I heard a whole lot of hype for Inside in a short space of time. I remember seeing a trailer for it a few E3s ago- Playdead’s follow up to bleak and beautiful puzzle-platformer “Limbo”, but after that it seemed to disappear until last week, when I suddenly heard it was coming out. People threw praise and accolades at it like it was going out of style, calling it amazing, game of the year so far, game of the generation, that sort of thing, and all of them insisted you avoid any and all spoilers like the plague. So I bought it, avoided any and all spoilers and plowed through it over the weekend, and frankly I have no idea what seemingly every other reviewer on the planet is talking about, because I was really disappointed. I will be talking about the game in a way that could be considered spoilery, so bear that in mind.
The single biggest problem with the game is its story. Much like Limbo you are a small boy in an actively hostile, brutal world that you navigate by constantly moving to the right. You start off running through the woods escaping a search n’ murder squad, then end up moving deeper into and through a city and its sewers for some reason (there is one possible theory but I’ll get into that at a later time because it involves dissecting the ending), with an emphasis placed on humans that can be controlled remotely and a weird aquatic monster thing that at one point directly helps the boy for some reason. None of this is ever explained, there’s no dialogue, and besides one or two moments nothing in the game stands out as particularly noteworthy or interesting. The art style is nice but environments are bland, and while the changing landscape and nightmare logic worked for Limbo, Inside is apparently set in some kind of real, non-afterlife world, so it doesn’t work here at all. As I said there is a theory I read that does explain the boy’s actions, but that’s literally all it explains, and it does nothing to develop what is a very sparse, forgettable experience.
Gameplay wise it fares better. If you’ve played Limbo, you know what to expect. If not, it’s a platforming game with puzzles and brutal deaths. The platforming is merely a means of transportation, the puzzles aren’t too taxing but usually involve good timing, and that’s about it really. I don’t have any problems on the gameplay front, just the story and world; respectively bland and unexplained and underdeveloped, experienced entirely through the prism of constant movement.
I’m an outlier I know, but I can’t pretend I had a good time with this. It just feels like Limbo taken to a degree that values art above everything else, which can work, but in this case, for me, it falls very short. It’ll definitely appeal to some (clearly it has) but I paid sixteen pounds for it, and knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t pay half that.
Sixteen quid will get you the Sapienza AND Marrakesh levels in HITMAN. Spend it on that instead.
By James Lambert