For a studio that is relatively new, Playdead has already left a big mark on the industry with the release of 2010’s Limbo. The little indie game took the gaming world by storm being a critical darling and selling pretty well. All eyes were on Playdead with their next game; well Playdead has knocked it out of the park yet again with Inside. Inside is very much the successor to Limbo, being a 2D puzzle platformer with a grim artstyle; however, Inside does more than enough to differentiate itself from its predecessor. It’s a truly unique experience that is easily one of 2016’s standout games.
Inside does not have the typical story; there’s no cutscenes, no dialogue and there’s only one actual character. The game is an excellent example of storytelling solely through visuals. The basic gist of the story is that you’re a boy who must makes his way through a dystopian world to get inside a facility. The game’s story is very vague and is told almost exclusively through its visuals; eagle eyed players will notice more of the story, than those who are solely focused on the gameplay. It’s a beautiful blend between a game’s story and its graphics.
What Inside‘s story actually is varies upon the player; some take it literally and try to make sense of the disturbing world, while others see it as a metaphor. There’s already tons of interesting theories about the game’s stories, but I would suggest holding off on reading those until after you play the game.
The world of Inside is severely dark; there is no hope in this world. The game’s setting is a mix between apocalyptic and dystopian; there are some parts that feel like they come from zombie stories, while others feel like they’re ripped from the likes of 1984. This creates a sense of desperation and intensity for the player, that you don’t feel in most games. You desperately want to get to the end of the game to see if there’s a way out of this hell. While, I don’t want to spoil the game’s ending, I have to say it left me shocked. I absolutely did not see the game’s ending coming, nor did anyone else.
I’d also suggest going for all of the game’s collectibles. There’s not many of them and they help even more mystery to what’s going on with Inside‘s story. I think Inside and its story will be the source of much discussion for years to come.
As previously mentioned, Inside‘s graphics go hand-in-hand with the game’s story. Every aspect of the game’s graphics are used to emphasized elements of the story. The game features a dull color scheme consisting primarily of blacks, whites and grays; this brings the bleakness of the game’s world to light. Inside‘s lack of color emphasizes how scary the game’s world is, there is no escape from these horrors.
Inside has a very simple style for the most part; there aren’t very many details on the main character, the enemies or the mindless zombies throughout the game. This is yet again used to show the bleakness of the game, there is no uniqueness in this world. You will assimilate or die.
One aspect of the game that is highly detailed are the deaths. Inside features unique death animations throughout its entirety and they are awesomely horrific. I was completely shocked the first time I died because I didn’t expect a game to be this brutal to a child. It’s worth dying in this game just to see all of the unique and gory deaths. It makes sense that within the bleak world of Inside, painful deaths are the most unique thing our hero can go through.
Despite the bleak colors and simple art style, Inside still has some stunning imagery. There were several times I’d slow down and just admire the imagery; whether it be something simple like a cornfield on a rainy night or traveling on rooftops as hordes of mindless people goosestep below you. Inside is full of great visual moments that will be some of the key parts of how you remember the game.
Inside features very little music. The majority of the game will have you listening to your own footsteps and the other sounds within the environment. Throughout most of the game, the effects will be echoed and I absolutely love this. The echo-y sound effects add to a unique ambiance that significantly adds to the game’s bleak tone.
There are several segments where you are just walking along. In most games this would be seen as boring, but I think the sound effects significantly add to these parts in Inside. The sound effects make you feel like you are truly alone in this world.
The gameplay of Inside is fairly simple; the only buttons you use throughout the game is the right stick and X button. But the simplicity works perfectly and is all it needs; the game being more complicated than it is probably would’ve ruined it’s flow. One of my favorite parts of Inside is how it initially throws you into the game with no clues on what to do. There is no tutorials of any kind, you must figure out the game’s mechanics on your own. This is something I feel is missing from many modern games and it was a breath of fresh air.
The majority of Inside will have you figuring out puzzles to progress to the next section of the game. The puzzles are simple for the most part, but they do require some thought. You will have to play around with the environment a bit to complete many of the puzzles, it helps make the game’s world seem very interactive. Completing the various puzzles give off a good sense of self-fulfillment; despite the game’s bleak ton, it does make the player feel good once they’ve completed a segment. Inside never gets stale or repetitive either, the game is constantly introducing new gameplay mechanics throughout its entirety. I never felt like one puzzle was just a reskinned version of a previous puzzle.
Inside almost feels like a horror game during several segments. Despite the simplicity of its gameplay, encounters with enemies often feel very intense. I got the same rush during these parts that I do from “real” horror games, I feel this is a great accomplishment for what is seemingly a very basic game.
One thing to note is that Inside is not a long game, it only takes a couple hours to complete including getting all of the game’s achievements. I personally don’t feel like this was a problem; I feel that if the game was any longer it’d have overstayed its welcome. But unless you absolutely adore this game, you probably won’t end up replaying it. This combined with the $20 price tag may ward off some people.
While I don’t think this game is for everyone, if you’re a fan of 2D puzzle games you’ll love Inside. Inside is one of the most unique games to come out this year. It’s a haunting experience that will make you think in more ways than one. Inside has some of the best visual storytelling I’ve seen in a game along with great gameplay, you should definitely expect it to win several Game of the Year awards later this year.