Congratulations Playdead, you’ve done it again. Following the universal success of their first independent title, Limbo, Playdead ApS has somehow exceeded high expectations with their newest game, Inside. It adds onto all the gameplay elements that made Limbo so great, and tells a mind-boggling story that may very well be set in the same universe. The level of creativity expressed within Inside simply makes it a must-play for anyone looking to experience a phenomenal work of art.
From the opening of Inside to its final moments, there is a level of depth absent from most platformers. The entire world feels alive with features such as dynamic weather, layered sound, strategic lighting, and pinpoint movements based on real-world physics. It can even make a case for demonstrating the best water physics of all time. Some components may go unnoticed, but undoubtedly all contribute to the overall scheme of things. At certain times, it’s eye-opening to sit back and appreciate a certain scene from Inside. The best word to describe movement is “fluid”, but don’t be mistaken, as nothing is a rag-doll. From climbing ladders to rolling down hills, all actions seem too realistic to be part of a game. To be more precise, every movement feels like you’re controlling an actual human.
Now, a great atmosphere needs to be accompanied with a great story, right? Well, Inside’s story is fitting to say the least. It tells the tale of a strange boy, with an unknown mission in a dystopian world filled with enemies. Although somewhat of a mystery from beginning to end, the storyline just feels right. There are certain points of insanity, and other periods of peace and serenity. Unfortunately, the game’s ending is its weakest point, if not its only weak point. Tons of build-up for a rather anticlimatic conclusion isn’t any more a blunder than a style. Luckily, the moments of shock and suspense throughout the game as a whole more than make up for the overly symbolic ending.
The puzzles themselves are not too difficult with a well-paced progression. While some ideas are recycled from Limbo, others are unique. Lighting and shadows happen to play a critical role in puzzle-solving, along with water and gravity. I feel like what was novel should have been used more, just to keep everything fresh for all audiences. A large portion of level design was atypical from other platformers. For example, you’ll often need to walk left to progress, rather than right, in some areas. The game also tempts you to press a certain dangerous button or make an impossible jump in certain situations. For this reason, you will undoubtedly die in your first playthrough. Also, deaths are absolutely brutal, which adds a horror element to the bleak world of Inside.
Since the game primarily takes place in an abandoned industrial world, it’s a prime spot for some anxiety and tension. I felt considerable anticipation in an early scene where you are being chased by a rabid dog. The enemy starts off as a tiny dot in the background, quickly increasing in size and moving into the foreground. It’s barking becomes louder and more vicious as it approaches, keeping you frozen in your seat. If it happens to grab you, the dog will tear you to pieces. In just these five seconds, Inside is able to immediately immerse you in its gameplay. Being alone in a creepy place naturally primes you for some scares, but can’t do anything to prepare you for some of Inside’s craziest moments. Also, the lack of any dialogue whatsoever lets you freely interpret the majority of the game’s strange scenarios for yourself. In many ways, Inside is disturbing, albeit amazing.
Many chase sequences require a high level of accuracy to progress. The game isn’t very forgiving, but nothing ever becomes too difficult. As long as you know the proper solution to the puzzle, it should be a piece of cake after two or three initial attempts to get a feel for the area. Adding to the realism, your character has no way to fight his enemies, who are always much stronger than him. You spend most of your time running away and hiding, until a certain point. I won’t spoil anything specific or major, but gameplay does change significantly for the latter parts of the game.
As you can probably tell by this point, Inside is worth a purchase, and it will surely win countless awards this year. It’s the type of game that will spur fan-theories and tons of clever discussion over the coming weeks. Its story may be a mystery, but encountering flawless gameplay is certain. With hardly anything to complain about, Inside provides an atmospheric puzzler not many could have dreamt up.
A PC review code was provided by Playdead and Microsoft Studios for the purpose of this review
- Creates a world of mystery and appeal.
- Never fails to keep you immersed.
- Extremely creative puzzles force you to think outside the box.
- For a platformer, the level of depth is top-notch.
- Accurate physics keep everything feeling real.
- Story is a bit too vague and ends on a strange note.