Inside ReviewAmy Hazel
Why are you alone in the dark, little boy? Don't you know it is dangerous out here? You could be hunted, killed! Those dogs will feel no guilt as they tear your throat to pieces; no remorse will those masked men feel as they gun you down. What is your purpose in this quest? What could possibly be so important that you must risk life and limb?... Do you even know?
A few years back, a young boy went through monochromatic Hell and high water to rescue his sister in 2D puzzle game Limbo; now that very same developer, Playdead, is back with a vengeance making gamers experience a whole new realm of horror in their recently released 2.5D puzzle-platformer Inside.
As a quick side note, this review will have minimal to no spoilers; however, let me say two things before continuing on: One, go and play this game (it is currently available on Xbox One and PC, though hopefully it will find its way to PSN at a later date). Two, if you can go into this game with little to no prior knowledge, do so - the experience of discovery amplifies everything this game has to offer and you will not be disappointed. For those of you still here, let us continue onward ~
For those that experienced Limbo, Inside will welcome you back with its grisly embrace through a basic familiarity in environment and control scheme. A grim, grayscale landscape (save for a few acute splotches of red - one being a piece of the main characters attire) is all that will be in view for the entirety of the game - so let your eyes adjust accordingly. As the title screen barely finishes loading, a boy will emerge from the side to begin the adventure. Aside from that initial intro, there are no loading screens to be found throughout the game, period. Darkened forests, shadow filled cornfields, decayed corpses and a factory of horrors both submerged and otherwise await the player as they traverse inside the 3-4 hour game.
The controls are simple, whether you prefer controller (my recommended) or keyboard input scheme. The character will move to the right and left and occasionally climb up or fall to the depths below (of course, the underwater segments will conveniently provide use of all directions). In addition to basic movement, the character can jump on top of objects or across chasms as well as interact with certain items via activating buttons, pressing switches, and dragging things. It is a simple design that gives the player everything they need to solve all puzzles and survive every encounter...though many times it will not be during the first attempt.
Much akin to Limbo, Inside falls into a style of game play categorized as â€œtrial and deathâ€. You will encounter a challenge, you will likely die, and you will learn how to survive on your next attempt. It is an excellent mannerism for a puzzle game in that it provides a challenge and some amount of brain activity to succeed but it never reaches a level of frustration or getting ultimately stuck at any given point.
Speaking of dying, the wide array of death scenes and possibilities in the game range from shocking to humorous to absolutely horrifying! Walking off a ledge and getting impaled on a spike is probably something you should have seen coming (I know that I grinned after falling into at least one of classic video game's favorite death traps); however, tripping over a broken limb, getting caught by a masked guard and watching the boy get held under water until he breathed his last was probably more along the lines of something that will hauntingly stay with me for the rest of my days. As mentioned earlier though, the deaths are merely learning utensils. I can almost guarantee that you will never make the same mistake twice and the checkpoints are quite generous so that you will never have to repeat more than you absolutely have to.
The puzzles themselves also never get repetitive. They always introduce an object that will need to be interacted with and then leave everything to the player to figure out how to use it and accomplish the goal. Although many of the same designs are used throughout, they add their own unique twist in getting things where they need to. Perhaps you once placed a box on a switch to open a door; well, the next time you might just have to utilize reanimated humanoids via a mind control helmet to not only place weight upon a switch but also to carry you over a treacherous chasm. As the game progresses, puzzles will even take on a healthy dose of physics prowess adding gravity, water, and other elements that will challenge what you are actually seeing on screen. You have all the tools at your disposal, how will you use them? Other puzzles may not give as much time for careful thought out planning, though: highly aggressive dogs and other creatures will chase you down (spoiler alert: they are always faster than you) and you will have to outwit them in order to gain the advantage and maneuver to safety.
In addition to the great playstyle, the atmosphere, ambiance and story of Inside is truly astounding unto itself. Small exquisite details can be found in every scene from dust particles glistening around old factory equipment to leaves billowing in the breeze to facility workers going about their jobs. A fully animated background and foreground envelop the player as they move throughout the game and don't think for a minute that you are safe from what lies within those boundaries. Even the detail of how the boy reacts and moves brings a certain lifelike quality: the slight stumble after running and jumping off of a ledge, heavy breathing after an intense sprint, struggling for air while underwater for too long and it all builds up to the white-knuckled/forget to breathe exhilaration that accompanies so much of the game. It is an overwhelming sense of foreboding and not knowing what lies through the next door and it often takes until that next area is reached to realize just how tight the game's hold had been on you.
The story is dark, confusing, horrifying and simply drenched in the unknown. All the while, not one single line of text, nor word spoken, will you find in this game (save for the end credits and opening Title). Much like their previous work, the story is left up to interpretation - and honestly, it is perfect that way. In the few short weeks it has been released, there are numerous theories abound on what Inside truly means - both in regards to the regular ending and the secret ending. It is a presentation of themes taking cues from a mix of dystopian science fiction and horror that will leave you with far too much to consider long after the credits have finished.
Come experience what lies inside. Are you afraid of what you might find?
Good. You should be.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.
Just a happy-go-lucky girl working in the gaming industry and spending nearly all her spare time writing, recording music, working on cosplay, watching anime and horror movies, and trying not to obsess over getting that 100% completion rating on every game she touches.
About the Author: Amy Hazel
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