Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch
January 19, 2023
Toge Productions, Chorus Worldwide Games
Mojiken Studio, Toge Productions
Now an enthralling pixel-art story, A Space for the Unbound has overcome previous publishing troubles and eight years of development to be a stand-out experience. Indonesian-based developers Toge Productions and Mojiken Studio offer a slice of 90s rural life and tell a magical account of relationships, mental health, and cats.
Endearing to the very end
The game follows Atma and Raya, two high school sweethearts, as they embark on a voyage of self-discovery in their senior year. They explore Loka City to find buried truths, confront the end of the planet, and possibly learn more about one another as an unfathomable supernatural power suddenly threatens their lives.
“The first 30 minutes of A Space for the Unbound is just a small taste of how captivating this story can be…”
A dreamlike prologue sequence, which is available to play for free, sets the scene for this touching narrative. Atma is helping fledgling writer Nirmala finish their story about the South Star Princess and her cat by overcoming writer’s block. The main plot mechanic is introduced, through Atma’s Magic Red Book, Space Diving into the minds of people to understand their struggles and help solve them. What happens in the Space Dive has a lasting effect on the outside world.
The first 30 minutes of A Space for the Unbound is just a small taste of how captivating this story can be and the rest of the game continues to be extremely cute. Objectives like ditching school with Raya, finding food for a stray cat, or eating popcorn at the cinema without digging your hand into the popcorn box at the same time (otherwise there’s that awkward moment when your hands touch)—they all add to delightful world-building and connect players with a slice of high school life.
The characters themselves are easy to like, as well. Raya with a heart of gold and special powers, Admiral the often snarky cat, Erik and his gang of bullies, and Lulu the cool girl whose uncle owns the general store. They all reflect the time and place of this tale. The people feel real, living normal lives but not without issues in their own individual ways. Atma as an amicable student is a relatable lens for all of these passing people and the surprisingly mysterious journey that drives narrative excellence.
Explore a rural neighbourhood
Players control Atma around several areas in his hometown. He can move left or right and speak to townfolk or hand them items from an inventory. Atma will be given straightforward tasks of finding requested objects and handing them to the right person, such as collecting ingredients for a cake or equipment to build a cat shelter.
Quests boil down to collecting bits and pieces from different people around the world, and additional collectables are hidden across Loka City for the real collect-o-maniacs. Despite how outstanding the pixel art, environment design and characters are, running from point to point isn’t always the most fun. Without a world map, this makes finding out where to go confusing and hurts the playing experience.
When a yellow flower blooms over a character’s head, Atma can Space Dive into their subconscious to enter a surreal space. Each has its own puzzle to solve which often requires a little more thinking than the normal world tasks. For example, investigating movie posters to find a code that unlocks a certain container or deciphering a list of values to properly balance a set of scales. These sections take the game from being an engaging slice-of-life adventure to a thought-provoking time.
Occasional minigames throughout the story try to keep gameplay fresh but miss the mark. Stopping a cursor in the green space on a red bar to stay balanced on a tree, or pressing the right directional keys fast enough in an arcade fighting game is basically the extent of these side activities. Atma may need to hide behind tall grass or walls to avoid the line of sight of characters searching for him, whittling down to a dull timing task that slows down gameplay to a halt. Unfortunately, these minigames aren’t particularly difficult or exciting and eventually become a chore. It’s a nice thought, but more imaginative activities would better suit this creative story.
While the minigames aren’t great and navigation can sometimes be confusing, each task has a fun situation behind it, no matter how insignificant it is to the main story. The gameplay may be very simple, but A Space for the Unbound remains absolutely charming.
There’s no denying how beautiful the artwork is in this game. Toge Productions and Mojiken are specialists in breathing life into art and this might be their best work. Adorable cats sleeping around the town that can be named, the design of shop fronts and homes, Indonesian meals that surely connect with people from the country, blades of glass moving in the wind and water sparkling in the sunlight—the entire world is full of life. The pixel look fits the era perfectly and the sprite work is top of its class.
“… specialists in breathing life into art and this might be their best work.”
The music resonates with that same expertise. Composer Masdito “Ittou” Bachtiar has worked on many games with a diverse portfolio of sounds and genres. However, the score in this game is so well-crafted it creates joy and vibrancy when exploring the beautiful world, and can also be crushingly upset with melancholic tracks like The Girl on The Bridge. I recommend taking the time to sit and listen to the music when playing.
Functionally, the game performs superbly on PC. There were no frame rate issues, visual artefacts, or glitches in our playtime. Controllers are just that little bit easier to play with to navigate interaction menus, but besides that, there is nothing to fault.
- A captivating story and characters
- Amazing pixel art and visual style
- Well-crafted score
- Charming quests and magical Space Diving
- Gameplay can be bland
- Minigames aren't great
- No world map can make navigation difficult
A Space for the Unbound is a mesmerising adventure. Dive into people’s minds and experience so much of Indonesian youth and culture through the eyes of Atma and Raya’s clash with the end of the world. Uninspiring minigames and simple gameplay aren’t its best features. Regardless, the stunning pixel-art visuals, animations, music, likeable characters and storytelling make this a game that will have you in tears.