A Space for the Unbound Review | Superb, Painful Nostalgia

94
Story
10
Gameplay
9
Visuals
10
Audio
8
Value for Money
10
Price:
$ 20
Excellent in almost every aspect, A Space for the Unbound is one of gaming’s peak products. It combines an exceptional narrative style with unabashed depictions of societal issues to pull at your heartstrings in such a way that resistance is all but futile. Backed by amazingly vivid and nostalgic visuals, a set of wonderfully apt tracks, and a truly stunning ending, A Space for the Unbound is almost guaranteed to stay in your heart for a long time.

A Space for the Unbound is an excellent narrative adventure developed by the indie studio Mojiken. Read our spoiler-free review to see what it did well, what it didn't do well, and if it's worth buying.

A Space for the Unbound Review Overview

A Space for the Unbound Pros & Cons

Pros Cons
Checkmark Its Story Knows No Boundaries
Checkmark The Gameplay Is Charmingly Messy
Checkmark The Pace Crawls At Times

A Space for the Unbound Overall - 94/100

Excellent in almost every aspect, A Space for the Unbound is one of gaming’s peak products. It combines an exceptional narrative style with unabashed depictions of societal issues to pull at your heartstrings in such a way that resistance is all but futile. Backed by amazingly vivid and nostalgic visuals, a set of wonderfully apt tracks, and a truly stunning ending, A Space for the Unbound is almost guaranteed to stay in your heart for a long time.

A Space for the Unbound Story - 10/10

It’s difficult to describe A Space for the Unbound’s story as anything other than "masterfully crafted." It’s heavily saturated with wildly different themes that match the kind of turbulent life most adolescent children would have led, beautifully painted with a background of a nostalgic, ever-blue sky. To top it all off, it concludes on an incredibly striking note, ensuring that its readers can put down the game after a profoundly satisfying experience.

A Space for the Unbound Gameplay - 9/10

Besides the time you'll spend relishing in its wonderful narrative, the vast majority of your time will be spent roaming around town and interacting with its residents (and cats). Meanwhile, puzzles are provided by the game as part of your main method to get past obstacles. These, for the most part, are handled by the act of interacting with the people around you, learning their stories, and their troubles, and solving them. But while the gameplay does seem like it’s a chaotic mish-mash of different genres, it actually has a purpose and exemplifies the amount of thought that went into designing the game.

A Space for the Unbound Visuals - 10/10

Despite its pixel artwork, A Space for the Unbound presents itself as an impeccably beautiful game with no shortage of empathetic events. It also features a flowery and nostalgic feel of setting its scene with people, mostly faceless, walking around without aim, food carts displaying unremarkable treats, and numerous cats lounging throughout the area. It’s the kind of visuals you would expect from the period, but in a way, perfected to show the dreamlike disconnect between the never-changing summer of childhood and the progressive onset of distress.

A Space for the Unbound Audio - 8/10

Even if the game lacks some of the aural features of many modern games, such as voice acting, its overall audio design is still quite good. Every track fits every scene perfectly, and all are memorable pieces that elevate the experience quite well. This is especially noticeable during major scenes where the music takes on an active role, conditioning your mindset so it can better relish in the emotional rollercoaster of its narrative.

A Space for the Unbound Value for Money - 10/10

For a game to only request $19.99 in exchange for a life-changing story is, quite frankly, criminal. Every aspect of the game is designed, either on purpose or by complete coincidence, to create the best kind of environment to enjoy its story. There’s no need to wait for a discount for this one. Simply buy the game the moment you can.

A Space for the Unbound Review: Superb, Painful Nostalgia

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There are many games out there that flourish their takes on sensitive social issues. However, indie games have always been the shining bastion of these narratives, perhaps due to their fearlessness born from an unfettered creative environment.

But among these games, A Space for the Unbound stands as having perhaps the strongest and most undisguised depiction of them.

Everything from bullying, abuse, anxiety, and the resulting depression from these issues make up a significant fraction of the game’s powerful narrative. Although the almost-chaotic way it presents the story and its themes, as well as its gameplay that seemingly lacks cohesiveness, may seem like a handicap, it actually makes great use of the jarring experience as a way to create an outstanding conclusion to its narrative; one that’s both profound and extremely heart-wrenching.

A Space for the Unbound is certainly one of the greatest games released in 2023. Rising up as an excellent example of the raw power of narrative, it puts many high-budget games to shame with its depictions of adolescent problems and a man’s struggle against the overwhelming burden of impending doom - both figuratively and literally.

