“INSIDE” opens with the silent protagonist, a nameless young boy, running through the woods pursued by a group of mysterious men. The chase leads the playercharacter to a small barn and eventually an enormous factory/research lab. Similarly to many other aspects of the game’s story, the function of this facility is ambiguous.
This is the second game from Playdead. In many ways, it is a spiritual successor to the studio’s first effort, 2010’s universally acclaimed, “LIMBO.”
With “LIMBO,” the Playdead team proved that they’re masters of ambient storytelling. Much like its predecessor, “INSIDE” manages to tell an extremely deep, rewarding and socially conscious story with absolutely no dialogue that reaches a climax that’s part “Portal,” and part “Akira.”
Boiled down to its most basic elements, “INSIDE” is an atmospheric puzzle platformer. Its gameplay is strikingly similar to that of “LIMBO.” Yes, the argument could be made that Playdead is a one-trick pony. But, the puzzles in this game are some of the most satisfying to work out in the entire genre. Playdead could keep making the same type of game over and over again with a different story and tweaked puzzle mechanics and players would still be happy.
As the story progresses and the boy delves deeper into the facility, the game’s mechanics evolve as well, letting it stand out from “LIMBO.” Although the game was short, “LIMBO’s” puzzle and platforming mechanics got stale fairly quickly. With “INSIDE,” the player will face under-water challenges, encounter other characters and discover one or two vehicles along the way that drastically alter the gameplay. At its best, “INSIDE” plays like a combination of “LIMBO” and the original “Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee.” By far the most drastic and interesting shift in both gameplay and story occurs in the game’s final act, but going into any more detail would ruin the game’s utterly fantastic narrative.
The game’s art style is where is stands out the most from “LIMBO.” While both games restrict movement to a 2D plane, “LIMBO” presented itself with 2D graphics, whereas “INSIDE” is beautifully rendered in 3D.
All characters the player will run into along their journey are faceless, including the protagonist. This adds another layer of mystique to the story. The game’s color palette contains muted and subdued tones, an aesthetic choice that perfectly reflects the dreariness of the locations and situations into which the player is forced. For the most part, the only source of color in the entire game is the boy’s red shirt, the one source of hope in “INSIDE’s” narrative.
The game runs on the Unity engine, which allows for some breathtaking lighting effects in both indoor and outdoor locales. Thanks to the versatility of Unity, “INSIDE” contains some of the smoothest animations in modern video games. The way the turning, running and jumping animations blend into one another is strikingly natural and the game’s climax displays some of the most dynamic, technically impressive character animation in contemporary gaming.
The sound design and ambient soundtrack does a fantastic job at making the game’s most beautiful and most disturbing moments truly memorable.
The entirety of the game runs at a smooth 60 frames per second on both the PS4 and Xbox One.
The biggest thing that the average consumer may have an issue with is the game’s price. “INSIDE” is currently available on PS4, Xbox One and PC for $19.99. However, this price doesn’t seem high until it’s taken into account that the game takes 3 to 4 hours to complete. For those looking for a thought provoking story and creatively designed puzzles, “INSIDE” is well worth the money. But anyone looking for more of a time sink may want to look elsewhere.