Disclaimer: This review is spoiler-free, as not knowing the secrets of INSIDE will allow you to enjoy the game to the fullest.
Before we can talk about INSIDE, we have to talk about the game that made INSIDE possible. It wasn’t that long ago that independent game studio Playdead was an entirely unknown quantity instead of the household name it is now. Back in 2010, indie games were starting to pick up steam and rival the quality of triple-A titles. So when their first game Limbo was teased and shown at different conventions and conferences, it certainly stood out. Immediately upon Limbo’s release, it was hailed as a critical darling by players and critics alike. There wasn’t anything else like it. It was dark (literally and figuratively), intelligent, and gorgeous with its monochromatic art style. For the past six years, Limbo has been considered to be one of the greatest indie games ever made, and fans wondered what Playdead would make next. The answer, it turns out, comes in the form of Limbo’s spiritual successor. So if it weren’t for Limbo, INSIDE wouldn’t exist. So thank you Limbo, for allowing Playdead to build upon you and make one of the best games I have played this year. In fact, as much as I love Limbo, I’m tempted to say that I like INSIDE even more.
If you’ve played Limbo, then INSIDE will feel very familiar to you. But if you didn’t play Limbo (what’s wrong with you), then you’re in for a treat. I’d attempt to describe the premise to you, but honestly like it’s big brother, INSIDE merely drops you in a mysterious and deadly world that you will never fully understand. While Limbo is known for its mysterious atmosphere and unclear story, INSIDE turns it up to 11. Essentially you’re a boy in a seemingly dystopian world trying to reach an unknown goal while avoiding deadly obstacles. You don’t know what the purpose of this boy’s journey is until the very end, but it’s clear that some unknown authority doesn’t want you to succeed. Men in masks, robots, and the most savage dogs that I’ve ever seen in a video game are just some of the things that are trying to kill you in the most vicious ways. Seriously, I’m not kidding about the dogs. There was one point where after watching the boy’s throat get ripped out by an attack dog for the fifth time (by the way this game gets surprisingly violent sometimes) that I shouted, “THIS IS WHY I’M NOT A DOG PERSON.” In case it wasn’t clear, you’ll be dying a fair amount in this game.
Similar to Limbo, progression through the game is a process of trial and error. i.e., you try something, you die, try again, etc. Perhaps it’s because Limbo made me used to this style of gameplay, but I felt the game was much easier in comparison to Limbo. That’s not to say the game is easy; you will die a lot on your first play through, but it was a level of challenge that was fair. Compared to Limbo, which at times could feel frustrating depending on the puzzle, INSIDE felt just right.
You might be thinking “This is essentially the same game” and you’re mostly right, they are very similar. But, the beauty of INSIDE is that it takes everything that Limbo did and does it better. Without spoiling anything, almost every detail of INSIDE feels like a step up from its older brother. INSIDE’s simple yet stunning aesthetic makes Limbo’s art style feel generic. The atmosphere of INSIDE feels so much more bizarre and intriguing. Even the various puzzle mechanics you encounter feel more intelligent than those in Limbo. That’s not to say Limbo isn’t a fantastic game, but there’s something about INSIDE’s strange world that is so unsettling and compelling that you don’t want to stop playing.
Chances are if you do play INSIDE you’ll play through it in one sitting. Not just because the main story can be completed in about 2-3 hours, but because you won’t want to stop playing until you reach the end. I can’t recommend this game enough. I don’t normally like to say this about games, but like last year’s Undertale, it’s about as close as you can get to a perfect game. If you want to play something truly unique and are ok with being slightly leery of guard dogs in the future, play INSIDE.
INSIDE is available on PC and Xbox One