In 2010, Playdead® released a masterpiece video game, Limbo. Keeping the ball rolling six years later as most, if not all fans of Limbo have been patiently waiting for, Playdead® has finally released its second game, Inside. And let me tell you, you will not be disappointed.
If you are a casual gamer, this is something that you cannot afford to miss. Much like its predecessor, Inside maintains the same simple control design, as well as a mesmerizing atmosphere that will make you step away from your computer periodically in awe. I will try not to spoil any of your game-play here, and I suggest you enter your first play-through blind so you do not spoil it for yourself either. It would be a shame to take anything away from your enjoyment of this epic - and dreamlike saga.
You will not hear a single word of dialogue throughout the entire five-hour campaign, but actions do speak louder than words. You play as a young, nameless boy with a red shirt. You do not know why you are placed in this horrific facility, where every person, creature, and machine are somehow connected to each other and want to stop you from breathing. You are not given a clear purpose, goal, or explanation; you must decide the plot for yourself. This personal investment in the story only immerses you in the world of Inside even further. There is no quest journal to keep you on track, only the urge to keep running and escape your possible terrible fate. The beauty of Inside is that nothing is explicitly stated verbally. You will encounter various environments, themes, and concepts that join together to form one (or many) mind-blowing realizations about what exactly Inside is trying to tell you; especially if you take the time to uncover the secret/alternate ending.
With only six buttons to choose from, it is very easy for anyone to pick up and play this $20 game. You can move up, down, left, or right, as well as jump or grab objects. This sounds basic, but unlike many modern games that rely solely on reflexes, this is one platformer that requires actual thought. You will encounter numerous, intuitive puzzles that will leave you stumped. Whether it be placing an object on a hidden switch to open a door, finding a way to reach a far-away ledge, clearing a path by reversing gravity, keeping your balance on a suspended plank, driving a submarine through a flooded science lab (filled with monstrosities), launching yourself into the air with a propane tank, or using a mind-control device to force open a gate with 10 zombies, Inside often leaves you scratching your head. However, the deep sense of satisfaction that you feel when you finally figure out how to proceed is well worth the effort. The game may be simple in layout, but it’s up to you to explore and solve some of the most gratifying mysteries in any two-dimensional game I’ve ever experienced.
Danger is ever present, and precise timing means life or death. You will die, and you will die often, but with short load times and frequent checkpoints, deaths serve as more of a lesson on how to proceed than a punishment. Hiding behind pillars while you wait for an opening between the scans of a security camera’s search light, scaling a fence just before a pack of wild, hungry dogs catch you by the leg, mimicking zombie-like, mind-controlled people on an assembly line, running through the forest from strange soldiers who are trying to mow you down with automatic gun fire, and avoiding being crushed by falling debris as the roof comes caving in above you, are just a few examples of the many menaces that will make your heart race. You must be smart enough to figure out how to open a door, jump across a bottomless pit, or swing from a rope at a moment’s notice. Despite everything trying to kill you, refreshingly, you do not kill a single thing in this game.
Haunting and terrifying, yet intriguing and shocking, what Inside says about humanity will either shake you to your core, or leave you with a deep sense of calm, depending on how you view the outcome. The developers have meticulously polished every detail, from the way dust glistens in a ray of sunlight amidst an otherwise dark and empty chasm, to the way your character slows down, keels over, and breathes heavily when you run for too long, or the eerie sounds that creep through your speakers and keep you on your toes when exploring an unknown room. The brilliant design incorporates realistic physics that make manipulating objects and traversing your surroundings a thrill. Beautifully detailed settings will make you stop to admire the background scenery, and possibly uncover a clue as to what the hell is going on. Most places you discover are dark and gritty, but the odd use of vibrant colour emphasizes importance and tone.
What I love about Inside is the suggestive nature of this open-ended quest. Using excellent, evocative story-progression techniques, Playdead® gives just enough hints to open a plethora of possible theories behind the story. When I beat the game, I couldn’t stop thinking about what it represents, deciphering every aspect for further understanding. It wasn’t until my second play-through, that I noticed many subtle details that I previously missed, all adding to my desperation to uncover the truth, and my respect for Playdead® for being able to have such a profound affect on me. I haven’t been this invested in a mystery since I saw Shutter Island.
If you think a five-hour-long game is too short to be worth your time or money, think again, because Playdead® knows exactly when to quit. There is little repetition; you will never encounter the same scenario twice, and you will not become bored because every challenge is so wisely unique. Even if Playdead® never releases another game, it will always be known as that quiet little company that made two of the most unexpected, thrilling, and thought-provoking indie games of all time.
William Cousins is a Professional Writing student at Algonquin College, living in Ottawa, Ontario. Writing is his passion. He believes in the power of the written word, and aspires to perfect his craft in order to create great works of art. From movies, to song lyrics, to video games, he is locked in a constant quest for the perfect story.