Usually, when somebody tells you they think something is “all in your head,” they’re suggesting that you’re not really living in reality. That you’re seeing things that aren’t there. But for the protagonist of the new game Indivisible, just about everybody she knows is in her head. And they even jump out to help her fight evil.
How’s that for reality?
This highly anticipated game from the developers of the colorful indie title Skullgirls is anything but bland and predictable. It’s a 2D adventure game that blends unusual elements plucked from Southeast Asian cultures with superhero-like mythology, even as it shapes its hand-drawn drama into side-scrolling challenges and RPG-like battles.
The story introduces us to the headstrong Ajna, a somewhat rebellious young teen who isn’t about to take any guff from anybody. She lives in the little hut-filled village of Ashwat. And when she’s not rushing to get to training exercises with her gruff, heavy-handed dad, she contents herself with a chat or two with the easygoing residents of that simple place.
But one morning, Ajna’s life gets suddenly upended when a strange army shows up and sets Ashwat aflame. The young teen sees her father killed by an arrogant leader of this force, and she leaps into action without thinking. This battler has a sword, while she only has her kicking feet. So it appears that she’ll be sorely outmatched. Until, that is, something mysterious suddenly clicks inside her, and she absorbs the soldier into an inner world in her mind.
Both Ajna and that soldier, Dhar, are pretty shocked. Using the meditative chakra energy that her father has taught her about, Ajna discovers that she can visit this inner mental world. But Dhar is trapped there and at her command until she deigns to let him go. And she ain’t deigning. Instead she demands that he guide her to his boss, Lord Ravannanar, so she can seek her revenge and, well, give that guy a piece of her mind.
From there the gameplay is pretty much made up of two elements: platforming adventure and turn-based battles. Ajna jumps, climbs, slides and acrobatically cavorts her way through multiple levels of monster-filled jungles, dungeon labyrinths, floating cities and spectral landscapes. And the timed platform leaps and flips can get pretty tough in the later stages.
Along the way, she meets a parade of new friends who choose to join her on her quest and agree to slip into a cozy little nook in her noodle. Then when it comes time to battle baddies, three members of that growing bundle of brain-mates jump out to aid Ajna in her fight. Each character has his or her own special attacks or skills, and gamers can set up teams that mix and match those abilities to best fit the situation. Weaving together the right tapestry of healing, defense and attack skills, as well as choosing your favorite combos and lineups, can make a huge difference as the foes become more diverse and powerful.
Ajna picks up new special weapons along the way that can help in battle and while platforming, too. Her mother’s axe enables her grab a handhold on a tall wall, for instance; and a bow can give her a ranged attack, while a special spear allows her to catapult to heights and hang beneath a lofty ledge.
It’s the teammate side of things and the broad, fantasy-focused core adventure¬¬—filled with a compelling tale and often funny characters—that keeps Indivisible from becoming a grind (which games of this stripe can easily become). But as that fantastical story and crazy character list unfolds, that’s also where the game’s problems start to pile up, too.
Battles aren’t goopy, and angry language is limited to a few uses of “shut up” and “d–n.” But the game’s Asian mythology—with its chakras, game-saving shrines and altars, even a full-blown resurrection by games end—can push things in spiritual directions that may be uncomfortable for some. On top of that, there are very buxom characters that Ajna encounters who are none-too-shy about their skimpy outfits and visibly heaving, uh, assets.
Those aren’t necessarily deal killers, but they are things you should keep in mind. For like Ajna herself, this colorful game is one of those that can … get inside your head.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.