A Space for the Unbound Review
A Space for the Unbound is an upcoming adventure/visual novel game from Mojiken Studio and Toge Productions, the publishing studio responsible for games such as Coffee Talk and Rising Hell. It was originally scheduled to release in 2022, but a series of unfortunate events pushed it back indefinitely until its eventual January 2023 release date (today!).
The game is described as a “slice-of-life adventure game set in the late 90s rural Indonesia that tells a coming-of-age story of two high school sweethearts, about the relationship between a boy and a girl with supernatural powers, graduating high school, and overcoming the end of the world.”
Seeing slice-of-life and supernatural powers side by side might seem like extremely opposing ideas, but they provide quite an interesting premise for a heartwarming tale of self-discovery.
A Space to Discover
First off, let’s get everything that’s not story-related out of the way.
As you would expect, A Space for the Unbound is a game that will require a ton of reading. It isn’t a purely visual novel-type game, so there’ll be breaks in between that allow players to explore the rural Indonesian town of Loka. That said, reading a lot of dialog is required and should not be a surprise to players heading into a narrative-driven title.
Gameplay is rather simple as well and can be accomplished even with just one hand (almost). You’ll move your character, Atma, on a 2D plane, switching between screens to move into the different parts of the town. Players will encounter the occasional up/down to go into other establishments or locations on the map, but the general movement is as simple as simple can get.
Interacting with the denizens in A Space for the Unbound will give you a taste of local life. You’ll be meeting street food vendors, students, store owners, and much more, all willing to exchange a few lines that add that tiny bit of immersion that’s so very welcome. If anything, even with just a few lines, each character is endearing, and it really makes you feel like you’re part of a small community.
Throughout your playthrough, you’ll encounter simple puzzles that will mostly require finding a certain item, with the most complicated ones requiring deciphering a code for a safe or plugging in valves to operate a sprinkler system. These aren’t mind-blowing puzzles, so the satisfaction of solving them isn’t over the top, and they just serve to break the monotony of talking and moving from place to place.
Based on what I just said, A Space for the Unbound will require players to backtrack quite a bit, whether to progress the story or to clean up a side-quest in the area. While I didn’t mind it during the early parts of the game, it does get a bit tedious towards the latter half, making certain sections overstay their welcome because of the repeated back and forth, mildly stunting the pacing of the game.
Some side activities will see Atma engaging in “combat” scenes that require timed button presses and pressing sequences within a generous time duration. This mechanic, once unlocked, will persist throughout the game, and is something that players will have to deal with to get to the end.
One standout part of the game is its soothing and relaxing soundtrack, which delightfully goes well with its pixel-style art. Common conversations and dramatic scenes are elevated thanks to the pieces by award-winning composer Masdito “ittou” Bachtiar, Christabel Annora, and various artists. Characters are not voiced, but the soundtrack more than makes up for getting players in the mood to progress through the game.
Oh, and did we say that A Space for the Unbound has a ton of fluffy cats that you can name and pet?
A Space to Grow
A Space for the Unbound may not have the most engaging or innovative gameplay, but the real star of the show is its writing and storyline. You’ll be controlling Atma throughout the duration of the game, meeting important people and discussing sensitive topics with Raya, your in-game girlfriend.
We won’t dive into spoiler territory, but as mentioned, the game is rife with mature themes and topics that could be sensitive to some players. These themes involve bullying, depression, anxiety, and much more. Despite its playful appearance, the topics are real and will require understanding from the players.
Even though this is the case, A Space for the Unbound presents these themes in a simple-to-understand and relatable way to the players, allowing them to put themselves in the shoes of the characters. The writing isn’t heavy-handed, and I can appreciate how the developers took care of dealing with these sensitive topics, allowing players to jump in easily.
Speaking of diving, A Space for the Unbound presents the “Space Diving” concept, which allows Atma to see what’s inside the hearts and minds of the characters and help them overcome their deep-seated issues. In a way, the concept is pretty similar to Persona 5, as you go inside the palaces and “take” their hearts, reforming them for the better.
This mechanic is not something that’s done with everyone and is a tool that’s mostly used to move the plot forward. While in the dive, Atma will have to solve simple puzzles that may or may not require some backtracking out in the normal world, or even go through a cross-examination that takes inspiration from a certain spiky-haired attorney.
It is often said that the journey is more important than the destination, and while that’s mostly true, it could be argued that A Space for the Unbound’s destination is much more memorable. Because of the aforementioned backtracking to complete certain puzzles, some sequences become a chore and tend to turn into something that players will just want to complete for the sake of it.
When all is said and done, the wrap-up of the game really rewards players who have stuck it out to the end. Loose ends are explained well despite some confusing plot points in previous chapters, all presented with simple yet heartwarming dialog between characters.
A Space for the Unbound sticks the landing, which often becomes a problem with other titles that tend to overcomplicate plot points. The game keeps things as simple and relatable as possible, keeping players engaged throughout the playthrough.
What we liked:
- Relaxing and beautiful soundtrack
- Payoff at the end is worth it
- Charming visuals
What we didn’t like:
- Some sections overstay their welcome
- Some tedious backtracking
Verdict: Buy it!
A Space for the Unbound is a narrative adventure that tugs at your heartstrings despite its simple presentation. The soundtrack of the game is stellar and really elevates the experience, going well with the ongoing scenes.
The game deals with mature themes that may turn away some players, but all of it is handled with care and isn’t forced upon anybody. While some sequences tend to overstay their welcome, it’s a minor issue that can easily be overlooked.
A Space for the Unbound is a great outing from Mojiken Studios and Toge Productions, proving once again that the talent in the South East Asian region is certainly one to look out for.
*A Space for the Unbound was reviewed on PC with a review code provided by the publisher.