Another Dark Masterpiece by Playdead Studios
Playdead Studios struck gold with their hit game Limbo. Their newest title, Inside, expands on most of the things that made Limbo the special game that it is. Like Limbo, the Inside gaming experience is contingent on going in semi-blind. Therefore, this review will be intentionally vague and will avoid spoilers, touching on the general strong and weak points.
A true feat of genius is being able to tell a story without having any dialogue present in said story. Inside, again like its Limbo, ditches dialogue as the mechanism to grow the narrative. The game instead uses environmental changes, puzzles, and the brutality of death to create an atmospheric space and to create the world that is Inside.
However, the ambiguity caused by no dialogue creates a divisive situation. The bulk of the actual story of Inside is formed by what the player perceives to be the purpose and conflict. While some people enjoy this interpretative style of narrative development, others prefer a clear cut story. But I enjoy the fact that when the credits roll I can have a completely different idea of the ending than others who played the same game.
Inside succeeds, most objectively, is with the overall aesthetic of the game. While movement options are limited to running and jumping, even the movement in this game looks amazing. Bland colors are used to convey the overall grim tone of the game. Gruesome death animations serve as a purpose to convey the horrendous situation that the protagonist is in. Inside has some of the best shading that I have seen in modern games.
Unique story development and revelatory moments are enhanced by the game’s puzzles. While not particularly difficult, the variance in the puzzles made me smile almost every time. You may find yourself needing to simply stack boxes to get out of a room in a timely fashion. While others will have you utilizing other “aspects” (let’s leave it at that) in order to access different components of a machine. Some of the later puzzles are so enjoyable that I often found myself wanting to replay them almost immediately.
Oddly enough the game’s weak points come in the form of its pacing and overall length. The game is rather short. I finished my first playthrough around the 2-hour mark. The game would have definitely benefited from being a lot longer which brings up the pacing issue. A particularly profound and amazing moment happens in the game that fundamentally and dramatically shifts the way you play the game. This revelational moment showcases a new method of playing that is, personally, way more interesting than the majority of the game. However, due to the game’s odd pacing, the game just ends abruptly. While I am not upset at the ending itself, the clumsy transition into and out of the most fun aspect of that game taints an otherwise almost perfect experience.