It’s been a long 6 years since Playdead graced our Xbox’s worldwide with their first hit Limbo, and in that time the world has changed an insane amount. Looking back, it was always going to be a huge success: indie releases on Xbox were still relatively rare, meaning any that did manage to hit the platform were an instant overnight success. That’s not to detract from the game in anyway; it was still a great platformer, but I can’t help but feel it’s success was guaranteed regardless of it’s quality. So what has Playdead been up to these last 6 years, and does Inside manage to fee like 6 years worth of quality? Lets find out.
Just like Limbo before it, you start off as a small child wondering through the woods. The immediate difference is the visual style of the game: what was once a plain black 2D art style is now a fully 3D environment with 2.5D platforming. There’s not a great amount of detail in each object you can see (most objects are polygonal to a degree, with no textures so to speak on them), but the amount of variety and attention to detail in the environments is insane. So many trees make the woods feel genuinely cramped, and even the fields in the farm and underwater sections feel chilling to explore.
Inside gives you no prompts, and no instructions: you’re to learn this game yourself, ensuring you are properly paying attention to the world and it’s intricacies in order to fully appreciate it. Running from left to right, you make your way through this weird and wonderful world, one which is believable in it’s own right, but also weird in that it never explicitly spells anything out for you.
In regards to the narrative, there’s no dialogue, no writing on screen, no nothing. Everything about the world and what happens within it is so abstract that you are meant to infer your own meaning on it. The internet is already becoming a hive mind trying to unravel what the story of the world truly is, but in doing so they’re missing what’s so charming about the game: it’s ability to make the player come up with their own idea of the world is what set it apart from other games trying to tell a story. Inside really is telling a huge story, but one that it doesn’t mind you making up as you go along.
So if everything’s fairly simple, and there’s no narrative, what is there to do in Inside? A lot it seems, with the sheer amount of variety being absolutely shocking in a world where assets are reused time and time again. There isn’t a moment where you need to backtrack, and everything in the world feels unique and organic, so much so that the world feels like a real, tangible place. Combine that with what I said in the last paragraph, and you’ll find yourself guessing about everything you see, wondering what purpose an item has, and even what the people do. This level of detail cannot be over-stated, it’s immensely gratifying.
Puzzles are few and far between, and the ones you do come across are actually relatively easy. Unlike Limbo, you rarely die throughout Inside’s world, and for the most part you’re merely taking the world in. Whilst I won’t spoil anything about the end game, your ability to move boxes in weird and wonderful ways towards the end is certainly entertaining, and had me gasping at the attention to detail Playdead Studios have pushed throughout.
One puzzle mechanic that should be pointed out which intrigued and was actually quite original was your ability to control “drones” across the land using helmet gear. Drones are weird creatures throughout the land that are human, but have no sentience; instead they’re controlled to do menial tasks otherwise they’ll just sit around and do nothing. Donning a helmet allows you to control one drones across the land, which can make for some extremely intuitive puzzles during your time with Inside.
With all that said, there’s not much more I can say about Inside without spoiling any of the story and surprises. Inside was an enjoyable experience, but I don’t think I agree with many reviewers in the world that has said it’s perfection. A more polished Limbo, yes, but a perfect game? No way. The ending didn’t leave me feeling anything, and if anything, just made me exclaim “cool” aloud. Whilst I enjoyed Inside, I’ve had better 2.5D experiences since Limbo was released all those years ago, meaning Inside just left me feeling hollow, as a lot of what it does has now been improved upon and even bettered. By all means give the game a go; it’s great, and an enjoyable experience from start to finish, just don’t expect to be blown away.