Discover a charming and sincere narrative that washes over you like a wave of emotion in our A Space for the Unbound review.
A Space for the Unbound is in some respects a difficult game to pin down, with so many fascinating influences and moving parts for such a bit-sized game. This narrative point & click adventure has been developed by Mojiken Studio and published by Toge Productions (who previously brought you Coffee Talk), both of whom are based in Indonesia. Toge literally translates into ‘beansprout’, which perfectly encapsulates the atmosphere of the games they make.
A Space for the Unbound wears its heart on its sleeve. Its earnestness and romantic tone radiates from the screen accompanied by a fluffy pixel art style. However, under its stylized anime aesthetic lies a narrative that has more bite to it than belies its packaging. Get ready for feels and find out what awaits you in our A Space for the Unbound review.
A Space for the Unbound Review – Story
Set in a late 90’s rural Indonesian town called Loka, A Space for the Unbound’s narrative follows two highschool lovers: Atma and Raya. The couple soon find that while their bubbled world of high-school is ending, the staple metaphor of the world ending might just be… true?
That is kind of what it feels like. Straddling the line between the last threads of childhood, and being pushed out into the harsher reality of adulthood.
The sweet love story between the two is so endearingly highschool it hurts. Brushing hands during a movie date, creating silly bucket lists, skipping school etc, is sure to warm the heart of a cold cynic. It sure did mine! While the target audience is teens, it’s still great nostalgia bait for sappy adults like me.
Viva la Romance
Its slice of life cosy adventure tone is splashed with much heavier themes of domestic violence, bullying and severe depression. It handles these themes with maturity and grace, exploring them with depth within its 9-hour run time.
Stop making me feel things!
You mainly control Atma, Raya’s boyfriend. As you discover the extent of Raya’s powers, a doomsday crack forms in the sky, townspeople glitch out of reality, cats talk, y’know, the usual highschool experience.
Very cool and normal, Raya.
The narrative is also interwoven with a touch of magical realism, incorporating Atma’s psychic powers, as well as sci-fi and fantasy imagery.
Floating classroom, anyone?
A Space for the Unbound Review – Gameplay
The game’s bread and butter (besides puzzle solving) is a mechanic called Space Dive. This psychic power allows Atma to jump into the unconsciousness of others, and enter their dreamscape, helping solve their deeper psychological problems. These sequences were the standout part of the game for me personally, and if you’re into the Persona series, you’ll enjoy them too.
I personally called it, ‘Inception Time’, but that’s just me. In the above screenshot, this is just a snippet of when you enter the sacred sanctity of someone’s mind with visual abstract imagery, changing their innermost thoughts about what it means to be a man and encourage some healthy emotional expression. Yay! Just think of Persona 5, and you’ll kind of be there.
Freudian time-and-space bending hijinks seriously appeals to me, so I had an absolute ball with jumping into people’s minds and adjusting their reality with abstract puzzle solving. The rest of the gameplay is talking with others, picking up items to interact with, and the occasional amusing mini-game. That all being said, some of the quest-lines can get a tad tedious with the constant item fetching. But it’s only a small complaint in an otherwise standout game.
A Space for the Unbound Review – Presentation
The pixel artwork of Unbound is absolutely stunning, showing that videogames continue to cross the line of ‘entertainment’ into an ‘artform’. For example, the animation of a flower bursting into a storm of white petals whenever you use Space Dive is delightful. The Japanese pop culture bones of the game, mixed in with Indonesian flavour is a strange mix that works! The character design and animations are bright, and wrapped up in the Japanese anime aesthetic.
You can practically hear the trope of the haughty student council president ‘o-hohoho-ing’ in the background.
The backgrounds of a sleepy country Indonesian village are stunning, lulling you into a (false) sense of cosy security, almost like a warm glow is enveloping your computer screen (NOT while the insane sci-fi/fantasy shenanigans are happening, mind you). The game is very much stuck in a 90’s time capsule, with plenty of pop-culture references from then. As a 1996 child, much of the imagery awakened some very far off memories of the early ‘net in the 2000s.
My knowledge of Indonesian culture has increased slightly with all this game’s little cultural facts, which are scattered throughout its attractive pixelated aesthetic. Lastly, the final act of the game blasts open the door with fantastical magical-realism dreamscapes. I won’t post any screenshots so you can enjoy the sequence yourself. It’s truly gorgeous and shows off what a labour of love this game is from the development team.
While the game is short, at only a 9 to 12 hour run-time, A Space for the Unbound is genuinely worth the investment. Sincerity and warmth infuse the game with a sweet sense of liveliness, and the deeper plot has hooks that keep your eyes glued to the monitor. Best to play Unbound on a rainy night, with a blanket wrapped around you with a hot chocolate in your hand.
So, why should you play it?
- Cosy, rural Indonesian villages with rosy pixel art are up your alley
- You like short, biting sci-fi mysteries
- Cats, lots and lots of cats
- Curious to learn about Indonesian culture
But why shouldn’t you play it?
- 80’s/90’s children who don’t want constant references slapping them in the face reminding them how old they’re getting
- You don’t like feeling emotions
A review code on PC was kindly provided by Toge Productions for our A Space for the Unbound review. If you enjoyed this, be sure to check out more of our indie game reviews.