The Last Inua: An Inuit Father And Son Fighting For Survival Against The Odds

The bond between father and child – one strong, one sick – trying to survive against the harsh climate of the Arctic. An immersive and emotional experience with a vibrant art style heading for iOS, as well as Windows and Mac via Steam, during the winter of 2013. The team at Glowforth describe The Last Inua as a “platform adventure game with an emphasis on character, fragility and immersion.” The concept behind the game was born out of the desire of Zoot Nel and Jasper de Bruin, two art academy graduates, to create a game that focused on the bond between two characters who were dependent on each other. That was back in 2010. Key to their focus was treating their characters as subjects and not objects, and as such, they wouldn’t be simply co-dependent on each other because the game demands it, but due to an established relationship between them.

Many different concepts and ideas were had as the two researched how they could make this relationship one that made sense and provided some emotional baggage with it too. In the end, it was decided that the characters suitable for their intentions were an Inuit father and son who were battling against not just the weather that surrounds them in the Arctic, but a greater evil as well.

“The father, Ataataq is a strong, physical character that can climb, smash, push objects, and his son, Hiko, is weak, sick even. Throughout the game the condition of the son gets worse – although he does acquire powerful, magical skills that exceed the physical powers of his father,” Jasper de Bruin of Glowforth tells me.

The Last Inua

A screenshot of The Last Inua showcasing the game’s new visual style (the others are outdated)

Both the father and son have their strengths and weaknesses, and the player will have to make use and be aware of these when trying to manipulate both characters through the environment. The Last Inua is another one of those games that is described as “single player co-op,” though this is certainly not a simultaneous action. The player will often flick between the characters, with the other always in tow, unless they’ve been split up by the level design.

Ataataq is able to climb up walls, punch away icy pillars and push huge blocks of ice so the pair may pass. He will, at times, land himself in a spot of trouble due to his eager risk-taking. In the 2012 demo for the game that you can watch the trailer of at the bottom, Ataataq falls down a long drop at one point and is seemingly knocked out – the crunch suggests that he may have even been paralyzed. This leaves Hiko to patch him back up, and this is where his magical abilities come in handy. You’ll see in the video that he actually enters beyond the realms of his world and into a glitchy area, where he collects an artefact that revives his father. This is part of a corruption that is spreading throughout the world due to the command of an “immense devil figure.”

The Last Inua

To fight against this corruption, the two characters set out to discover a number of shrines. We’re not told how these come into the grander scheme of the game as of yet, but considering that The Last Inua takes heavy influence from Inuit culture, I’m guessing it’s some kind of prayer ceremony that calls upon nature to eradicate the evil.

Of course, while this is the main plot, the nuances of the game will provide the greater emotional side of the game that Glowforth seem determined to tap into. Like That Dragon, Cancer, you’ll be responsible for the livelihood of both characters, and especially the son who is sick. It’s suggested that your failings will lead to the worsening of his condition, and I can’t really see how that couldn’t happen considering that he’s running around in the freezing cold. The word that Jasper used that stuck out regarding the relationship, especially concerning the son, is “responsibility.” As a player, you might feel the pang of guilt that a father does when bringing a sick child into the world, especially in such a harsh environment.

Another aspect of The Last Inua that really struck me was the slight fantastical element, in particular the depiction of animals as demons and giants. You can see that the depiction of a haggard crow, which I thought may have been representative of the devil creature, but I’m told it’s actually a good animal god. Interestingly, that’s the opposite representation of the crow in Inuit culture, as is seen in Minority Media’s upcoming Inuit-based Silent Enemy, in which crows bully the player.

The Last Inua

More interesting is the section nearer the end of the demo, when Ataataq and Hiko enter through the mouth of a giant polar bear – another good animal god, apparently. Inside the fleshy innards of the animal provide a backdrop, and the characters are forced to break bits apart and worm their way around. I’m not sure what they’re looking for, but I get the impression that the animal is wounded, and they may end up healing it.

You also get a glimpse of one of Ataataq’s powers, the Super Punch, which allows him to smack loads of obstructions out of the way at once. My favorite ability of his is getting his ice picks out and climbing up vertical walls. You can see how Glowforth have ensured to make good use of the Arctic environment to emphasise a fight for survival, and how they’ve blended that in with authentic Inuit culture and myths that they’ve brought to life in the game.

As previously said, The Last Inua will be coming to iOS first, with ports to Android, Windows and Mac following afterwards, and it will be on Steam for those latter two platforms. You should expect to see its release during the winter of 2013. You can keep up with its development on Facebook or Tumblr.

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