Pros of A Space for the Unbound

Things A Space for the Unbound Got Right
Checkmark Its Story Knows No Boundaries
Checkmark The Gameplay Is Charmingly Messy

Its Story Knows No Boundaries

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A Space for the Unbound deals with heavy social issues, such as depression and anxiety, as well as others that lead to these outcomes, such as abuse, bullying, trauma, etc. These are relatable issues for the most part, as everybody should have their own share of problems. Even if they don’t, it’s hard to deny that the developers have crafted the story in such a way that any interested player can easily picture themselves in the character’s shoes.

Since the game is chock full of references to Indonesian culture, this is almost as good as the game giving itself a handicap. For them to create a universally relevant tale, regardless of one’s cultural background, is a marvel to behold. The way this is done is actually easy to imagine but very difficult to execute.

This universality is created by the game subtly disconnecting you from its fantastical aspect. While it may seem counterintuitive, the game’s excellent portrayal of illogical and impossible events through the use of the protagonist’s borrowed ability to dive within the hearts of others works well in distancing your experience from that of a character living in rural Indonesia. That way, you can interpret the very real issues that the game presents as something even you, yourself, as well as those around you can experience.

The Gameplay Is Charmingly Messy

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You would think that any title must have cohesive gameplay to be great. Other than those purposely meant to present many different games in one package, most others are bound to the idea of having to craft a game where everything fits together.

Imagine if you played, for example, The Walking Dead. That game has the usual elements for a title of its genre, such as QTEs, narrative choices, character interactions, etc. Now, imagine if, in one of the encounters with the undead, Lee suddenly adopted a fighting stance, and the game’s camera pans to a perspective camera angle, complete with health bars for both Lee and the zombie. Then, right after that, Lee would suddenly engage in a platformer and gain the ability to jump a few meters in the air.

Creating a game that matches its theme is the right idea. Most people wouldn’t appreciate it if they had to play a messy game, after all. In A Space for the Unbound’s case, besides the usual roaming the map and interacting with the locals, a regular part of many adventure titles, its "puzzles" are presented as a vast array of different minigames. It ranges from the usual treasure hunt routine to gameplay references to Street Fighter, Ace Attorney, and others.

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This is similar to other titles with more psychedelic natures since it fits their themes. But, for a narrative with a seemingly more cohesive direction such as A Space for the Unbound, it does sound surprising. That is until you actually start playing the game.

The game has every reason to create its slightly jarring experience. One of its main goals, after all, is to create a sense of disconnect between fiction and reality. In addition, perhaps due to coincidence or a stroke of creative genius, this goal also complements the game’s narrative theme, as adolescent life is all about twists and turns, especially given its story.

And I promise you that it’s all worth it in the end.

Cons of A Space for the Unbound

Things That A Space for the Unbound Can Improve
Checkmark The Pace Crawls At Times

The Pace Crawls At Times

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Even with how well the game manages to execute its depressing slice-of-life story, it still manages to drag its feet at times. Nothing’s ever perfect, and to be honest, the game somewhat lacking in this department is the least egregious kind of issue to have compared to, say, having a problem with its visuals. After all, the pace at which a player can experience the game is far more volatile compared to how players can interpret the beauty of its visuals.

However, this pacing issue does manifest itself through the game’s use of the slice-of-life genre. Knowing that there’s a goal in front of you but being stuck doing some dull chore can feel like you’re being forced to drag your feet. Even though the game does make it all worth it in the end, the journey getting there is a separate aspect that does need at least the minimum amount of addressing.

Overall, though, this is just a very minor issue. In fact, for some, it could even be taken as a pro. Since the connections between multiple characters are something that’s developed over time, some do appreciate the extensive efforts the game has pulled in order to create them.

Is A Space for the Unbound Worth It?

It’s Excellence Given Form In Writing. Buy It.

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A Space for the Unbound is one of the games that must be in every narrative-loving gamer’s library. It has perhaps one of the greatest stories ever told in a game among titles released in 2023, especially with its powerful conclusion. Honestly, I would even pay more money to play a game with a story that’s half as good as it.

Platform Price
Steam IconSteam Store $19.99

A Space for the Unbound Overview & Premise

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Atma, the co-writer for a fairy tale novel, finds himself waking up after nearly drowning. As he spends time with his high school sweetheart Raya, Atma suddenly discovers Raya’s secret - one that could very well end the world they live in.

A Space for the Unbound Product Information

A Space For The Unbound Cover
Title A SPACE FOR THE UNBOUND
Release Date January 19, 2023
Developer Mojiken
Publisher Toge Productions
Supported Platforms PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One
Genre Adventure
Number of Players 1
ESRB Rating Teen
Official Website A Space for the Unbound Website
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