Inside review (PC)

Inside is developer Playdead’s second game, but it’s been eagerly anticipated for a while because of the success of their debut title Limbo. Now that it’s been released, we take a look at the PC version.

The last six or seven years have seen a major surge in how popular indie titles have become. Of course a lot of this has to do with how game distribution has changed. Steam made it possible for small publishers to get their games out there a long time ago, and while it’s not as easy on Microsoft’s and Sony’s platforms – they too have grown immensely in this regard. Looking back at the early parts of this period, a couple of games stand out as true indie classics. Within the puzzle platforming genre, Braid and Limbo immediately come to mind.

While Braid creator Jonathan Blow moved on to create something very different with The Witness, Limbo developer Playdead had stuck to its formula. Like Limbo, Inside has extremely atmospheric visuals that make excellent use of light and dark. It creates a sense of foreboding, which is even more present in Inside than it ever was in Limbo. Also similar is the way in which the game presents a mystery – characters don’t speak, there are no explicit hints and you’re often left guessing as to what’s going on – Inside leaves a lot of room for interpretation.

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The subject matter in Inside isn’t for everyone – it’s about a boy, on the run from danger, which is often presented in the shape of adults. If you’re not careful, death is frequent as well as gruesome – and no one enjoys seeing these things happen to children. Inside is a dark game, which makes for an emotional experience.

Underneath the gloomy premise is a wonderfully polished puzzle platformer. It’s about three to four hours long, and puzzles are challenging and rewarding rather than frustrating. Throughout the course of the adventure, your character will be tackling many different sorts of scenes and puzzles. The story that unfolds walks the line between a great mystery and a “what just happened, and why?” kind of narrative – which probably isn’t for everyone but might invite players back for a second playthrough just to see if their theories hold up.

The star of Inside is its presentation and level of polish. I suppose the same game could have been rendered in an 8-bit retro look, but it wouldn’t have carried the same weight. It’s the way that the ‘narrative’ fits with the atmospheric visuals and expertly crafted animations that leaves a lasting impression – and in that sense Playdead has succeeded much like they did back in 2010. That’s commendable especially because the indie scene has grown so much since then – although we’re also left with another game that we wish was a little longer or had a bit more replay value. Nevertheless, Inside is an experience not to be missed.

Score: 8.7/10

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