Inside Review

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Posted July 7, 2016 by Sean Capri in Video Games

Inside

Developer : Playdead

Publisher: Playdead

Release Date: June 29, 2016

Platforms:  Xbox One (reviewed)

 

Get out of my head!

There is no dialogue. No text.
There are no breaks. No cutscenes.
There are no faces. No characters.

There are only two dimensions and two button commands (jump and grab).

And it is in this world of oppressive restrictions that Playdead has built the most unique and squeamishly unsettling game of the year.

Inside Screen 1

Violated

Inside violated me. I cannot unsee this game. And I say this having played much more gruesome, more violent, more overtly offensive games. Inside got to me.

It’s been a couple days since I finished my first playthrough and as time passes, my recollections resemble a nightmare. In a dream, you can walk through a door and be in a completely different space but somehow it all makes sense. That happens here with Inside. From the unforgiving outdoors to the sterile laboratories, to the quintessential cornfields to the flooded basements, every environment is interconnected and even more deadly than the last.

There is no explanation for what exactly is going on and it’s best this way. All we know is that escape is the prime directive and getting caught results in uncompromising, non-negotiable death. Whatever is happening at this compound is top-secret, level-infinity classified, and the faceless henchmen’s unwavering commitment to your demise only perpetuates the mystery – making the whole thing all-the-more compelling.

Inside Screen 3

From the onset, there’s a real sense of danger and urgency to escape. This is a mainly a result of the unabashedly shocking death sequences. The main character generally feels tougher than Limbo‘s Silhouette Boy but if a mistake is made, there’s no going back and Inside‘s Red-Shirt-No-Face protagonist is going down. He has no personality and for all I know, is a terrible human being, but somehow Playdead makes me feel guilty for letting him die – each and every time. It was my job to keep him safe and now I can hear him gulping water into his lungs. Yikes!

Plus, I never really know who or what our Red-Shirted hero is up against. It’s all a mystery and that makes it all much more compelling. My imagination ran wild the entire time – to the point where I was beginning to see things that weren’t there.

Inside Screen 2

Just keep swimming.

The controls are intuitive enough to never require a prompt or tutorial. Grabbing items, pushing boxes, or yanking levers is performed precisely how one might expect. This ostensibly limited control scheme elevates the puzzle solving to a new level because I was never fighting the controls. Had I been, I may have missed a particular solution and gone off-track looking for an alternate approach. Even as new mechanics are introduced and the protagonist discovers new ways to interact with the environment, the fundamental move-and-grab rules always apply.

Many of the puzzles rely on real-world, tactile thinking. What would happen if I pushed this safe off a shaky cliff? Oh it’s tied to the cliff – crap – too late to escape – dead. How can I escape this feral dog if he always closes the gap and leaps for my jugular? Those are some of the most intense moments and for my money, it’s Inside at it’s best. Red-Shirt-No-Face can only run so fast and if he gets spotted by a baddie, he’s probably going down. That is, unless, you can muster a miraculous, skin-of-your-teeth, clenching the controller and your molars escape. Leaping off a cliff juuuust before becoming dog meat evoked audible sighs. Playdead masterfully created these sequences for maximum tension and they never get old.

With little to complain about the game itself, the Achievements are the only true disappointment. There are no points for beating the game, no speed-runs, or anything of that sort. Find all the secrets to 100% Inside. Without a guide, most will find this virtually impossible so the challenge is undeniable. Still, for all the creativity on display here, I would’ve preferred a little variety on this front.

Final Verdict

Xbox One adds another masterful 2D indie gem to its line-up with Inside. This is mandatory gaming for all with access to it.

Playdead is now two-for-two with it’s tremendous follow-up to Limbo. The cinematography, despite being limited to a side-scrolling perspective, frames the entire experience beautifully and memorably. Adding just a few colors to the monochromatic style of Limbo, combined with now-gen resolutions and fluidity makes for a hauntingly beautiful spiritual successor.  The puzzles are challenging, rewarding to solve, and are never obtuse.

So now we’re done – why aren’t you playing Inside yet?

 


About the Author

Sean Capri

I am a beady-eyed Canadian. I play video games and feed/walk my three dogs.