Release Date: 6/29/2016
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Atmospheric side scrollers became popular thanks to Limbo. With no story, but an entire tale told through the atmosphere, puzzles, and platforming, this became a great way to show gamers that the platforming genre can be a little more mature. Inside nails all the aspects that Limbo created and perfected them.
The game starts out with a little boy stumbling out of some trees and running through a forest. In the background, you can see soldiers in masks searching for something, but you’re never quite sure if it’s the boy or something else. Who this boy is and his purpose is never explained, but that’s kind of okay as it’s up to the player to interpret this. The game has no tutorials as there’re only two buttons to use, jump and an action button. You slowly get introduced to the game’s puzzles by pulling objects to ledges to reach greater heights, learning to keep switches open, etc. The game’s main focus is the art style and atmosphere. This game has an Uncanny Valley militaristic dystopia theme with everything in gray. It really grabs your attention and the game can get quite tense.
Some of the more memorable scenes are when dogs are chasing you as there’s no music but just the panting of the kids and raging aggressive dogs at your heels. Most chase scenes actually require skill to finish as they require precise timing of jumps and even quick-on-your-feet puzzle solving. The game is very well-paced as I wanted to play through the whole game without stopping. While there wasn’t a story being told I wanted more chase scenes and sections where the boy has to sneak by these adults. The game isn’t just a flat plane either as the world turns and pans in accordance with the 2D playfield. It never feels like you’re going just left or right in a world that was cut in half. There’s depth in the foreground and background which is something that’s not done often in side scrollers.
There’s something strange going on in this world as it seems most humans (or slaves) are mind-controlled and are being sold to other humans or possibly some type of alien. I couldn’t really tell, and again, that’s the point. Your job is to keep this boy out of danger and to keep pushing forward. From swimming, using a submersible, climbing, running, jumping, and puzzle-solving there’s quite a lot of game here for such a short length. Inside also has amazing animations and physics, some of the best I have ever seen. The way the boy runs and the people in the background interact with your every move is jaw-dropping. The boy would sneak across a floor and open a grate while everyone was starting inside some vat in the background. As soon as that grate dropped all heads looked toward you. It’s creepy and fantastic all at the same time; not to mention the boy’s gruesome death animations and scenes.
I was amazed all the way through this game despite the ending making zero sense and just being so abrupt. I wanted more, and hopefully more we will get. I can see that this could be a vastly expanded universe with an amazing story, but these atmospheric indie games tend to never have sequels. The game’s art style is just some of the best this year and the graphics are also technically impressive with amazing textures, lighting effects, and shadowing that would put some big-budget games to shame.
Overall, Inside is a wonderful must-play game. It’s oozing with atmosphere, tension, and pacing that will keep you glued during the whole 4-hour play session. When it’s over, you will sit back and remember most of the scenes and wonder what’s going on in this game. I felt more like a spectator that jumped into the middle of a movie and I’m just watching what’s happening next hoping to catch on. This is a unique way to tell stories and can be very hard to pull off. Thankfully, Inside will have you thinking about it long after it’s gone.