A standout, yet simplistic, game. Inside will suck you in immediately and won’t let go even after you finish.
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Platforms: Xbox One (Version Reviewed), PC
Release Date: June 29th, 2016
Haunting. Beautiful. Eerie. Enchanting. Apprehensive. Riveting. Mesmerizing. Unique.
Those are just a few of the words that come to mind when I try to select a definitive word for this game. Inside, the latest puzzle platformer from Playdead, developer of the 2010 hit Limbo, evokes a rare feeling that is hard to describe. It’s a relatively short game, about 5 hours, but the value is still there as the game only costs $20. I admit I beat the game in just two sittings, but that speaks more of the sense of urgency within the game than a short experience.
Inside starts you off as a boy seemingly lost in the woods with no instructions and no background story, just a linear path in front of you and this feeling of dread and mystery as you run through the different levels. The story is told without any words or character interactions (unless you count when you lose and get disturbing dispatched by one of the characters chasing you) and is left to interpretation, but there is a feeling that there is much more than what’s on the surface.
Running through the game, there was this edge of panic that was abated by sudden jarring calmness; For example, when you find yourself sitting in a one-man submarine. At one point Inside turns physics on its head which somehow felt perfectly normal in the given environment.
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The game doesn’t have many sound effects, outside of the eerie soundtrack playing in the background, which makes the sudden dogs barking even more terrifying than normal (they also scared my dog that was laying next to me while I played). The use of air concussions that tear your character apart if you don’t time your escape just right makes you want to complete the level without having to try over. They were an uncomfortable noise, especially when paired with the resounding silence of the game.
The puzzle aspects of Inside were pretty simplistic but left me with a keen sense of accomplishment when I would run into a room and quickly solve a puzzle on the fly. The difficulty of the game is one of the few flaws, as I only had to pause and think twice, though in one of those instances I didn’t realize something could be moved and went in circles trying to a solve a puzzle that wasn’t even there.
Graphically, there isn’t much going on here, but that’s part the beauty of Inside. The game is almost colorless, mostly black and white, which adds to your feeling of dread. The graphics are sharp, smooth and well defined while also intentionally missing details in areas, such as the boy’s facial features.
For the completionists out there, hidden Orbs are scattered throughout the game which will help you to unlock a secret ending. The standard ending, without any spoilers, is rather abrupt and left me sitting in my seat for a while pondering what it meant. A day later and the game still hasn’t let go of its grasp on me, and I am itching to get back to my couch and run through the levels another time to see if there’s anything I didn’t pick up on.
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