Inside is a game I didn’t get chance to play when it released mid last year; having been a huge fan of Playdead’s other release, Limbo, I’m not really quite sure why it has taken me so long to get the opportunity to play their followup, Inside.
Inside is not exactly a sequel to the originally released Limbo, but it can be classed as a spiritual successor. Lending plenty of gameplay mechanics and art styles from the former. You play as an anonymous boy, who is traveling across a dark and rainy universe. He must stop the forces of evil that are attempting to take over the world by experimenting on humans to turn them into a zombie-like-state. Although the game doesn’t have any narration, dialog or text at all, the way in which the game progresses the story through visual aids alone is impressive in itself. Right from the beginning of the game, you could tell that this boy was not really prepared for what he was getting himself in for, but he manages to push on in the face of the threats before him.
Usually any games from the horror genre don’t sit well with me, basically I am a massive pansy and the slightest thing will make me jump. Although Inside does have moments of horror injected into it, as well as a jump scare here and there, I was able to persevere through to the end without needing to change my underwear; although one time I did come very close! I was particularly impressed with the sound design throughout Inside. The importance of the sound effects became very apparent right from the first level; as I was trudging through a shallow puddle I could hear the sound of dogs in the background, and they were getting closer! The game doesn’t have a soundtrack so you don’t get that audio-trigger that something is about to happen, but the sense of urgency that flowed through me as I could hear these rabid dogs get ever closer to the child made me want to hide away under my desk. When the inevitable did happen and they caught up with the boy, the sound effects again make it feel all the more realistic as they took in for dinner on his lifeless body.
Inside follows the same sort of art style of that of Limbo. Limbo was purely black and white; and whilst Inside also has very much the same, there is a little more colour added in, such as making it abundantly clear when a button is nearby that you need to press being lit up. Also the way lighting is portrayed throughout the game is mightily impressive too, and even being used as a gameplay mechanic at times.
The gameplay does a very good job of trying to differentiate itself slightly from Limbo too. Limbo was more based around naturalistic puzzles such as avoiding giant spiders grips and swinging from broken down machinery. Inside is more centralized around more drawn out longer puzzles that require a lot of thought, planning and sometimes can span across multiple scenes within a level. The most basic puzzles were having to outrun dogs as mentioned before, but also avoiding enemy guards from tracking you down made up the opening few scenes worth of puzzles. After that the puzzles become more expansive and you are required to do a little investigation around the areas before you can come up with a plan. More often than not most of the puzzles are merely common sense but being a gamer you tend to gravitate towards a more complex solution than what it actually is. I fell foul of this a number of times and felt sufficiently stupid when I had to succumb to checking an FAQ online for the answer to a puzzle.
Again following suite of Limbo; Inside does not take very long to finish either. Being the second game from the Playdead studio I was maybe expecting something a little more expansive in terms of the length of the title but something as I crept closer to the end of the game, I felt like the time it took me to reach there was plenty enough. That’s not to say my experience with the later levels felt like a chore, actually quite the opposite. The last level in Inside could quite possibly be my favorite level in a video game, ever. I played the game on stream with a couple of people watching and it wasn’t just me who was not only horrified with what was actually happening, but also having an absolute blast playing/watching. However I was a little let down by the ending of the game, it just kind stops with no real explanation of what just happened, as I sat there waiting for the credits to finish, I was really expecting a cut scene or animation afterwards to wrap things up however I was merely transported to the start of a new game again. I wouldn’t say it spoilt my overall experience with Inside, but it did leave a sour taste after completing the game.
If we are doing a straight comparison between the two games PlayDead have released, then Inside is not only a technically better game, but has many other redeeming factors such as the higher production values, sound design and overall gameplay mechanics. Inside should also be classed as one of the best 2D platforming games to ever be released too. Steam is awash with 2D platformers and it doesn’t really take much to stand out from the crowd, but when it’s done as well as Inside I can do nothing more than say that any gamer who is a fan of indie projects, puzzles and atmospheric experiences need to be checking out Inside.