I have a lot in common with Atma and Raya, the two teenage protagonists of A Space for the Unbound. Their bucket list features activities like: Having a pet cat, eating an entire black forest gateau, and getting the highest score on their favorite arcade game - which sounds exactly like the kind of things I want to accomplish in my lifetime too.
Set in Indonesia in the 1990s, the two high school seniors have a lot on their plates right now. Atma has been having confusing dreams about a young girl and a magical red book, while Raya has been dealing with her own issues and a tough home life. Not only this, but the two are about to graduate. With a lot of pressure from the adults in their lives to figure out what they want to do in the future, the pair put together a bucket list.
It becomes obvious very quickly that these two aren't like the other students in their school. Not only can Atma 'Spacedive' into people's minds to gain information and solve problems, but Raya also has supernatural powers that allow her to transform the world around her and turn her classmates into monsters. Which I wasn't expecting from this seemingly slice-of-life game.
A cat-aclysmic story
Just like all the best adventure games, there's more to A Space for the Unbound than just being a high school student. Each situation Atma comes up against will bring a series of challenges with it. It's never as simple as finding an item and using it, there's always several steps in between before you can solve the puzzle in front of you. There's also a lot of side missions for Atma to complete, like finding all of the collectible bottle caps and chewing gum wrappers throughout the game, which add hours of playtime.
A Space for the Unbound also has a retro-style fighting mechanic which I had a lot of fun with. This mini-game comes up several times and requires you to hit a combination of buttons before the timer runs out to fight bullies around town. Speaking of game references, this adventure features tons of subtle nods to other titles, including developer Mojiken's other heartfelt indie When the Past Was Around - which I frustratingly missed during my first playthrough.
If it wasn't already clear, there's a lot of cats in A Space for the Unbound. One of my favorite parts of this coming-of-age tale was meeting all the feline friends that are scattered around town and giving them each a name. The cats are just one of the ways that Mojiken made Atma and Raya's world feel alive. Alongside the four-legged residents, there's plenty of human inhabitants whose lives play out all around you. Whether they work at the local stores, live in the neighborhood, or are just regulars at one of the businesses on the map, there's always someone to talk to who will often give advice on what to do next or an insight into the town and the people in it.
Due to various circumstances, Raya struggles with her mental health. By the end of the game she's trying to push everyone away and completely give up on her dreams. Playing as Atma as he attempts to break through to Raya, while also giving her the tools needed to help herself, was really moving. The game does a really good job at showing physical representations of what Raya, and the other people Atma interacts with, are going through emotionally.
It would be unforgivable of me if I talked about A Space for the Unbound without highlighting the game's gorgeous 2D pixel art style and charming soundtrack. The game somehow feels like your favourite anime and Game Boy Advance game rolled into one as each area of town Atma visits (whether it's in the real world or not) is full of character and feels so nostalgic. I'd gladly jump right back into A Space for the Unbound if it meant I could just explore the town, meet more cats, and speak to all the residents again.