Set against a stunning fantasy backdrop, Aspire: Ina’s Tale follows a girl as she explores the majesty of a magical world for the first time after waking from a seemingly everlasting sleep. You have to help her solve puzzles to escape the crumbling tower in her pursuit of freedom.
The game is immediately striking for its bold, colourful design. Ina is a small figure navigating her way through a series of stunningly beautiful backdrops. It immerses you instantly in a magical, fantastical world. Later on, it becomes a point in the story that the beauty of it is juxtaposed against the destruction of the tower, how the ruination and decay is nonetheless gorgeous to behold.
Aspire: Ina’s Tale begins simply. Ina wakes and leaves the chamber where she has been resting dormant for many years. Her way out is blocked by the collapsing tower. Luckily, she has the ability to absorb residual magical energy and use it to manipulate the world around her.
This, along with more standard mechanics like levers and buttons, forms the basis of the puzzles you have to solve. Different coloured magic has a different effect. You learn them one at a time and use them to navigate each area of the tower, eventually reaching more complex puzzles that require you to make use of separate types of magic simultaneously.
The puzzles themselves are decently challenging. They make you think creatively to figure out how to get Ina safely through the tower. Some require precise timing, while others need you to combine different skills cleverly to clear your way.
There are some moments in Aspire: Ina’s Tale when the intricacy of its design works against it, especially when playing on a larger screen. There are times when little details such as the tiny, pale levers are swallowed by the bold background. This in no way breaks the game, though. It’s just worth noting that you’ll need to pay close attention to detail to see everything you need.
For all the grandiosity of the story – the mysterious tower dwellers you meet along the way and their rich histories, the mythical role that the tower plays in the wider world, the ominous force that is causing it to fall apart after so long – the puzzles are relatively simple. It would be nice to see more of the plot baked into the mechanics of the game. If you hurry through the dialogue, you can easily power through the puzzles and miss a lot of the story. This is a shame because a lot of effort has evidently gone into crafting an imaginative, exciting backstory for the game.
Aspire: Ina’s Tale ends sooner than I expected it to. I think it is to the game’s credit that I was disappointed not to have more of this sprawling world to explore.