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A Space for the Unbound Review

An excellent Indonesian Indie

When I played Coffee Talk when it was released back in 2020, I fell for it so hard that I became a lifelong fan of Indonesian developer and publisher Toge Productions. I then played When The Past Was Around, yet another indie gem they published that was developed by Indonesian developer Mojiken. Now in 2023, Mojiken and Toge Productions have joined forces again on A Space for the Unbound, an emotional coming of age journey set in 90s Indonesia that is undoubtedly their greatest work yet. 

The game quickly introduces players to the protagonist Atma, a teenage boy who is co-writing a fantasy novel alongside Nirmala, a younger girl who lends her creative mind to the writing process. Nirmala and Atma are in possession of the Magic Red Book, a mysterious book that allows its users to dive into the hearts of others, and fight back against the manifestations of their inner turmoil.   

I do love myself a space dive

Not long after Nirmala teaches Atma how to make use of the book, she manages to fall into the river in the middle of a heavy storm, but is thankfully spotted by Atma. Neither of the pair can swim unfortunately, and despite Atma’s effort to save Nirmala from the safety of the shore, he and the red book fall into the water and plummet to the depths of the river. 

Despite seeming to have drowned, Atma awakes at school, alongside a girl named Raya who is claiming to be his girlfriend. Even though his memory is hazy and he deems the events of his time with Nirmala to be that of a dream, his connection to Raya immediately feels believable, as does her clear reverence for him. Instead of focusing on their impending graduation and their post-school career plans, the pair instead devise a wholesome bucket list of goals and dates. 

Even though things seem hunky-dory with Atma dating the model student, not everything is quite right. The Magic Red Book has managed to find him in this reality, and Raya seems to have supernatural powers of her own that allow her to control the people around her. Things get even more out of hand and unstable as time drags on, with people seemingly glitching out, and spouting on about the end of the world, all while Raya begins to act a little bit weirder each day. The end of high school feels like the end of the world for some, but in the case of Atma, Raya and the students of their otherwise peaceful Indonesian school, it kinda is. To avoid such calamity, Atma must use the power of the red book to help those in need in town, all the while discovering more about Raya and her occasional suspicious behaviour. 

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I’m not paying $6.50 for a Choc Top…

To dabble too deeply into the story would lessen the impact that I hope each of you reading will decide to experience, but let it be known that A Space for the Unbound tells one hell of a story, and it is by the far the game’s strongest asset. It’s gripping, emotional, and extremely powerful, and despite being supernatural and a little bit wacky, it handles its representation of real world issues such as depression and anxiety with a high level of care. 

There are definitely instances in which I feel it drags and its pacing is disturbed, but for the most part it succeeds at being a thoroughly engaging and emotional epic with a vibe and visual aesthetic evocative of esteemed Japanese anime filmmaker Makoto Shinkai (of Your Name and Weathering with You fame).

The anime-inspired pixel art isn’t an uncommon art style, but it looks brilliant in A Space for the Unbound, managing to bring beautiful detail and life to the game’s rural Indonesian setting, as well as its cast of characters. While Atma, Nirmala and Raya are the obvious stand outs as characters, I found side characters like Marin, Lulu, and Erik interesting enough also.  

The anime-inspired pixel art is supremely pretty

A Space for the Unbound is also accompanied by a soundtrack littered with bangers, whether it be the track that plays when encountering the school bullies, or the various emotionally-charged pieces that may or may not make you sob uncontrollably. It’s a thing of beauty, and manages to make the experience of A Space for the Unbound even more atmospheric and enjoyable across its ten to fifteen hour journey. 

On the gameplay front, A Space for the Unbound plays out as a relatively simplistic point-and-click-adjacent-style adventure where you explore the town of Loka across various chapters. Your main modes of interaction and progression are engaging in conversation with the inhabitants of the town, and eventually exploring their hearts in order to solve a puzzle that as a result helps them with their personal conundrums. Journeys into the hearts of others, known in-game as a spacedive, require you to make use of particular items found in that spacedive or in the town at large. Some even require items from other spacedives to be completed, meaning that you’ll need to shift between dives to satisfy their requirements. They’re never too difficult to solve, and they’re all rather enjoyable, being welcome activities to complete in between story dialogue. Backtracking is sure to annoy some as it always does, but I don’t see it as too much of an issue here.

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When not tackling the puzzles in spacedives you’ll spend the majority of your time simply exploring around town, partaking in optional conversations or activities. Optional mini-games include a simple soccer juggling mini-game, and a fighting machine game at the arcade, that makes use of the same QTE style combat that you’ll also encounter throughout core story moments. While strings of QTEs can get quite intense in the Future Fighter mini-game, they never really pose much of a threat in the main story combat segments, and do ultimately get a little boring in the latter hours of the experience.

QTE combat is fine but eventually becomes stale

You can also attempt to tick off some activities from Atma and Raya’s bucket list, such as collecting twenty bottle caps, or beating the high score in Future Fighter. While some parts of the bucket list will be ticked off naturally throughout the story, some such as the aforementioned two are missable, so keep an eye out if you want to complete them all. 

Although you may occasionally lose your bearings while navigating around town (thankfully there’s a map to assist if you fall victim to that), luckily there are plenty of cute cats spread throughout town. Not that they’ll help you navigate, but you not only get to pet these feline friends, but also name them from a short list of monikers, providing your own personal flavour to the cats you see in town. 

The gameplay of A Space for the Unbound isn’t overly challenging, but its fun puzzles and enjoyable exploration in a gorgeously well realised Indonesian town complement its much more impressive and engaging story content, and all its aspects marry well in the grand scheme of things.

You can pet plenty of cats throughout town

Final Thoughts

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Although it’s probably destined to be a hidden gem that never quite gets the amount of eyeballs and attention it deserves, A Space for the Unbound is a truly excellent game that deserves plenty of love. It does occasionally fall victim to pacing issues, and its gameplay is rather simplistic, but pretty much everything else the game tackles is done with great success. Its enjoyable exploration, heartbreaking narrative, and beautiful anime inspired visuals come together to craft one of the best indie narrative driven games of recent memory. If you value games where story is of the utmost importance, I can’t help but recommend that you give A Space for the Unbound a chance. 

Reviewed on PS5  // Review code supplied by publisher

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A Space for the Unbound Review
It's giving Makoto Shinkai Energy
The gameplay of A Space for the Unbound isn’t overly deep, but its simplicity is more than made up for by its exceedingly entertaining and emotional storytelling.
The Good
Excellent narrative
Likeable characters
Brilliant visual style
High quality soundtrack
The Bad
Story drags in some instances
Combat gets boring
Gameplay is a tad too basic
8.5
GET AROUND IT
  • Mojiken Studio
  • Toge Productions
  • PS5 / PS4 / Xbox Series X|S / Xbox One / PC / Switch
  • January 19, 2023

A Space for the Unbound Review
It’s giving Makoto Shinkai Energy
The gameplay of A Space for the Unbound isn’t overly deep, but its simplicity is more than made up for by its exceedingly entertaining and emotional storytelling.
The Good
Excellent narrative
Likeable characters
Brilliant visual style
High quality soundtrack
The Bad
Story drags in some instances
Combat gets boring
Gameplay is a tad too basic
8.5
GET AROUND IT
Written By Dylan Blereau

Dylan is an avid gamer on all systems and believes that console wars are dumb. He owns over 60 amiibo however, which is a bit of an issue. You can find him on PSN @PlushyPants49 and Twitter @GrumpyGoron

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