Inside review:  A beautiful, disturbing, hilarious, and worthy successor to Limbo

When you play Inside, a side-scrolling puzzle/platformer from Playdead, creators of Limbo, you will experience a range of emotions that aren’t designed to coexist.


Inside is a short game. During the four-or-so hours that I spent with it, I was forced to watch a nameless young boy wearing a red shirt die several times in a variety of gruesome ways. He was shot, ripped to pieces by ferocious dogs, forcibly drowned, fell to death and was electrocuted, among other things.

When you play Inside, a side-scrolling puzzle/platformer from Playdead, creators of Limbo, you will experience a range of emotions that aren’t designed to coexist. Prepare to be unexpectedly shocked, as well as awestruck by its amazing graphics and visual style; find yourself grinning at the cleverness of the game’s puzzle design, and derive satisfaction after using the old noodle to overcome its hardest challenges.

Inside is just one of those games—and while contrarian opinions of its brilliance are likely to exist, I can tell you that this is one of the best puzzle-platformers you’re likely to play this year.

It opens with a boy in a forest, with no tutorial or on-screen instructions on how to proceed. Inside expects you to have held a game controller before, and if you have, you’ve pretty much got this part covered. There are only two buttons which do anything, really: “jump” and “grab.” Traversing the game’s environment and solving every single puzzle is done only using these two actions. Of course, you’ll still have to use your keyboard/controller left-stick to move around.

As is critical for a game of this type, Inside sports remarkably responsive controls. It gets the feel of platforming right as well; the weight of characters and objects, physics, the interactions required to make the puzzles work, and the immediate feedback for button presses. The game isn’t mechanically demanding of the player, but its puzzles are timing dependent. Never did I feel like I was undone by the controls—in fact, you’re likely to forget that you’ve got a controller in your hands while playing Inside.

 Inside review:  A beautiful, disturbing, hilarious, and worthy successor to Limbo

What is immediately apparent is the remarkable game design. Using visual cues, the game is able to impart complete information to the player: which way to go, how objects interact with the environment and with each other, how enemies react to player actions, what your limitations are, and such. Very rarely will you find yourself lost, or not knowing what to do—even during the game’s more elaborate multi-level puzzles, the objective is never in question. Inside is never difficult—in fact, you could argue that it inherently lacks any kind of challenge. But it’s in the cleverness in terms of puzzle design that takes centre stage here.

It's hard not to notice the game’s breathtaking visual style either. Playdead have brought the bleak world of Inside to life, through lighting and depth of field. There’s not much in terms of colour, but it is definitely more colourful than the monochrome minimalism of Limbo. However, Inside does achieve more in terms of atmosphere than its predecessor. Inside’s side-scrolling universe puts you in a constant state of unease—be it with darkness, ominous backgrounds filled with mechanical abominations, dangers in the form of enemies or of the environmental variety, or simply via sheer emptiness.


headlights

The animation in Inside is quite remarkable as well. Be it the object physics, the wonderful motions of the boy as he runs, walks, jumps and interacts with objects, the floppy locomotion of lifeless meat-drones, or mermaid of death who really needs to get her hair done, everything and everyone in Inside moves with magical fluidity.

There are games that tell a story with its visuals alone. Inside is one such game. It’s straight out of an Orwellian nightmare, with everything turned up to eleven. From human farms to experimentation, Inside’s world is bleak, but also a triumph in visual storytelling. From its beginnings to its hilarious-yet-disturbing conclusion, Inside’s story is as interactive as the gameplay itself, allowing for discussions on hidden meanings, subtext and more. Its story is ambiguous, and its ending in particular is likely to divide opinion.

water

Inside’s brief length and linear design also means that you’re unlikely to replay it more than once. Personally, I would go back to Inside to discover its secrets and I’m sure some of you are likely to do the same. You might revisit it a year later, perhaps, and there’s not much incentive to go back to it immediately. But Inside is this precisely: a game which engages you while playing it, and leaves a lasting impression once you’re done with it.

The game is available for PC on Steam (Rs.565) and Xbox One at the Xbox Store (Rs.1,120).

RATING: 8.5/10

Pros

  • Puzzle design
  • Superb visual storytelling
  • Graphics and animation
  • Responsive controls

Cons

  • Brief length
  • Replay value could be an issue for some
  • Inherent lack of challenge

 


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