I’m at a point in my life where it’s difficult to find a game that will get its hooks in me. I can’t seem to get into overly complex 100+ hour epic adventures. If it’s not a simple formula with match-based gameplay that’s easy to drop in and out, I seem to need short unique experiences. When I saw the trailer for this game, it caught me off guard. Playdead, developers of one of last generations best short unique experiences, LIMBO, was working on a new game that had flew under the radar for me. They created a follow-up to one of the most intriguing, thought provoking games of the past 8 years. And while I don’t have an Xbox ONE, the decision to throw $20 at Steam for another such experience was no difficult decision.
INSIDE becomes one of those games that would give a 90’s kid nostalgic feelings. There’s no narration, spoken word, or text dialog. Old school Nintendo games would force you to use your observation and imagination to figure out what was going on. The game loads and drops you in with only one thing to do, move forward. Even the menu is overly simple. As you progress, the environments and activity that occurs begin to tell you a story. The story is vague, but also so carefully done creates a sense of intrigue that I haven’t experiences since Journey. For me personally, I love stories that keep mystique by giving only a small perspective into what is obviously great events. Comparisons that come to mind are The Mist, Jericho, Cloverfield, and Half Life.
There’s not a lot I can tell you about the game mechanics. On the surface, this is a puzzle-platformer; you run, jump, and interact with objects like crates and door latches to complete puzzles to advance through the game. People who have played LIMBO will find this very similar but with easier difficulty. I don’t know if that was by design or because of better design but I remember getting stuck in LIMBO (no pun intended) frequently in the final 3rd of the game either because the puzzle was difficult or once the solution was found it was just difficult to execute the platforming. I never felt this way with INSIDE, which created a real urgency for me to press on and see more. LIMBO was as beautiful of a game as you can create with a blackand white color palate. INSIDE adds to the color palate as well as dimension. This gives a more opportunity for scenes to create tension as well as adds a sense of scale that helps create mystery.
This review is short. There’s tons that I want to talk about. But more important than you finding out from me, is that you experience it for yourself. Play. This. Game. There’s not much excuse not to, it’s a compact, simple, fun, mysterious journey. Borrow an Xbox or get it on Steam. The controls are so simple you could play the entire thing on a keyboard. Such a powerful 3.5 hour experience, this game will have you thinking about it when you’re done. Not in the way you started seeing skateboarding lines because of Tony Hawk or started grabbing bobby pins because of Fallout or started running to work with a knife because it got you there quicker due to Counter-Strike. INSIDE will leave you wondering, “What the hell just happened?”