Playdead’s Inside is a game that left a deep emotional imprint on me. It left me confused yet satisfied. The harrowing tale of The Boy through an Orwellian wet dream is one of the best stories to have graced the Video Game scene in years. You here the argument that Video Games have bad stories but Inside single-handedly shattered this mentality. While I have always been one who was defended Video Games as a creative art form, Inside manages to provide proof that we are making significant strides in our writing department. Just to anyone who is concerned, this review won’t contain any significant spoilers but possibly minor situations, so if that’s not what you want to see than I’d recommend that you just go and buy this game already.
Inside is a short game, clocking in at just over three hours, but it is some of the most tightly executed and deliberately crafted three hours I have ever experienced. Not a single moment is wasted nor puzzle squandered. It is understandable why this game took a little over six years to create. It is a piece of art. This should be hung in a museum and studied and examined for years to come.
As mentioned earlier, Inside has a striking similarity to the works of famous author George Orwell. Aesthetically, Inside has the griminess of London in 1984. It’s bleak and hopeless, never showing you anything more than it’s somber tones. Yet, there is an inherent beauty in the constrained style. There’s only so much gushing that can be put into words, after a certain point only the images can speak for themselves. Watching this game in motion is exhilarating, every time I moved it felt only equivalent to silk. The smoothness was undeniably beautiful and striking for me since I don’t feel like I have seen a game so excellently animated ever. The music is also of an extremely high quality. It’s dark and brooding, perfectly suited for the drabness of the world of Inside.
Similar to its predecessor, Limbo, Inside has a fetishization with the grisly murders of its protagonist. Every horrific murder inflicted upon The Boy is shocking. The first time The Boy was killed, my jaw dropped. It was at the onset of the game during one of the early stealth sequences. The Boy is being chased by a man in the woods and as he passes by a small RV a truck pulls up alongside him and fires two quick shots into him; the first bullet hitting his stomach and the second landing between the eyes. There was no warning, the camera made no attempt to highlight the brutality of what had just occurred, I was left not understanding what to feel. It was horrific and provided a perfect reference point as to what I should expect from the rest of the game. To provide some context, I have never played Limbo. I had heard of the game but for one reason or another the game had evaded me and I had eventually swept the game under the rug. I was well aware of the game’s success and subsequent impact on the industry but new games were released so my time had been devoted elsewhere.
I recognize now that I had made a huge mistake.
The gameplay is, on the surface, your standard affair for a platformer. Requiring you to move horizontally on the map to progress the story. But, Inside truly has incredible depth. With each new encounter a new layer is added on to the gameplay, making it challenging but never hard enough to leave you feeling as if you’ve been cheated. Certain mechanics are exciting and pretty much unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. When The Boy first takes over the minds of the seemingly useless workers I released an audible guffaw as the game and it’s possibilities expanded exponentially in my mid. When it’s reveled that The Boy can control the workers and then use the controlled workers to control other workers, well that’s when my brain somehow managed to implode. Other mechanics are unveiled throughout the game but I’d like to keep those under wraps for anyone who is interested in checking those out first hand. Suffice it to say, for an incredibly short game, not a single second is wasted. Everything seems personal and complex and real.
Inside’s narrative is teeming to the brim with metaphors and allegories on the very nature of humanity. This is all while never uttering a single world. Every key component of the story is transferred to the player through The Boy’s interactions with the world around him. It’s essentially of the masterclass with how effortlessly Inside is able to capture it’s audience in a story involving nothing in the dialogue. It’s video gaming broken down to it’s purest form. Gameplay and visuals coupled to create an engaging narrative that uses the medium to it’s full potential. I definitely don’t want to spoil any story beats.
I sincerely feel that Inside is so far one of the best games of the year. It tells a wholly unique, thought provoking story that is conjoined with stellar gameplay and imaginative visuals. It’s devilishly delectable and profoundly moving. I can’t recommend this game enough. While it is a bit steep for it’s $20 asking price, I still found myself being perfectly okay with giving Playdead the money. They worked their asses off and deserve every oenny they can get. I’d love more games like Inside. Games that aren’t afraid to push the capabilities of the medium in fresh and exciting ways. Inside is something that has been painstakingly created with details unlike any I’ve ever seen. Playdead perfectly comprehend what makes the Video Game medium so unique to tell stories. Hopefully Inside is only the beginning to a beautiful renaissance in storytelling.
Don’t hesitate, buy Inside!