Inside PC Review
Did you ever play Limbo? Did you like the sort of game that was? Inside is that kind of game again, it’s like Limbo. No surprise coming from the same developer, Playdead, but this one has taken them six years and that really shows in the level of detail this game has.
That’s the easy pitch, but I’ll be perfectly honest with you. It’s not exactly like Limbo, it’s like someone took that game and designed it with more of the mentality that some might approach to creating a triple-A title. Not to say that this is some over-produced video game chimera like so many big budget titles can be, and while the game certainly is beautiful it has nowhere near the production value to match what is built on that scale.
It’s still a focused game, it’s a side-scrolling platformer with two buttons; jump and grab. It only lasts about 3 hours instead of 30. What ties it to be more like a triple-A video game is the use of tension driven set-pieces. A game that contains both chase and stealth sequences, with quieter moments where environmental puzzle solving is done, which do involve a few unusual mechanics that do build on each other in clever ways. It hasn’t copied those kinds of games, it’s learned from them. Sure it’s easy to call a game like this ambitious, but when it feels so effortlessly pulled off in this way it’s genuinely exciting. Inside is a smart game that knows exactly what it’s doing.
In particular the chase sequences include a few moments that require more thought than just pushing an analogue stick in a particular direction, and those stealth moments aren’t so bad as well (it also helps that they’re fairly short and used sparingly). Some of the more weird mechanics shown in slower puzzle moments do edge their way into those set-pieces too. While all movement is 2D, the game graphics are rendered in 3D polygons, and actually does use that extra depth in nice ways, like being able to walk around blocks you can push and pull, or certain obstacles coming from the background.
But what is that in service to? It’s all in service of setting up a particular tone and atmosphere, which Limbo did a great job of, but now it’s attached to a game that’s much less frustrating than that. If you couldn’t tell I have been very careful not to give away everything that happens in this game, but fundamentally this is game is still about a young boy exploring a terrifying unfamiliar landscape. Instead of being set in a harsh purgatory-ish area, it goes for more of a prison-laboratory vibe that is a little less vicious. I say vibe because other than what’s seen on screen during play, there’s not really any explicit story going on, and there’s not a lot to interpret. Inside doesn’t really raise questions, it only presents a setting. Much like their previous work, this game is all about setting mood, both through how it plays and how it looks.
And it looks really good, for the most part. The thing that bugs me is that it looks a little blurry, like those early Xbox 360 games that had only just discovered depth of field. But other than that it looks great, everything looks like it is sort of handmade, which helps to make things look creepy. It doesn’t always do good to obsess over detail, but the amount of care put into composing what’s displayed in the background and foreground is brilliant.
That Inside manages to start really well, and then keep building up to an ending which is absolutely bizarre but simultaneously wonderful is a real testament to the skill at work from the team at Playdead. Inside is a pure consistent work that manages to play to its own strengths in very smart ways.