Review: A Space for the Unbound

An Indonesian adventure game with an excellent, sorrowful, triumphant story.

Review: A Space for the Unbound
Raya from ASFTBU

This side-scrolling, (mostly) point-and-click video game came out on multiple platforms for multiple languages in January 2023. It takes places in 1990s Indonesia, from the perspective of a high school boy named Atma and his girlfriend Raya. I'm glad I played it on Nintendo Switch, which does not have an achievements mechanism like Playstation or other platforms – because I missed a few easily missable ones...

I heard this game is sad and has a high-quality story. Admittedly for 2/3rds of the game I didn't really feel that way, though there are clear hints of some traumatic things that are shown in passing from the beginning – physical and emotional child abuse, child neglect, (pet) animal death, family and childhood loss of life. These themes come up for both the main characters as well as many side characters. The world is that of magical realism: you (for most of the game) accomplish mundane day-to-day tasks in a small town, with some sprinkling of interdimensionality and magic. For the most part, then, the game seems somewhat bright in color and relaxing in pace, and I can't help but smile each time I find yet another cute animal--usually a cat–to pet or feed. As the game comes to its climax, the world turns for the worse, and you start to learn the truth, as well as who is actually the main main character.

It's the resolution of this climax that's made this game much more meaningful for me than I ever expected. I cried. I found the character development excellent. I was on an emotional rollercoaster feeling near-disgust for some characters, then deep empathy and sorrow for them, then cheering for them as they faced their fears and recovered from their despair.

I reflected on how difficult and impactful childhood is for many people. It's a time when you're developing as a human, sorting through your hormones, with little independence, grappling with peer pressure and trying to fit in, discovering your own interests, needing to reconcile them with your parents or guardians. Of course, not just kids, but also adults experience trauma, and a lot of these experiences still haunt people, though silently and locked away within people's hearts. This game is a reminder for me to give people, including myself, grace--everyone carries their own burdens and is on their own journeys to confront, overcome, or accept them.

For an indie video game, I appreciated its tight, consistent, and simple mechanics as vehicles for award-winning storytelling. Except for a couple of occasions, I found the mechanics just right, accentuating rather than getting in the way of the story.

9/10 highly recommend.