Inside, developed by Playdead, is a puzzle platformer game that from the very beginning has you hooked by its odd style, and its overall concept; one which has you intrigued to keep playing, exploring and finding out just what exactly is going on in this odd world. Long after I finished this game, I was left pondering the questions and the images that it through at me. This is one of those games that in no way holds your hand, and very much leaves it up to you to uncover all of its unsettling little mysteries. Let’s side-scroll our way into this review and see just what hell this game is.
I usually give a quick wee rundown of the plot before getting into the meat and potatoes of the review, but with ‘Inside’, it would not only be really hard to summarise, but it would also (I think) give away too much of the magic that is this game. Seriously, even one reference to a plot point could ruin a really impactful moment in the game. So what I’ll say is that it is impossible to not be pulled in by what the game presents to you; while it is obtuse, and doesn’t offer the answers up in an expository scene, it definitely has you desperate to keep going, and to find out more.
So with this being a videogame, I should of course talk about the gameplay first, but I want to push that back a little bit, and first talk about the presentation of the game – now that’s not to say that the gameplay is in any way bud, because it isn’t, far from it in fact – I just personally have to jump in and praise the aspect of the game that had me totally entranced at all times.
This game is filled with imagery that is unsettling, that is spooky, that had me running through all the questions that it through up. So much of the game – outside of just participating in the gameplay – is an involving experience. Coming across farm land that is abandoned and all the animals are dead, while also fleeing(?) is something that undoubtedly throws up questions. There is the tandem experience of moving the character along and completing the necessary puzzles, while also wanting to stop and see if there are any clues that may further your understanding of the world that you’re in.
‘Inside’, continually threw up new and even more haunting locations for me to traverse. With every new room came more unease, more fascination with the story behind it all, and just an overall sense of intrigue. While I was disturbed by some of the creepy things I was seeing – or even participating in – I still didn’t ever want to stop. I think in total, it took me around three and a half hours to complete the game – you can maybe complete the game quicker than that, I just kept stopping and exploring/gazing at the many elements in the game. I would say that the games price – £15.99 – is a little steep for the length of the game, and that includes if you decide to play it again, but I’m sure this game will show up in sales at some point; which is something to consider if you also agree that the price is a little too high right now.
But back to the game, and primarily the gameplay; developer Playdead previously delivered the fantastic game ‘Limbo’, and since its release have spent 6 years working on ‘Inside’, and it shows. The game is finely-tuned and I think nearly everything in the game shows that. If you played ‘Limbo’ then you’ll have a pretty good handle on how this game plays. Puzzles and platforming are how you traverse the world, and a lot of the time I feel that a game with a great concept or story etc. can be lost in gameplay that is sloppy and frustrating to play; ‘Inside’ is not one of those games. It not only has the great concept, but it also has gameplay that works perfectly with the rest of the game. Almost like everything is working to service all the other aspects of the game. What you get is something (like I said) that feels expertly finely-tuned.
Unlike ‘Limbo’ (which was a game that I enjoyed, but had some issues with how it felt) I never once felt frustrated or cheated my any of platforming, and all of the puzzles were really satisfying to tackle and of course complete. Even the moments in the game where some tricky time-based platforming occurred, it still felt approachable and sufficiently challenging. For me, there’s nothing worse than a puzzle/platforming section that feels like a ridiculously unfair segment, just because the developer wants to leave the gamer trying to crush the controller in their hand, it feels like it ruins the flow and enjoyment of the game. That’s not to say the game is easy, as there are certainly quite a few times where I had to step back, be patient, and put my thinking cap on. The game is a nice balance of challenge and enjoyment.
Another aspect to the gameplay that I really enjoyed was the trial and error aspect to the more deadly of puzzles. The game would bait me into something that seemed reasonably approachable, and then pull the rug out from under me and punish me (deservedly so) for thinking it could ever possibly be that easy. It almost felt like a mind game; the game was the cat and I was the mouse, it would dangle a deliciously attainable piece of cheese in front of me and sometimes I couldn’t help but reach for it. That back and forth, that learning from previous mistakes – which had disastrously gruesome outcomes – became a really enjoyable gaming experience. Also when I didn’t fall for the trap and instead made my way through the treacherous obstacles was a deeply satisfying feeling.
I must also thank the developers for load times that were super quick and checkpoints that were fairly spaced out. I never once had to sit in an obnoxiously long loading screen after a death and twiddle my thumbs, and I also never once felt that the checkpoints were tediously spaced out. I was always able to quickly jump back in and start playing close to where I died. That constant momentum is something that massively helps the games pace, and my want to never stop playing.
‘Inside’ is one of those little gems that appears every so often on the online store – the game is currently available on Xbox One and PC – and just completely surprises you with just how brilliant it is. I was enraptured by the world and the ever escalating plot of the game. I was constantly challenged and satisfied with the tight, enjoyable gameplay, and I was never once, not fully focused on the game and what it was offering. It sounds beautiful – in an eerie sort of way – and it looks beautiful; the way colour forces its way into the bleak world that you explore is something that always catches the eye. But the thing that I keep coming back to with this game is the questions that it offers up. I am still pondering a lot from this game and it all makes me want to jump back in and play the game for a third time. Now that’s a game that has left its mark.
I without a doubt am recommending ‘Inside’. This game, while perhaps a little too expensive for some right now, is one you absolutely must play and experience!
I’d love to know any thoughts or opinions you have on ‘Inside’ or this review. Please feel free to leave them in the comments down below. If you’d like to keep up-to-date on my other ramblings, you could either follow this blog directly or follow me over on Twitter – @GavinsTurtle. Thank you for reading this review, I really do appreciate.