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PC | Xbox One
Genre: Indie
Developer: Playdead Official Site:
Publisher: Classification: M15+
Release Date:
June 2016
Inside Review
Review By @ 12:06pm 01/07/16
At the end of my Inside playthrough, I immediately had to reach out to someone. I knew our good friend Steve Wright at Stevivor was reviewing it and once he’d also finished it, we both landed on a single notion: “what did we just play?”. I know the game itself is getting rave reviews, and I expect a lot of that is because it is a stunningly-presented piece of work that borders on interactive art, and the games industry is in love with itself in that respect. It’s like we’re going through our very own arthouse renaissance, which is fine, but when it’s all done and dusted in Inside, like so many wanky arthouse movies, you’re left pondering what it was all for.

Now, that intro is not meant to derail the game as a whole. From the outset Inside is an intriguing and engaging little beast. It slowly and masterfully presents you with wonderful puzzles and progression, without a single word being uttered, or displayed on-screen. It takes cues from games as far back as Another World as well as the studio’s first opus, Limbo, and through all of this a sort of mystery forms. You’re playing as what appears to be a young boy escaping from… something. When he’s caught, or when you fail a puzzle or succumb to a dangerous part of the environment, he dies gruesomely. And through all of it, you just don’t know anything.

In fact part of its marketing boasts solving the ‘mystery’ of the game, but at its close you’ll be more confused than ever. It’s the part of the experience that makes me so unsure about any of it. It’s almost as if Playdead had a tech demo someone in the studio built in Unity and they tried to contextualise a game around it. You could easily argue that the whole thing is meant to be left up to interpretation, but I think that’s a bit of a copout because games, by design, are an interactive form of storytelling that should supply enough agency to the player to master their own fates. And in Inside, this couldn’t be further from the truth, once the credits roll.

Is it worth the price of admission then? Yes, if you enjoy deeply layered puzzles where you’re not prodded on how to proceed. I gained huge insight into my own videogame conditioning while playing it; plying my puzzle-solving trade as it has been taught to me over the many, many years I’ve been playing games. That idea of solving the mystery too, pushed me on. I only stumbled a handful of times, and often the solution was very obvious, but the way in which each mind-bending impediment is presented to you is in strokes of design genius. But at some point you get the feeling Playdead maybe didn’t know how to solve their own mystery and the game wraps up in a messy, unusual and unsatisfying way.

If you’re unsure what Inside is, it’s a side-scrolling platform puzzler. There’s no combat in the game, but you’re forced to play survivalist as you’re being hunted for some unknown reason. You only gain two abilities in the whole experience, and both are a little inextricably presented (especially the first considering the number of times you might fail beforehand, in the same way the ability is given to you). The second is the last part of the game, which is the part I’m still struggling to cope with, because there’s no closure in Inside, and it makes you ask what any of the puzzle-solving and surviving was for in the first place. But hey, maybe that was the point all along.

You’ll get roughly four hours out of the game, and there’re a couple of hidden things to find throughout for Achievement and Trophy hunters. But it’s hard to establish the thought of replayability -- each puzzle you pass is a hardwired solution, meaning the thought of going back and just finishing something you already know how to do is hollow in exercise. There’s not even any room for post-release content with that ending, but in the moment -- the first time you play through -- the puzzle stuff is exhilarating, so if that’s your bag there’s definite value in Inside.

Postscript Spoiler Alert

What we liked
  • Gorgeous art style
  • Excellent puzzles and level design
  • Wonderful audio
  • The first two thirds of the game are compelling
What we didn't like
  • Nonsense ending
  • No real closure to the 'mystery' at-hand
  • Lacks replayability
We gave it:
Latest Comments
Posted 03:31pm 01/7/16
yes well you nailed it with interpretation: isn't that just what most art is all about though
Posted 10:46am 10/7/16
when i was playing through this i thought about how much better the time could have been spent on making the player character in a world from an existing story that makes sense like Ponyo or Chihiro

for me it kind of resolved as a bit of another Remember Me, a weirdly compelling anti authoritarian escape from something to do something something something

i dunno, ifwhen they release this on mobile they'll make a bit of doe ray
Posted 02:17pm 10/7/16
I really enjoyed it, even more than Limbo. It's definitely weird, Luke a David Lynch arthouse sort of weird, but I really liked that too. Which is weird cos I f*****g hate David Lynch movies.

Don't read these spoilers if you haven't played it. I mean really, don't. The game is best played not knowing wtf is happening imo.

The ending just felt poignant though, I didn't feel like I needed to know the detailed why and how of it all, but it was kind of touching that all that struggle was all just to not be Inside anyone, he just wanted to see the sunrise and feel the sun on him before it presumably died.
The alternate ending you can get from the room under the corn field has spawned a few theories about what was going on. In that ending the boy 'shuts down' and goes into that crouching pose that the controllable zombie things go into when they aren't being controlled. One theory I've seen is that it's supposed to be some meta statement on how you as the player are controlling the boy and the only reason he keeps pushing forward with no apparent motivation is because you're telling him to. The other one that I like more is that right from the start the blob is actually controlling him and making him come there to free it. Possibly even the boy was part of the blob all along, hence getting absorbed back into it. The zombie things seem like they were made out of the blob, and it's as the boy gets closer to the blob that he gets more powerful and can control them without needing a helmet, possibly due to the blobs influence getting stronger.
Posted 05:20pm 10/7/16
vay dank
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