Developer Playdead is responsible for one of my favorite games ever, Limbo. The critically acclaimed, dread-filled experience is a big name in the indie community. It was the minimalistic approach that made Limbo work so well. I play it about twice a year in one sitting to remind myself of the great achievement that Playdead accomplished. Also, the spider still frightens me. With all that said, Inside is the latest from Playdead. Taking the role of another young boy, you traverse your way through a dangerous dystopian future that is threatening in more ways than one. As a whole, Inside hits all the marks that made Playdead’s last excellent. This time, however, there is much more to come back to.
The world of Inside is void of any hope up until the end (which I’ll get to later). Its visual story telling is easy to read, making it very accessible for those looking for a narrative experience. There’s no dialogue, but the way each piece is directed makes for a lot of tense, memorable moments. There are certain parts of the game that will stick with me. While playing, I felt uncomfortable and uneasy during some parts, which did not take away from the experience. These parts might be talked about as maybe too much, but I believe they were perfectly implemented. They didn’t do it for the sake of shock. The part in the beginning with the pigs immediately gave me a sense of whatever kind of society that has taken over has made its way much further than just big areas. The sound design is also spectacular. The ambient soundtrack along with other sound effects and audio are marvelously orchestrated.
As mentioned before, Inside’s story is largely told through its art. The faceless characters, animation of “humans”, the lighting of all the levels, and so much more are incredible. While Limbo stuck to greyscale, Inside offers solid colors with a limited palette. The use of color is very limited because that’s part of the experience. This world doesn’t offer much choice and options to its inhabitants, so why should the art. Part of the art and design that I admire most are the people you encounter. No one has faces, and when they walk around, a great majority of them are very unsettling. When you have a crowd of 20 face-less followers huddled around you, it’s a very weird sight. Again, Inside leaves you with memories of varying emotions. It’s also worth noting that the game runs very smoothly.
One criticism that I have with Inside would be the puzzles. There aren’t many times that I had to think longer than a minute to solve each problem. It’s a breeze going through the game and finishing in about 4 ½ hours (which is the perfect amount of time, honestly). Though it’s primarily focused with giving the player an emotional and visual experience, a bit of a challenge in areas would help. With that said, the puzzles are well crafted and simple enough for anyone to figure out. Mechanically, it’s very similar to Limbo. You won’t have to learn anything new here. The game still has you walking, jumping, and grabbing objects to solve puzzles, while adding in a couple extra things.
Without spoiling the last section of the game, I’ll talk about it briefly. I had no idea what to expect when I got near. Even if I thought I knew, what is presented is something fantastic. Playdead didn’t just come up with this odd idea and roll with it (literally). It was well-developed and it fits with the story of the game. The end also makes you want to play again to see if you can figure out hints at what is really going on in that world. It makes me hope that developers take a mental note that strange endings like this one can work. They don’t just get written in to have the player scratch their heads and think it doesn’t make any sense being there. This is a conclusion that made me hold my breath for a brief handful of seconds and come to terms with it. Nevertheless, I adore the end.
Inside is an excellent journey. It’s ability to execute multiple moments that capture the player immediately is great. There are never any areas of the game that lost my attention or interest. It’s worth your full investment. If you are to pick apart the game, you will find so much to hold on to. Just like Limbo, I’ll be back to this game every so often.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
- The art captures the player
- Narrative excellence
- Sound design enhances levels
- Ending is phenomenal
- The puzzles are too simple