingly) present are none too subtle.
First up, skip to paragraph four if you’re determined to play the first game without spoilers. Still here? Lovely. It’s been three years since the defeat of the devious Conroy, the megalomaniac abbot who schemed his way to power through the perversion of an ancient legend. However, the return of the peaceful dynasty of ‘flute-noses’ was short-lived, and a distortion of the truth has given rise to a group calling themselves ‘Conroyalists’; devout followers of the departed dictator who believe the atrocities he perpetrated were actually orchestrated by the flute-noses. Conroy himself returns as a voice in Robert’s head, taunting him from the grave.
From the beginning The Last Wind Monk is gloomy, opening with a witch hunt trial presided over by evangelical disciple Emil, promising the extermination of the flute-noses. From the large red banners to the imbecilic, pitchforked mob and their ‘Hail Conroy’ greetings, the fascist allegory is a little on-the-(flute)nose. As an evolution of the world and events of the first game, though, it doesn’t feel forced or trite. Long story short for those skipping the original – after a struggle that ended on a hopeful note, things went very bad.
The crisp art and strong dialogue are absolutely consistent with the first game, although you’ll quickly notice small changes. Animation feels slightly smoother now, and in the opening scene you control Peck, Robert’s dopey pigeon companion. The pair (later joined by Laura) share an inventory but Peck can reach places Robert can’t, opening up new puzzle opportunities.
Before long you’ll discover additions that transform the gameplay on Switch. Firstly, The Last Wind Monk has full touch support, which makes a world of difference and avoids you having to cycle through every ‘hotspot’ with ‘L’ and ‘R’. The original controls are still available, but once you’ve sussed out touch inputs, going back feels like a major downgrade.
You tap to move your character and hold your finger on the screen to highlight all the available hotspots. Tapping one brings up icons enabling you to ‘examine’ or ‘use’ it. With traditional controls, there’s a third ‘combine’ icon which opens your inventory, but when using the touchscreen that option disappears, replaced with a drag-and-drop system. Simply open your inventory via an arrow in the bottom left corner and drag an item onto a target. Playing with a combination of buttons and touch isn’t possible – enabling one deactivates the other.
The quality-of-life alterations don’t stop there. When chatting with NPCs, dialogue branches you’ve exhausted are now greyed out and textboxes have been made larger. Icons, too, are larger to accommodate touch input. It’s the cumulative effect of these changes which improve the console experience immeasurably: the touchscreen enables you to experiment (and fail) much faster; the enlarged text makes reading more comfortable; the ability to see which dialogue you’ve already heard avoids time-wasting and focuses your mind where it should be – on the puzzles.
And although they mine the same vein of screwball logic as before, they didn’t test our patience in the same way, despite extra complexity from character switching. Perhaps the first game worked as a primer, ‘tutoring’ us so we were formulating solutions better here, but the elimination of control frustrations improved our tolerance no-end – we consulted the in-built hints system far less than the previous instalment.
Besides a few lingering loading screens, everything’s improved and it made us wonder how the original might be transformed if touch support was patched in – it’s a shame to skip directly to this sequel, but The Last Wind Monk is undeniably the better experience and the developer does a decent job of catching new players up. With this classically ‘darker’ follow-up, will we see a conclusion to the trilogy featuring a three-way, planetary-scale battle with duels and primitive furry companions battling an evil empire? We’d love to play it.
Our primary criticism of the first game has been addressed, making The Last Wind Monk a much easier recommendation. Experimentation is now a breeze with touch controls and the expanded possibilities offered by character-switching mean puzzles feel more varied. It maintains the original’s great writing and presentation, but offers a far better all-round experience, making it the best entry point for Switch owners into the eccentric world of Asposia.