It should be said that it is near-impossible to create a compelling enough story for players, who are constantly raising their standards as the medium evolves. When a story somehow manages to be so good that nearly everyone is speaking praise about it, that’s something worth noting. It’s like catching lightning in a bottle and it takes a lot of love on the part of the developer.
A Space for the Unbound had a lot of hype when it was released from everyone who played it and even manages to sit at 98 percent positive ratings on Steam. However, you really can’t understand the brilliance of it until you play it for yourself. It’s not perfect, and nothing is, but you’ll learn to accept things as they are throughout the course of this game.
Humble beginnings that quickly turn dark
When you start ASFTU, the game’s story feels very light and optimistic. Paired with the graphics and bright color pallet, it’s more reminiscent of Stardew Valley than what it eventually becomes. You start out as a simple high school student named Atma helping their friend come up with a story about a dying goddess and a cat’s last adventure.
However, even in this early part of the game, you get an idea of some of the game’s more serious subjects. The game deals with abuse, suicidal ideation, depression, and many other heavy topics that wrack a human’s mind. Players who are in a sensitive place should be aware of this before they play since the game does not pull its punches.
As soon as the prologue ends, you begin to get a feeling for the deeper layers that might be at work in this game. The game immediately recovers from the previous beat and once again manages to get back to a place where it feels lighthearted and playful. Then it deals another devastating punch before recovering again.
In this way, the player feels similar to the main character as he gets yanked back and forth by events that are completely out of his control. He’s often being dragged around by forces outside of his control while he does his best to help change the hearts of people in order to help them overcome their issues. Whether he’s successful or not in this is up for debate.
This game’s story is something that is best experienced for yourself, as there are very few words that can describe the journey this game will take you on. You’ll often be confused, but it’s worth it when you get to the end.
Repeated mechanics with differing results
It would’ve been really easy for developer Mojiken to have made another side-scrolling walking simulator where players just go from point A to point B. That’s not the case though, and the differing mini-games in the game were interesting when they would pop up. Some of them, like the keep-up game, are genuinely infuriating in a great way that made me want to continue to try them until I got the highest score I could.
There are also fighting mechanics that are similar to inputting combos in something like Street Fighter, with players expected to hit directional buttons to land an attack. These instances were mainly the same, but it’s what you’d expect a normal high schooler fighting to look like. The way you’re introduced into this is really cool though. The way it’s interwoven into the story works really well.
One of the core mechanics in the game is a magical red book that the player is introduced to in the prologue of the game. This allows them to enter other people’s minds and help them deal with personal trauma, very much in the vein of Psychonauts, but on a smaller scale. The issues in the hearts of the people in ASFTU can usually be resolved fairly quickly as long as you can solve the puzzle.
Admittedly, these puzzles aren’t anything too challenging, but that’s likely by design. There usually aren’t a lot of places to look for the items you’ll need, so a quick search around the Spacedive and the nearby area suffices. Still, what these challenges lack in difficulty, they somewhat make up for in the way that it introduces changes in how you acquire the items.
Because of the culmination of all of this, the game mostly keeps from feeling like a slog through the objectives. While there are slow moments, the interest does pick up the further you get into the game. Everything works together nicely and while it’s not revolutionary, it will likely be remembered by players for quite some time.
The Final Word
A Space for the Unbound is a great coming-of-age game that presents difficult topics to players in a compelling way. The game’s art style is beautiful, with many detailed scenes clearly lovingly created by the artists at Mojiken. While there are moments where it feels slow, this is a game that will last with players for many years to come.
Try Hard Guides was provided with a Nintendo Switch review copy of this game. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the Game Reviews section of our website! A Space for the Unbound is available via Steam, Nintendo, PlayStation Store, Xbox Store, and the Epic Games Store.