Version Tested: PC
Copy purchased by the reviewer
The opening scene of Inside begins in a familiar fashion to anyone who’s played Limbo. There’s no tutorial, no start screen. Not even graphics settings for the PC version. You simply appear, and your adventure begins.
Just like Limbo, Inside can primarily be described as a side scroller puzzle game. It’s art direction and play style are clearly akin to Delphine’s, 1991 PC game, Out of This World. Which over the years, has been reincarnated many times over on various platforms, as its original release was pioneering, and extremely popular. And just like in Out of This World, the protagonist is a faceless, virtually emotionless child, with the exception being while in peril.
Inside feels like a nightmare straight out of Nazi Germany, or Pink Floyd’s movie, The Wall. In a way, Inside follows the latter’s theme, in that there’s no doubt, it represents a pessimistic, and dreary allegory of life. But, therein lies its charm. Each carefully placed portion, kept me asking questions, sometimes shocking me to attention, and leaving me always wanting more. By the end of the game, I felt compelled to comprehend its purpose, and discussed what I had witnessed at length with a close friend.
Your job, is to guide the main character safely through a series of obstacles, puzzles, and predetermined scenario’s, where there’s only one choice, move quickly or die. Experimentation through death, is often the case with Inside. You’ll stumble into many scenarios, with no immediately apparent way to survive. Which then leads to some pretty gruesome, and often startling animations.
The audio is sparse, but sharp. For example, the quiet wisps of wind & rolling grass, are punctuated by the barks of vicious dogs, which will chase you in an attempt to kill you. When you complete an objective, the sound kicks up with a quick and erie hymn. The subtlety of the audio is a perfectly paced vehicle, for which Inside evokes emotion from the player.
The controls for the game are simple and impressively intuitive. At one point, I even recorded a short video as a demo for a friend, who was intrigued by my observations. In one hand a smartphone, in the other my Xbox One controller. I was able to navigate the puzzles with little difficulty, during this particular five minute long segment. What impressed me the most about Inside, was the fact the player will know almost instinctively, what to do when. The polish and flow of the mechanics are undeniably superb.
My only true quarrel with Inside however, is it leaves so many unanswered questions behind, by the time you’re finished. Yes, it makes you think because it’s so vague. But in the end I felt a little let down, if not downright angry. In reality, I invented a story and purpose to the game through discussion with a friend. Did we get it right? Is the game really a convoluted metaphor for life? And there’s so many different things going on in the background throughout the game, you can’t help but wonder about the specifics as to their existence. Absolutely none of this is explained.
In the end, Inside was a great experience. A memorable one, in fact. There are secrets to be found, amazing environments to explore, and at no point did I feel like it lingered too long in any given area. The variety of set pieces, objectives, and clever mechanic twists, were indeed awe inspiring at times. It’s a game that thinks outside of the box, while conversely using tried and true methods of game play. If you’re looking for something different, PLAYDEAD’s 8-10 hour offering, is definitely worth the price of admission.