Inside is a game that peaked mine and a lot of other people’s interest right away with it’s very short and and ominous trailer at Xbox’s E3 2016 presentation. We didn’t get to see any gameplay at the time, but hearing that the team over at Playdead, famous for creating the brilliant platformer Limbo back in 2010, confidence was built that Inside would deliver. Thankfully the artisans of the video game medium over at Playdead have graced us with another beautiful gaming experience that I’m sure will be talked about just as much, if not more than their debut title.
One of the most prevalent points of Limbo was the game’s adherence to a beautiful and unique art style, mimicking the visual aesthetic of a 35mm camera. Inside sticks to a similar formula, although switching their art style to a low-poly, 2.5D style, making great use of lighting and minimalist design to create a new and unique feeling visually. The game sticks to a dark and dismal palette, and when combined with the environmental and character design and untold layered narrative, it creates a very dystopian and ominous setting without having to be so direct with the player in regards to story.
The strongest point of Inside is definitely it’s atmosphere and tone. Through the hazy and dark art style and masterful use of sound design it’s impossible not to immerse yourself in the world Playdead has created here. The game utilizes silence as a tool for tension as well as immersion. Inside doesn’t contain any horror elements, but many sections can give the player a very real sense off tension and unease. You feel the overwhelming loneliness while you’re exploring the belly of the factory, you feel your chest tighten as enemies scope around looking for you. It creates an incredible connection with the player, and we see our avatar not as simply a 3D model, but as ourselves. This is extended with the expressive nature of our nameless protagonist. Though the game contains no dialogue, the character’s emotions are clearly displayed by the avatars body language. We see their fear, we see their unease. This deep connection between ourselves and the game is what makes games so incredible as an art form in the first place.
The gameplay for Inside is nearly identical to Limbo, but this is really a case of “don’t fix what isn’t broken”, as the simple gameplay style works perfectly well for Inside. It leads the challenge of the game to come from the level design and the player’s ability to solve puzzles, rather than the player mastering a complicated control scheme. The game brings about a lot of unique and interesting mechanics for puzzle solving, and uses them for just the right amount so that they don’t seems stale or uninteresting. Inside gives you the feeling we all crave from a puzzle game, and delivers on that “A-HA!” moment when we make our way to the next area.
The game doesn't stretch on for terribly long, I believe my first play through took me somewhere between 6 to 8 hours, but every second of your journey feels substantial. The pacing of your adventure feels just about perfect, each of the game’s environments sticking around long enough to make an impression on you and get immersed in, but not so long that it feels dragged on.
Inside was an immersive and brilliant experience to play through, there’s so much more I’d like to say about the game, but it’s one of those titles that no explanation could really do justice to. It’s a game that needs to be experienced to be understood. To hear a review or watch a let’s play of Inside is doing a terrible injustice to anyone who has a passion for the interactive medium. Inside is another wonderful example of the video game’s utility as an artistic medium, and certainly should not be overlooked.