January 23, 2023INSIDE Game Review

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Release Date: July 8, 2016
Developer/Publisher: Playdead/Playdead
Genre: Adventure, Puzzle, Platform Game
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, iOS, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Mac operating systems, Nintendo Switch
Metacritic Score: 87%
Steam Review: Overwhelmingly Positive

I have noticed that Playdead has quite an obsession with making children suffer by putting them in freakish and disastrous situations. Both Limbo—Playdeads’ first take on making a child suffer—and Inside feature little boys placed in nightmarish scenarios where they suffer through multiple challenges that may or may not lead them to their impending deaths.

It’s so easy to compare these two games to each other because they’re so similar yet so different in certain ways. Both games are horrifying, intriguing, and nerve-wrenching 2D puzzle-platformer games that put you in the shoes of an unnamed little boy who is thrown into a malicious and mysterious position. But what sets Inside apart from Limbo is that Inside gives you more of a story compared to Limbo’s bigger emphasis on its puzzles. Inside features a fantastic world of horror and gruesome deaths that elevates this game above Playdeads’ previous title, Limbo. The game Inside makes you wonder about every little scenario and why it came to be. Why were you there? How did you get there? Why are mindless people scattered all over the place? There are a lot of questions left unanswered by the end of the game, but that’s what made the game even more intriguing than the one before. Playdeads’ Limbo walked so that Inside could run.

Venture Through the World of Horrors

First things first, you go into this game blind. Well, not literally blind, but blind in the sense that you don’t get on-screen or spoken instructions, aside from your usual platformer game instructions like jumping, running, and all that jizz.

With no instructions to guide you through the challenges and puzzles, deaths became quite frequent and unavoidable most of the time. But because the loading time to respawn after dying is so brief and quick, it never really feels like a penalty. Instead, it becomes more of a lesson and somewhat of a starting guide to let you know what you should or shouldn’t do after respawning. But, I do admit that each death—as gruesome as it may sound—is quite entertaining. Playdeads’ technique in making each death differ from the other is so entertaining that I sometimes just do something so unnecessary to see whether or not the way the death is portrayed is different from the first. Everything that happens in Inside is just a series of unfortunate and unnerving events.

What I loved about Inside is that you can see that each scene and each puzzle are perfectly choreographed and designed by such talented designers and animators. You definitely see the tenderness, love, and care put into the design and gameplay of the game, and sometimes it takes a few minutes to ravish the set design of the game and see all of the little details put into it. Every piece is so downright amazing that you won’t feel that there isn’t any wasted space. The sounds, the settings, the beautifully designed art—simply all of it—help build up the tension you feel as you play through the game. Even after playing it a second and third time, I am still enthralled by this beautiful yet horrifying world full of chaos and horrors that lurk within.

Stay Hidden

Like I said a while ago, Inside has all the usual platformer game instructions for jumping, running, hiding, pushing, and all that. But, unlike most platformers, Playdeads’ Inside will leave you feeling both frustrated and exhilarated because there are times when you appear to have made the right jump or hid just in time, only to be caught and killed by one of the horrors lurking in the area. One tiny mistake or misstep will lead you to getting caught and killed. And Playdead will make certain that you see the results of your actions on our little protagonist.

In terms of the games’ puzzles, the puzzles themselves are quite easier than those of Limbo. I never found myself pondering too long over what I had to do in order to get past the puzzles. The puzzles usually involve you moving something, activating air-propelled cubes into the air, or even moving mindless people (or zombies, whichever you prefer to call them) by using a helmet. There’s a lot more to Inside’s puzzles than what I am mentioning, but I will be leaving that to you for when you play the game. Nonetheless, I think that the puzzles are quite easy to follow.

Despite its easy puzzles, Playdead perfectly created and designed the small child to do exactly what a small child is supposed to do. You, playing as a child, will perfectly portray how easy it is for you to get tired, how you stumble after you jump when you’re hurrying to get away from the guards or guard dogs, and how you’ll ever hear the panting of the child when you’ve been running for too long. You’ll literally feel as though you’re playing as a child thrown into an unknown and horrifying world, which makes you think, “What the heck is happening?”

Though there are times when you successfully escape at the nick of time from the horrors of the world of Inside makes you feel accomplished. But don’t feel too excited. You can go from celebrating your successful escape from the guards to being blown to bits. Then again, the deaths in the game aren’t as climactic as I want them to be.

Questions Left Unanswered

Now, let’s talk about the game’s real catch, inside. Playdead created such a bleak and horrifying yet surreal game setting, which I’ve already mentioned is full of small details. These little details make the game much more unsettling and unnerving because they make you wonder how the game came to be.

Inside’s puzzles serve as the focal point that tells the story. No explanation is ever given as to why you play as a little boy or why he’s in the middle of the woods at night, nor what he wants to achieve. There’s also no explanation for why murderous kids are after the boy or why you’re in a mysterious facility.

With so many minor (and major) details scattered throughout the games but so few answers, I admit that it does frustrate me quite a bit. But with how fascinating and intriguing the game and overall setting are, it kind of makes up for my confusion and frustration about all my questions being left unanswered.

The game is so dreamlike that at first, you might think you’re slowly understanding what’s actually happening, but after a while, you’ll get stumped by how wrong or confused you are with what’s happening. But despite my confusion, it’s what makes me enthralled by the game. The unknown has always been intriguing, which is why Inside is such a great game.

Final Verdict

Inside by Playdead creatively builds on and even surpasses the greatness of Limbo. You will be left feeling confused, frustrated, and sometimes even speechless. It is a beautiful, dark game that will take you on the creatively horrifying journey of a boy trying to get to the end. Every twist and death will make your stomach churn, which will kind of make you feel sorry for the boy. Although it isn’t as hard and challenging as I want it to be, the curiosity inside me will make me want to explore the world of Inside’s apocalyptic world time and time again.

That’s a wrap! We hope you enjoyed our gruesome review of Playdead’s Inside. If you want to check out more indie games to play, then you might want to read our article, “Top 15 Best Indie Games on Steam” here.