Playdead achieved cult status when they released their first title, Limbo six years ago and since that release, many have wondered just how their follow up game would go.
From the game’s first moments of a young boy climbing down some rocks, unto the very end, it maintains a pace that builds slowly over time. There are times when things can get chaotic, but they never really feel forced, giving you plenty of time to adjust to them. While there are times when you can spot, take a breath as it were, you are never really safe, because you never know just what is happening.
In fact, there is not a single tutorial, direction or even button press prompt to be found in the game and while it does keep you connected to the world, I can’t recall the last time I had to actually find the control layout to see what did what. Added to that, there are no written words to be found, no hidden diaries to explain what is happening, where you are or even who you are, the playable character is as nameless as he is faceless, but to make thing easier, I shall call him Brutus. As far as movement goes, Brutus is very nimble, he is able to get up to a decent movement speed without a long run up, he can pull himself up ropes without a fuss and even drag around large, heavy containers without too much effort. Even stranger is his ability to fall from, pretty decent sized heights and walk it off without a care in the world, though there are times when it will kill him, if the games needs you to die there.
The bulk of the game is puzzles, discovering a room, with a door or vent somewhere that you need to get through, then working out how to get there. Sometimes it can be pretty simple, drag a create over to climb up, but then there are puzzles which take a good amount of thinking to solve. Playing through, I got vibes at times of Oddworld, as you can control some drones to do your bidding while, you remain safe. There is a long section where you have to swim about and while it is hauntingly peaceful at times, there are a few times when the atmosphere becomes very tense. That seems to be the common thing with the game, there is an ebb and flow with environments, there are times when you can be completely alone, with very minimal noise, to times when there are constant sounds and the game feels tense. Perhaps the common thing with this ebb and flow is that the world does not really allow for much exploration, there are some hidden rooms you can find, which will grant you an achievement, but outside of that, you are following a clearly defined path.
What Inside does do well, is provide you with a world to explore, but at the same time, it provides no information about that world, there is nothing to state that Brutus is good or bad, that the people you are on the run from are the same. What you take from the story is based on your own perceptions of things you see, are the people you see behind the glass just people at work, or are they survivors of some kind of infection or are they evil people intent on bringing the world to its knees. The context that you apply shapes your experience, for me it was a boy who believed he was fleeing something that was out to hurt him and he just wanted to escape. This was really freeing, as a gamer we tend to be given our reason for doing something, sometimes I wish I could make a decision differently, but here, while I can’t change the outcome of the story, there is nothing at all from stopping me from adjusting my perception of the events.
Inside also happens to have a striking silhouette, with a simple basic range of colours, that still manages to look stunning, but at the same time keeping things simple. The effects that the game applies, only when needed are also done in a very simple way, with perhaps lighting being the biggest element. Sound wise, it comes from two angles, first is that apart from an assorted group of grunts and groans, there is no vocal performance to be found and secondly, is again pointed at the atmosphere, which the sounds and sometimes lack thereof, really help keep you connected to the world.
Inside is perhaps the single best modern example of games as art, it never forces you to accept its way of thinking, everything you see and do is all on you to understand. While the ending does not really feel like an ending, you would be hard pressed to find a game worthier of your time.