Inner Ashes from Selecta Play and Calathea Game Studio is a first-person narrative adventure dealing with how Alzheimer’s affects people. Learn more in our Inner Ashes review!
Inner Ashes from Selecta Play and Calathea Game Studio is a first-person narrative adventure dealing with how Alzheimer’s affects people. You’ll be taking on the role of Henry, a forest guard who has been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. This adventure will have you exploring his mind to learn more about his life and how he’s dealing with his current situation. As soon as you boot up the game, you learn that someone named Joseph has left a note for Henry, mentioning that he received a letter. Once you grab the letter, you’ll learn that it’s from Enid, Henry’s daughter, who hasn’t been close to him for a while now.
What unravels after that is a journey that will have gameplay mechanics that dives into elements that are used to help patients with Alzheimer to mitigate their symptoms. These include exercises with Tangram puzzles to stimulate their memory. By checking out a sketchbook with the same title as this video game, Henry will be able to explore dreamlike locations that will give you a glimpse into how Henry is experiencing this ordeal.
You’ll learn more about Alzheimer’s as you take on what Inner Ashes’ has to offer. There’s a short excerpt from an educational article you’ll find in one of the dreamlike sequences. Thanks to it, you’ll learn that some of the early symptoms of the condition that you can detect include having difficulty organizing and following easy instructions, forgetting events and dates that were easy to remember, feeling disoriented in paths and places that someone is used to, or misinterpreting visual information.
For this first-person walking sim, you’ll move through each area with the left analog stick as you look around with the right one. The A button can be used to interact. This includes checking out Post-it to remember what some objects are and how something is used or to review items that will allow you to progress further in the story. You can also press the ZR button to inspect something by bringing the camera a bit closer.
As you explore each location, you’ll be able to find over 20 drawings and some documents that will give you a glimpse at how Enid and Henry’s relationship has changed over the years. The voice acting will also let you know about specific interactions between the two, which are hard to discuss here without spoiling things, but I’ll talk about an early example. A very young Enid asks Henry about what he’s drinking on a particular morning. As you can probably guess, he’s drinking coffee. Henry mentions that it’s for some extra energy in the morning. Enid is intrigued and kindly requests if she can have some, to which Henry replies she’ll be able to once she’s older if she likes it. You see, time is of the essence, and time makes a big difference in life.
To be able to progress in Inner Ashes, you’ll need to collect items in the dream world and in the real world. You might need to grab a key in the dream world to open up a door but end up being stumped as to what to do next when you run into a small patch where flowers are trying to grow. The clue is what Henry has just mentioned: time makes a big difference. By sitting down on the couch in the dream world, you’ll be able to return to the real world. While there, grab the big clock to your left, and go back into the sketchbook.
Interact with the small flowers to use the clock – represented by a post-it on the lower right corner of the screen – and you’ll be able to continue with your journey since time will pass, and the flowers will grow. Oh, and the flowers that grow are forget-me-nots, which is a very apt flower considering that Inner Ashes deals with Alzheimer’s. Follow the energy from the forget-me-nots, and you’ll be able to recall a memory… once you complete the first Tangram puzzle in the game.
As you can tell from the screens in this Inner Ashes review, some concessions have been made in order to get the game up and running on the Nintendo Switch. There’s less foliage density in the dreamlike sequences you’ll explore. Lighting and shadows have been dialed back a bit. There is also some pop-in here and there that might get in the way, but it’s not something that felt like a deal-breaker to me. The loading between areas is also a bit on the longer side.
Inner Ashes is a first-person narrative adventure dealing with how Alzheimer’s affects people. You’ll be experiencing this through the eyes of Henry, who has been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer, as he remembers how things have been with his daughter, Enid, who seems to have been MIA for a while now. It’s a game of the walking sim variety with some lite puzzles, which means that it’s not going to be for everyone. Inner Ashes is out on Nintendo Switch with a $14.99 price tag.
This Inner Ashes review is based on a Nintendo Switch copy provided by Selecta Play.