The silent, emotional journey of a fugitive boy on the run, Inside tugs at the heartstrings — gliding between excitement, fear and wonder with every step.
We had high hopes when Limbo creators Playdead announced their next title, and Inside doesn’t disappoint — it vastly surpasses its predecessor in every way. As much a work of art as a game, Inside follows a desperate young boy on the run from his captors in a desolate, crumbling society.
An unusual and terrifying world
The first thing you’ll notice in the game is that the screen is free of all distractions. No HUD, no dialog and no cheery arrows pointing the way; it’s just you and the dystopian world surrounding you. Without a surrounding interface to remind you that it’s just a game, Inside really sucks you into the experience.
The animation of Inside is truly incredible. The boy smoothly transitions from walking to crouching, looking around cautiously as he hears potential danger nearby. The silky smooth animation will feel familiar to those who’ve played older games with rotoscoped animation such as Flashback or the original Prince of Persia titles, and it’s gorgeous to behold.
The world around you is bleak and malevolent. You’ll trek through deserted factories long abandoned and falling to ruin, dark forests, decaying city rooftops and haunting sewers; and the characters you’ll meet — including the very child you play as — are all faceless, almost as devoid of life as the world around them.
While the areas you’ll travel are eerily empty, you’ll encounter a number of people along your journey, many of which aren’t too friendly. From the outset soldiers and their hounds will be looking for you, and you’ll have to outsmart them to survive and escape. Later on, you’ll encounter other, more unusual and terrifying creatures which require more complex tactics to survive and escape from.
Death by design
Death visits often in Inside, but it’s never frustrating. Unlike most games, you won’t generally die from failing to perform complex sequences of platforming moves or rapid reactions; instead, death usually happens as part of a learning process, and you’ll soon learn new tricks to get by new obstacles.
In the screenshot above, you meet a dangerous aquatic creature repelled by your light, and progress seems easy until your first instinct in moving forward disables your light and gets you killed. As with most of Inside, you’ll have to work your brain and figure out a more inventive solution to move on.
Inside is one long, seamless world full of puzzles and obstacles blocking your path. Your creativity and logic will be tested, but Inside doesn’t fall into the trap of building puzzles that have obscure, irrational solutions. Everything in the world makes sense, and it’s a fantastic and very satisfying feeling whenever you figure out how to get past the section you’ve just spent the past thirty minutes stuck on.
One of the key mechanics of Inside is introduced early on with what are perhaps best described as magical lamps — by leaping up to and putting his head into a lamp, the boy can take control of the bodies of nearby mindless people. By moving and manipulating others around you, you’ll have access to different areas which the boy cannot reach; pulling a distant lever to open a door, for instance.
Inside has been the first game in a very, very long time to invoke feelings of awe and wonder in me; it’s quite the emotional rollercoaster. Some areas will make you go “wow,” while others will instill a sense of dread and a desire to get the hell out as fast as possible. Inside does an amazing job at feeding you crumbs of lore, letting your mind put together pieces and figuring out just what is truly going on, and does this purely through environment and puzzles.
Panic and relief, sadness and empathy — Inside is an incredible, profound journey that captivates and astounds. Give yourself five minutes with this game, and prepare to lose the rest of the day. Truly a classic must-have.