*Warning: This may contain minor spoilers*
To begin this review, I should state that I went into Playdead’s Inside completely blind. I didn’t even know its name until I was almost done with it and decided to ask my boyfriend, who had introduced me to it and slightly forced me to play it (not really, but kind of).
I never played its predecessor, Limbo, and I’m not overly familiar with physics-based puzzle platformers, so this was a completely new experience for me.
As much as I love playing video games and watching other people partake in them, I shamelessly admit that I’m horrible at each and every one of them. I’m trying to at least name one exception, but my brain wants to deplete me of my dignity, so here we are. Anyway, what I was trying to address with that was the fact that because of my lack of gaming skills: 1.) I had no idea what was expected of me upon starting the game, and 2.) I died. A lot.
Let’s start with number one. So, the game doesn’t tell you anything, and I mean, at all. It throws you into this post-apocalyptic type world and just pretty much says, “Okay, go.” It doesn’t give you any instructions or tips like many games tend to do in the beginning, usually in the form of a practice or introduction stage. There are no dialogue boxes or any type of voice acting apart from a few grunts here and there from the character and noises from the occasional animal. It was actually kind of refreshing. I tend to enjoy stories/games where you know zero about anything and you’re just expected to learn information as you progress through the story. Call me old-fashioned, but I like to be surprised by what happens next, and this game did precisely that and more.
Now, on to number two. So, I think it’s safe to say that I died like every fifteen minutes or so throughout the first half of the game. Not because it was particularly difficult, per say, but because certain puzzles required all of your concentration and I can be annoyingly impatient when I’m playing video games. So, a majority of my deaths were due to my own negligence of paying attention to my surroundings (I’m terrified to think how long I’d survive if I were in the character’s shoes… eek).
As I mentioned, the puzzles weren’t hard, but there were some that required a lot of brain juice to figure out. Each ‘stage’ essentially contained a number of puzzles that could range anywhere from just flipping a simple switch, to needing to go through numerous, rigorous steps just to get over a literal wall.
The unsettling and creepy atmosphere that the game created sometimes made me a bit nervous if I couldn’t figure out how to do something in a timely manner, so I’ll admit that I handed the controller over to my boyfriend every so often and had him either show me what to do or just have him straight-up do it for me. He would often joke with me saying something along the lines of, “You don’t play a lot of games, do you?” But it’s true. This game seems to favor those who are far more familiar with gaming mechanics. I’m not saying that the game isn’t for everybody, because I think just about anyone would find some type of enjoyment out of this. But, if they’re like me, they might have a difficult time trying to figure out what’s possible and not possible in a puzzle platformer due to the lack of experience with them. There were some solutions that were extremely obvious to him, having been playing games all of his life, while I, myself, was at a complete loss with them. But, maybe I just wasn’t thinking outside of the box enough, or perhaps I was thinking too much outside of it; I could see either one of those being my issue, to be honest. Remember, I’m very impatient while playing video games.
I must say, though, actually completing some of the more ‘high-level’ puzzles in the game without the aid of anyone made me feel extremely proud of myself, so that was certainly nice. It even motivated me to continue forward to see what else I could figure out on my own.
The game design itself is breathtaking. There isn’t much color throughout the stages, but when there is, it’s almost like a breath of fresh air, like you can breathe again after having walked through the darkness for so long.
Each stage almost reminded me of paintings or artwork. They were all beautifully put together and designed with such intricate, subtle details at times, such as a source of light reflecting off of a small puddle in the corner of the screen. Sometimes I couldn’t believe this was just a platformer and not an open-world game.
My favorite part of the game was the tone/atmosphere that it created and the sudden changes between them as I progressed. In the beginning, it has this air of mystery and made me want to keep moving forward to see what was going on. The fact that it seemed to be night time made me a bit anxious to continue, as well. After my first death, that intrigue and curiosity immediately turned into fear as I realized how even one second of hesitation could lead to the character’s demise. I didn’t know why I was running, or to where, or from who, or who this character even was. All I knew was that I wanted him to survive no matter what. The further into the game I progressed, the more uneasy I felt as little pieces started to come together to essentially help me create a mental image of what was going on and what kind of world this truly was.
The most haunting and stressful part of the game for me was hands-down the underwater sequences. Those unfamiliar with me don’t know this, but although I love to swim and was, in fact, born on an island, I’m deathly afraid of the open water/ocean. I have this irrational fear of the beings that lurk in the deepness and obscurity of it, not to mention that I’m not overly fond of getting chased by anyone or anything. And these sequences realized those very fears to the tee. I literally felt like I was the young boy trying to get away from this creepy, long-haired girl and it’s really a miracle that I didn’t scream throughout the entire time I was escaping from her. I was told that I was desperately hugging a bag of plantain chips for a while as I played. All I remember was that I was stuffing my face with them, stress eating, trying not to die, both in the game and in real life from a premature heart attack.
I highly doubt others will feel such intense emotions playing this game since they may not share my weird fears, but it surely awakened something in me (whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing), so kudos to the creators and developers.
Without spoiling anything, the ending sequence made me audibly yell “WHAT THE F***”. It was unexpected, disturbing, and very unsettling, although I suppose the entire game is prepping us to feel those very emotions, feeding them to us just enough with each stage and reveal, so that they could burst out of their cage and devour you whole when the time came. By the end of the game, as the song played and the credits rolled, I just blankly stared at the screen. I didn’t really know what to think or if it was even okay to move.
It’s been about two weeks now since I finished the game, which only took me about 4-5 hours to complete overall, and I still vividly remember every detail about it. It’s stayed with me ever since, which is why I decided to write a review on it and share my thoughts with the world.
Okay, so to the most important part about this review: Would I recommend Playdead’s puzzle platformer, Inside? Absolutely. It was weird, creepy, imaginative, tricky, creative, unique, beautiful, and fun. I would rate this a 9/10, giving it an A. This game actually made me become greatly interested in puzzle platformers and I hope to play something similar again in the future.