INSIDE, Does it match up to its younger brother Limbo?
Danish indie dev studio Playdead, creators behind the critically acclaimed game known as Limbo, have released their second game which goes by the name ‘Inside’. Inside has more similarities than just the one-word name as Limbo has, but the question comes to mind: if Inside can manage to hold up to the big expectations fans and gamers have from the first one? If you want the short answer, then I will not only say yes, but I will also claim that it goes well above the set expectations.
The first thing you will notice when you start up and play Inside is the world and art style it presents itself with. If I would describe the art of Inside with one word, I would use the word simplistic; however, while I use the word simplistic, it should not be associated with a negative element as it manages to express the game even more than what a Crysis looking game would have conveyed. The background, and majority of elements in the game, often have a gray look to them and in combinations with broken buildings and factories, it truly makes the game give off the feel as the world itself is broken and in tatters. The limited amount of colors in the game makes colors themselves have a deeper impact on the player as he explores the world and the red shirt on the voiceless protagonist in a silent world make it easier to connect to the wandering boy. Additionally, it adds to the feeling that you want to help the boy through the grey world. The other uses of bright colors also have a bigger meaning and something as simple as coming across yellow baby chickens manages to fill the player with a bit of hope as a contrast. So, while the art style can be called simplistic, it would not be fair to the game to only use one word to describe what the art itself manages to convey.
It is not only the art style that manages to make an impact on the player, the use of audio also sets the atmosphere it strives to give off. Just as the art style, the audio in the game is used sparingly and the majority of the time you will simply hear what is going on in the world. If are running through an area, you will hear your footsteps hitting the ground. If you drop a box, you will hear the thud it makes and no more. The game does not feel the need to have constant sounds playing to satisfy the player and instead embraces the silent world. The silent world also gives the music an impact in the moments when they truly matter and it makes you remember simple moments as walking out of a regular door just because they choose to use the music to emphasize something instead of using it to simply fill the background.
While the game itself is not a pure horror game, it is able to put angst and moments of fear into the player. It can be as simple as seeing dogs close in rapidly, seeing a flashlight from behind or having an unknowing being try it hardest to catch the boy venturing through its grounds. The game does not rely on constant action to keep the player on his toe, there’s an overhanging dread. It makes it clear to the player early in the game that it won’t shy away from hunting the player down and make the boy face his demise. It also manages to make the player stop and think if he really wants to venture on at certain points. The game does not depend on jump scares as similar things do, it plainly shows what is coming and makes the player wonder if he really wants to approach the eerie subject in front of him.
While great art, sound and atmosphere can truly make or break a game, the gameplay still holds a significant impact on the player if he is going to enjoy a game or not. So, does the gameplay in Inside hold up to the other great parts of the game that I have expressed in the review so far? The answer to this question mostly comes down to what kind of player you are and if you like or dislike the playstyle of the game. In short, Inside is a 2D-platformer which has straightforward puzzles going through the game that you need to pass to move along the game. The 2D aspect of the game can be a bit of a downfall for the game. While it adds to the art and the overall world, it also causes the game to be very linear and the only directions you are going to be moving majority of time is either to the left or right. Furthermore, the game does not give you any choices to make throughout the game as you play, which, in combination with the left or right mechanic, can make the game itself feel restrictive and while I do not normally mind linear games, I felt like this could be a bit too restrictive. When you see something on the right side of the screen, you wish you would have another option than just leaning your right stick on your controller to the right to move along.
I also called the puzzles of the games straightforward and I do that with a good reason. While I did enjoy that the puzzles in Inside were not too hard, and cause you to get stuck which would have ruined the immersion that you felt through playing the game, I still felt like they could have had a bit more meat to them. Most of the puzzles in Inside fit within your screen and upon seeing them, you will almost instantly know how to solve them. The puzzles often involved doing obvious stuff such as: first pull a box to a location to then pull the lever to cause something and solve the puzzles by doing the most obvious thing that comes to mind with no real thinking. However, they did manage to vary up the puzzles throughout the game and while they were all simple, the use of physics and pressuring the player with dogs or other creatures did not make them completely dull. In the end, while some players dislike puzzles, and feel like this is a good thing the simplicity of the puzzles simply caused them to be nothing more than a small hurdle, in my opinion, that just gives off a “meh” feel when you finish them in a minute or two.
When it comes to the story, I won’t have much to say because of two reasons. First, I feel like the focus on the game is not purely on the story itself and it emphasizes the setting of the world. It does an incredibly excellent job of capturing the player to focus on the world itself and lifts the focus away from questions such as where the boy is going and how he got there. The other part is that the game does not give you a clear story and the interpretation is left up to the player himself with not a lot of clear moments in the game where story presents itself in an obvious way. I adored this approach and the games subtly hints at parts which could have a meaning and never gives the player a straight forward answer. While I did enjoy the way the story was told, I can also see some players being dissatisfied with it due to the reason it never makes things clear, and the best way to figure out the story would be to look to the internet for answers instead of playing the game for your own understanding.
While I did have some annoyances with Inside, such as the linear gameplay and elementary puzzles, I still find Inside to be one of the best games out on the market if you want to be immersed in a melancholic world which not only keep you on your toes from the grim setting and dangers lurking but that also keeps you absorbed during the entire playthrough.