Developer: Playdead | Publisher: Playdead | Available On: XBox One, PC (reviewed) | Release Date: June 29, 2016 (XBox One); July 7, 2016 (PC)
I never played Limbo beyond getting stabbed by a spider and saying screw it. There may have been a bear trap in there, too, but either way, I never made it far. However, I’ve grown as a gamer since those long-gone days, and with that time, I’ve grown to appreciate the artsy-er, indie-er side of gaming. As such, when people started talking about Inside, my interest was piqued, but I still had no intentions of picking it up immediately. Then people kept talking about it, and I realized that if I didn’t want this game spoiled, I should really play it soon. In that spirit, I’m going to do my darnedest to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible. However, if you fear to tread the waters in case of lurking spoilers, before I even begin, let me say that I highly, highly recommend you play Inside.
Gameplay & Visuals
This game is freaking gorgeous. The muted colors and stylized character designs are breath-taking, while the set design gives the feeling of the world being so much bigger than the linear, 2D path you’re walking. The graphics never had a single hiccup, either. I by no means have a proper gaming PC, but even still, the game looked and played absolutely perfectly.
Like Limbo, Inside begins by just throwing you in with no explanation or tutorial. There is no HUD or anything else to distract from just focusing on the beautiful art. The only controls you use are the directional keys and a grab button, and the game plays like an absolute dream.
Gameplay is super engaging and fun. The platforming and puzzles both manage to be just challenging enough to not be boring, while still managing to be simple and intuitive enough that I never spent a maddening amount of time stuck on one thing.
The platforming aspect feels perfectly balanced. There was never a point of it feeling like jumps and movements were anything but fluid and sensical. I never felt robbed of a single leap or bound. If I ever missed a ledge, that was always quite obviously entirely on me.
The puzzles aren’t overly hard, but they still remain incredibly fun! I don’t believe I ever once felt like a puzzle was too obvious or too hard. To channel my inner Goldilocks, the puzzles definitely belong to Baby Bear because they were juuuuuuuuuust right! They also never fell prey to the repetition that many puzzle games often do. Certain things, of course, built upon each other, but I don’t feel like any one puzzle was glaringly like the other. Some of the best moments even only happened once. Inside definitely knows how to engage the player and keep them there.
It’s also worth mentioning that there are hidden “collectibles” throughout the game that lead to trophies, and even a different ending if you find them all.
If I had to have one complaint, it’s that checkpoints are incredibly not obvious. There are no distinctions between levels and no auto-save icon. The only way to tell where a check point was was to simply die and get sent back there. Granted, there are plenty. Basically, before every moment you could die, it seems to checkpoint, but when I was trying to find a stopping point so that I could close the game, it was just the slightest bit scary to turn it off.
Story, Characters, & Atmosphere
The very basic idea of Inside, for those who have absolutely no clue, is that of a young boy seemingly running for his life through the most curious of landscapes.
There is no dialogue in the game, nor is there any obvious story. Any idea of what is going on can only be intuited by the player through play. There are, of course, plenty of theories on just what the games means, but in the interest of remaining spoiler-free, I won’t be going into those today. What I will say is that the game does a wonderful job of enrapturing you in itself. From one moment to the next, there is never a time that didn’t leave me intrigued and wanting to know more.
Inside is an amazing game. I had no clue what to expect when I started, and if ‘m honest, I’m still not 100% sure what exactly it is I witnessed. What I do know is that I had a blast playing it and cannot recommend it enough. I even think I’ll go back and play Limbo! And I’ll definitely be revisiting Inside.