The Inner Friend Review – Strange Playmates (PS4)

Horror games aren’t always just about jump scares and gore. They can have deep, underlying messages about our darkest fears and deepest traumas. The Inner Friend digs deep, dredging up a past that may have been best forgotten.

The Art of Precious Scars

Your avatar in The Inner Friend reminds me of an old, abandoned mannequin. Its outer layers peeling away thanks to years of neglect and weathering horrible storms. We play through his memories, led at times by a shadowy figure that looks just like us. Each level focuses on a particular moment to reflect on, beginning with a school scene and progressing us into the darker recesses of his mind as we go.

The Inner Friend review

Gameplay here is pretty basic. Aside from moving your character with the left stick, there are two other actions: jump and interact with an item. There are very few items for you to interact with. For instance, in the school level, you’ll hit the books across desktops to break streams of negative energy and free the trapped figures. Most of the time I spent playing the game was spent walking or running, timing my movements so as to get through the puzzles before me.

Probably the absolute best part of The Inner Friend is the immersive sound engineering. The way your footfalls echo as you run through an otherwise silent room. Being chased through a hair salon by an evil entity that cowers only to the shattering of mirrors, the glass twinkling as it falls to your feet. I haven’t enjoyed or appreciated this kind of sound work in far too long.

The Inner Friend review

The Inner Friend Review – Everything in its Place

Each section of The Inner Friend contains hidden Artifacts. There are two types: images and items. The items have proper display locations in the bedroom and help flesh out the ever-changing diorama. If you’ve got your eyes peeled, you should be able to spot them, but some are a little hidden. Hanging on the wall next to the window is some very dark child’s art. Blank sections are filled in when you find the corresponding pictures. Returning every item to the bedroom unlocks something special, but I’m still not sure that I want to see the hairdresser again just yet.

I do have a couple of complaints with The Inner Friend. First off, I strongly dislike the space between levels. Trying to land on the buildings and find my way to the glowing doorway can be aggravating. It took me 20 minutes at the very start of the game to successfully crash into the floating building as I kept thwacking myself against the sides. If anything, this portion of the game detracts from the experience. My second note is that you can finish the game in under two hours. There is replay value, though, since any collectibles you missed are worth going back for.

The Inner Friend review

Even though it was a short game, The Inner Friend lingers in the back of your brain long after you put the controller down. It’s an emotional journey exploring childhood fears and trauma, and might just have you pulling out your favorite stuffed animal for a reassuring squeeze.

The Inner Friend review code provided by publisher. Version 1.00 reviewed on a standard PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy.

  • Magnificent sound engineering
  • Eerie levels to explore
  • On the short side
  • The space between can be frustrating and detract from the story
  • Some sort of tutorial or guide marker would have been nice