A Space for the Unbound
A Space for the Unbound is one of those masterpieces that are very difficult to describe in words; they have to be personally experienced, ardently felt and actively lived. One of its characters mentions at some point in the game, “As a writer, I want to be able to move my readers with the things I create. Change them”; A Space for the Unbound is the embodiment of this quote: it’s a deeply emotional work of art that will move you and change you.
Atma and Raya are two high-school sweethearts who one day decide to make a bucket list of fun things they want to accomplish in the near future. While this acts like a premise for the story, it’s in fact just a way to guide the player step by step into various circumstances that will slowly reveal the actual core of the game: Raya is a young girl having the superpower of altering the reality, while Atma possesses a book that allows him to dive into people’s hearts / minds and help them overcome their inner troubles. Strange incidents start to happen around them as Raya keeps misusing her powers to change little things to their advantage in an attempt to facilitate the completion of the bucket list. Soon enough the line between reality and fantasy is completely abolished and the player is transported into a series of unpredictable events as the world around the two main characters starts to destabilize. The story remains enveloped in mystery right until the end, keeping the player wondering what the actual meaning of all these incidents could be, but at the same time revealing new layers with every chapter.
A Space for the Unbound is a gripping tale about reconnecting with your true nature and finding the will to overcome all the obstacles that life throws at you. It deals with sensitive topics like emotional traumas caused by school bullying, depression, social anxiety, domestic violence and to some extent suicidal thoughts.
As far as the gameplay goes, A Space for the Unbound takes the shape of a sidescroller point & click adventure. As Atma, you will explore the streets of the small Loka City, enter buildings or interact with the people you encounter. The linear gameplay and the fact that the game always makes it obvious what the player is expected to do allows them to deeply immerse themselves in the story.
Unlike in other point & click games, where you just roam around without knowing where to go, talking to everyone just because you can, collecting every object you can find just because you can pick it up and because it will probably be used in a puzzle, A Space for the Unbound tightly guides the player through its wonderful story, leaving very little space for mindless experimentation and time-wasting conversation. You will pick up objects only at the right moment when they’re needed, all dialogues are on point and Atma’s inventory is filtered and populated with the only 2-3 items that you can and are expected to use when interacting with a character. In addition to that, all puzzles are clear and straightforward, usually encountered in the form of fetch-quests, but there are also a couple of light math riddles. Some of the dialogues have multiple choices, and in some cases these are mutually exclusive, other times not. The mutually-exclusive ones do not affect the outcome of the story in any way, and only provide a few alternative dialogue lines.
From time to time, Atma will have to use a fighting mechanic which involves reproducing a sequence of keys in a limited amount of time in a QTE style (attack), followed by stopping a moving cursor at a precise location (block / defend). The minigame is designed so that it is accessible for pretty much everyone (there’s enough time to complete it in a rather relaxed mode), even though throughout the game its difficulty increases (you get longer sequences and tighter times of reaction). In case you fail to complete a sequence three times, you will be able to give it a new try starting from the current stage. While the game keeps the difficulty rather casual, for two specific achievements you will need to survive through 17 of these stages without failing, and beyond the first 10 of them you’ll be required to have extremely quick reaction times.
In A Space for the Unbound you will encounter lots of cats, in fact, more than 25 of them. You can name and pet them all, which is obviously optional for completing the game but necessary for a certain achievement. While these sadly aren’t tracked, the other type of collectibles (the 20 bottle caps) are all listed in your inventory. Apart from a couple of cases they are all easily spottable in the environment through a spark that indicates their location. Unfortunately, the collectibles are missable in the sense that you won’t be able to go back to a previous chapter and pick them up in case you didn’t do so the first time. Aside from these, there are a few other missable achievements awarded for interacting with certain items in the world or doing specific actions at the right moment. One playthrough is enough for 100% completion, but due to the fact that you can’t replay previous chapters, using a guide will likely be needed.
The game excels not only through the captivating story that it conveys, but also through the stunning (and very detailed) pixel art style, and an equally impressive soundtrack. In all these aspects, the developers included lots of Indonesian cultural and lifestyle references, which give the game a lot of flavor. Voice-acting is not present, yet this doesn’t diminish the warm experience that A Space for the Unbound provides.
Do I recommend the game? Absolutely – I love A Space for the Unbound for its charm, for its fantastic story with a good character build-up, for its lively art and great presentation. It’s a one-of-a-kind game that deserves every penny for the 12-15 hours of joy that it offers.