There’s a special kind of magic we hold. One that we may often overlook in our day-to-day. It’s so second nature to us; we can easily find ourselves wielding it wildly or not at all. We use it to uplift our friends, confess affection, and rapport creative ideas and interests. At our worst, we may use it defensively when we’re hurt. I’m talking about communication. Developed by Mojiken and published by Toge Productions, A Space for the Unbound is an exploration adventure game tackling the complexities held in overcoming challenges like anxiety and depression. It takes players on a heartfelt coming-of-age story while holding space for introspection on how we best navigate these areas with people in our lives or ourselves.
Set in late 90s rural Indonesia, we play as Atama, an aspiring writer and high school student in his senior year who is upbeat and likes to sleep…a lot. Atma is often accompanied by his high school sweetheart Raya. Together through their last year, they conspire to make the most of it by compiling a bucket list before moving on to the next chapter in their lives. A Space for the Unbound begins like a slice of life, pulling players into a familiar place and time. But this is just the surface as It takes an interesting turn when we discover our characters have supernatural abilities.
With most exploration-driven adventure games, players interact and explore everything. Tapping the space bar or Z initiates conversation, progresses dialogue, and allows interaction with objects. So yes, talk to everyone. Pet every cat. (That’s right. You can pet cats in this game.) New character that wasn’t in the cafe shop two scenes ago? Oh, definitely talk to them. Everything serves a purpose and builds to the world and story.
As you stroll through town with your left and right arrow keys and talk to everyone who passes by, players are thoughtfully informed about pieces of Indonesian culture and history. For example, how Keroncong Beat is a music genre first introduced to the locals by colonials. Through time, the locals perfected this sound and most find it to be very soothing. Most of your time will be spent retracing the same places and revisiting characters. Double tapping your arrow keys (or holding down left shift and direction) prompts Atma to run which helps greatly in traveling back and forth to solve puzzles.
Like most writers, Atma has been working on developing a story with a friend that’s close to finishing. Holding his ideas is the Magic Red Book. This book acts as your core function carried throughout the entire game. It also houses your collectibles and objectives, along with the story Atma is working on. With the Magic Red Book Atma can access Spacedive, which manifests slightly over time. Spacedive allows Atma to dive into the depths of people’s hearts and minds, peering at turmoils. While in Spacedive, this is where puzzles mainly take place as you cross back and forth between this dimension and reality doing fetch quests.
Spacediving can appear sweetly like helping an elderly man recall a precious memory shared beneath a cherry tree, prompting players into a mini-game to catch fallen cherries amidst other debris. Darker dives can look like helping a school bully come to terms with inner acceptance, setting players in a stealth Metal Gear Solid scenario, or sneaking by wolves in a layered puzzle to get a key.
A Space for the Unbound breaks up the heaviness of Spacediving by smartly integrating lighter fares. As the story picks up, Atma learns how to fight which, mechanically, is first introduced to us when we visit the local arcade. The function builds gradually. First, stick to short inputs involving arrow keys to attack and a skill check meter to block. Eventually, players will engage in longer input commands and combinations that are purposeful and gratifying. This was a standout refresher, and much like Atma, I really wanted that high score in the fighting game cabinet.
There’s a warmth and familiarity A Space for the Unbound carries and does extremely well in its carefully executed narration and beautiful pixel graphic art style. The conversations held feel like those you would have with a close friend. They feel personable. Relatable. Feelings of nostalgia stir for a place you have never even been to. Thoughtfully placed music paired with comforting words and fitting scenery will have you unexpectedly reaching for the nearest tissue box. (It got me good.)
A Space for the Unbound gently reminds us of the value and importance of human connection through our words with dream-like, mindful storytelling. It’s a slow burn that will have you sit with your feelings. Maybe even reflecting on people in your life closest to you or those in mere passing. Perhaps even you as the player. It is a story well worth experiencing until the very end.
A Space for the Unbound
A Space for the Unbound gently reminds us of the value and importance of human connection through our words with dream-like, mindful storytelling.