A Space For The Unbound Review (PS5) – Published by Toge Productions and developed by Mojiken Studio, A Space For The Unbound is perhaps their most ambitious yet. Not in terms of overall scope perhaps, but in terms of narrative direction.
I want to start by saying that A Space For The Unbound tackles mental health issues in some detail, and by association this review will cover those issues and themes as well.
With all that in mind, how does A Space For The Unbound fare?
A Space For The Unbound Review (PS5) – A Thoughtful, Charming Slice Of Life, With Some Pacing Issues
On the face of it, A Space For The Unbound is a 2D, narrative focused, adventure game. The colour and pixel art immediately pops off the screen, as you take control of Atma. A delightful, kind, and often forgetful protagonist.
Mostly, throughout the game, you will be exploring the gorgeous setting, that is small-town Indonesia, taking place somewhere in the 1990’s. Collecting items and solving puzzles to progress the ever-captivating story, and most importantly; petting every cat around town.
Of course, there is much more to the game. After not too long, you’ll be introduced to the gameplay mechanic that the game calls “Space diving”.
Space diving adds a supernatural element, that sees the player enter the mind of certain characters, in order to change their perspective, or assist them in overcoming a personal issue.
Spacing And Pacing
Not only does space diving add an interesting layer to its narrative design, but it allows us to explore more fantastical environments such as a courtroom with a jury of swans.
Quite often, the game will require various puzzle solving and item finding to achieve the objectives within the space dives. Whilst the majority of puzzles don’t prove to be too challenging, they can sometimes feel dragged out.
The issue with the puzzles feeling like they go on too long at times, is that the narrative unfolding before you, begs to be experienced. Unfortunately, this dynamic unsettles the pacing somewhat. Most notably in chapter 3, where you’re collecting evidence for multiple court trials within space dives.
Later in the game, you will discover another ability that has you create tears in reality, opening doorways that allows for you to move between alternative timelines. Combining this with Space Diving certainly makes for some more interesting puzzles.
Utilising the games puzzle solving elements as a means to assist in a characters personal issues, such as living up to parental expectations, does mostly work. Despite the pacing issues, which recur throughout the game.
After School Activities
In some cases, Atma will have to fight antagonists such as school bullies. The combat in A Space For The Unbound is simply a series of button prompts, that you have to press in time. It’s not challenging, and sometimes feels out of place.
Beyond the world ending, fighting bullies, space diving, and other supernatural events taking place around town and at school, there are various activities to take part in.
There are more pressing matters than the impending apocalypse, and that is petting and naming every cat that you can find. Beyond that, you can also partake in finding other collectibles such as bottle caps, and bubblegum wrappers. You can even go to the local arcade to play a fighting mini game.
Not to mention, a whole host of characters can be found around the town to interact with. Most notably, there is a side story where you can assist various musicians, by spacing diving, and helping them creatively, albeit subconsciously.
I really enjoyed this part, and wanted more smaller stories, in the same vein. For the most part, these small additives only add to the charm, that this game is already brimming with.
A Thoughtful And Meaningful Story
The narrative in A Space for the Unbound is its greatest strength. Mojiken have set out to tell a story that tackles a serious issue in mental health. I found that during my time with the game, they tell a meaningful story that feels personal, relatable, and most importantly, genuine.
Without going into too much depth, as to avoid spoilers, there is some truly sad moments that feature themes of abuse, and bullying that will certainly pull on your heartstrings.
I felt they did a great job of handling these themes carefully, whilst delicately balancing some of the more harsher realities of trauma as well.
More than that, I found the way they handled personal growth and self healing was even more impressive. It felt very human and once again, very relatable, which is hard to achieve.
The aesthetic almost appears as whimsical, and could quite easily be at odds with the overall tone of the game, but that’s never the case.
The pixel art and anime aesthetic makes for a beautiful, and colourful combination. It really pops off the screen with its vibrancy. Mojiken’s use of a piano-centric soundtrack allows for a range of tonal shifts, that really take its emotive storytelling to another level.
A Satisfying End
When it comes to replay value, there is not to be found in A Space For The Unbound, other than replaying for the trophies you may have missed.
It should take you somewhere between ten to twelve hours to complete. I’m also happy to report that I experienced no technical issues during my time with the game.
The ending was satisfying and even dissuaded me from replaying, but not in a negative manner. Quite the opposite in fact. The way in which they handle the narrative towards the end was quite poignant, and spoke to me in a way that made my play through feel complete.
Mojiken Studio deserve a lot of credit for telling such a story with such care, and A Space For The Unbound certainly deserves your time.
A Space For The Unbound is now available for PS5 and PS4.
Review code generously provided by the publisher.