Inside is a puzzle platformer adventure game released for the Xbox One on June 29, 2016, for PC on July 7, 2016 and for PS4 August 23, 2016. It was developed and published by @. For more info check out Inside‘s site. Screenshots taken by myself.
I want to preface my review by stating that I went into Inside with no knowledge about the content of the story, the gameplay or anything. My experience was infinitely better because of it. So while it may seem counterproductive to start a review by saying don’t read my review I’ll instead say read my review after you’ve beaten the game. It won’t take you long, it only took me a little over three hours. But an experience as truly unique and wonderful as Inside needs to be enjoyed fresh. So bookmark this review, go get Inside and play it. You’ll thank me.
If you’re still reading then you want to know about this incredibly unique, thoughtful and fascinating game that is Inside. You play as a nameless, faceless boy whose goal isn’t immediately clear. Players who have experienced Playdead’s first title, Limbo, will already be familiar with the controls and style of puzzles. The boy moves on a single horizontal plane but travels up and down solving puzzles with items in the environment and the power of physics. However Inside is so much more than its gameplay, but we’ll get to that.
It cannot be overstated how incredible the moment to moment gameplay is in Inside. Every puzzle felt perfect for the world and the area the boy is in. Through the mind control helmet that moves the zombie-like humans to the anti-gravity water through which the boy swims every set piece fits the puzzles in it. There were puzzles that took a mechanism I felt I’d seen everything for like moving a box or using a mind control helmet and took it in a whole new direction. There were countless moments during my brief playthrough where I figured out in my head what I thought I needed to do in the game but didn’t believe that it would actually work- and then it did. For example, there’s a puzzle where you control the water level in a room but instead of the water rising from the floor it lowers down from the ceiling. It finally occurred to me that if I just jumped up into the water I could swim to the other side. That’s just one example of the simple yet immensely rewarding puzzle structure that proliferates Inside.
But gameplay aside, Inside is all about atmosphere. The world of Inside is a bleak one. There is no dialogue, no written words and barely any human noises at all. The majority of the world building and storytelling is done through the environment, the subtle character movements and gestures and the hints of music and accentuate poignant moments. The boy journeys through slaughter house farms, deep underwater nightmares, mysterious laboratories and massive, echoing caverns. Every level has its own feel, it’s own story. The way the boy moves and reacts to each level made me feel things I don’t normally get from games. Fear, anxiousness, sadness and even joy. There’s something powerful about the way Inside delivers its narrative.
Technically Inside is an equally impressive feat. There is not a single cut or loading screen from beginning to end. The entire game is played in one continuous session. This only serves to add to the impact of the story and the immersion of the world. I was never taken out of the experience like I usually am in a game with a long load screen or sudden switch in perspective. The smoothness with which Playdead delivers this game is equally impressive. Inside runs less like a game and more like a 3 hour animated film. It’s the quality of visuals I am used to seeing in the form of a short film before a Pixar movie instead of on my Xbox, albeit much darker and more gruesome. Playdead somehow manages to deliver one of the most distinct and gorgeous visuals I have seen in any game in a long time.
As I mentioned before Inside conveys most of it’s narrative in very subtle ways. From the slight way in which a character moves their hand that is different than all the times before or the hidden rooms which appear to connect a massive conspiracy. You can miss a great deal if you’re not paying attention or don’t fully explore the environments. This structure is especially rewarding for players who want games that respect their intelligence. Inside will not hold your hand. In fact, it will lead you down the wrong path that results in your death several times to teach you to think more about what you’re doing instead of falling into the typical walk down the corridor mindset so many games put you in.
Inside demands nothing less than the player’s full attention and in turn delivers an experience that is unlike any other in games today. It’s undoubtedly my game of 2016 so far and is an experience I will remember for years to come.