Inside Review – Pleasures Of The Flesh

Fresh meat…

04

Developer: Playdead
Publisher: Playdead
Format: PC, Xbox One (reviewed)
Released: June 29, 2016 (XBO), July 7, 2016 (PC)
Copy provided by publisher

Describing Inside is difficult, not because one can’t find the words, but because it has to be seen to truly be believed. At first glance, one could easily mistake it for little more than a spiritual successor to Playdead’s previous effort, the critically acclaimed Limbo.

In fact, both Inside and Limbo start exactly the same way – you’re a lonesome young boy in a forest, and you’ve got to make your way through an increasingly deadly environment by pushing blocks, swinging from ropes, and solving simple puzzles in a neat little platforming package.

At a certain point, however, the two games diverge wildly, as Playdead’s newest offering turns into something more… disturbing.

Narrative is implicit, with only visual cues and environmental details provided for a player to piece any story together. The protagonist is presumably on the run, starting his adventure by avoiding sinister masked men in the woods. Early obstacles revolve around staying hidden from the torches and vehicular headlights of pursuers while staying one step ahead of vicious attack dogs.

As the adventure unfolds, we learn more about the world and what it is our red sweatered hero might actually be running from. Again, nothing is explicitly stated, but we get an idea that he’s escaping some twisted dystopian society – if indeed it is a society – and the grotesque ideas it seems to be realizing at the expense of others.

03

If you thought Limbo‘s deceptively simple aesthetic hid a nightmarish undertone, you’ll either be disturbed or delighted – hopefully both – by the direction Inside takes. Themes of conformity, violation, slavery, and outright body horror all run through this progressively haunting game for the handful of hours it lasts.

Like its predecessor, Inside is a mechanically tight puzzle platformer that hides clever environmental challenges behind a simple interface. Interaction with the world is limited to pushing, pulling, and climbing, yet Playdead does fantastic things with such restriction. Simple block puzzles give way to intricate hindrances, especially once the player encounters bizarre homunculi that can be made to follow commands through questionable technological means.

I’m loathe to say much more about the creatures encountered throughout the game, because this is definitely an experience where even slight snippets of information could ruin formidable surprises.

Suffice to say, the game only gets creepier as the world is further revealed, leading to a final furlong that manages to feel empowering and appalling at the same time.

01

Inside has more color than its monochrome predecessor, but the palette remains muted, giving the entire game a foreboding, overcast look. As a result, bright lights stand out and starkly contrast against a world rife with decay and emotional bankruptcy. There’s a beauty in a visual style so utterly bleak, the same kind of eerie allure found in such games as Dark Souls.

In a similar vein, audio is limited, with only sparse interludes of music underscoring the sounds of industrial machinery, howling winds, and rushes of water. Sometimes there’s no sound at all as the camera pulls back to create a scene of mute isolation.

It’s not all loneliness and silent introspection, however. Inside knows when to punctuate the atmosphere with a scary chase sequence or some tense test of stealth.

Not a single trick is relied upon too heavily. Some of the game’s best puzzles are so good because they only appear once.

An incredible nerve-wracking sequence where the player has to hide in plain sight and perform specific actions to avoid raising suspicion is powerfully intimidating, but never repeated. It remains its own special, uniquely unnerving, challenge. Likewise, a bizarre game of chicken against a starved and violent pig is disturbing yet inspired – and remains so due to its oneness.

02

Other games will introduce gimmicks and tricks before repeating them consistently, becoming perfectly familiar to players long before the credits roll. This works in some productions, but a game like Inside is about the creation of moments that truly stick with the player. Any one of its creepy tricks could become repetitive, used again and again as easy filler. They never do, instead retaining a sense of true remarkability.

To say much more would be to expose this game’s hand, and I absolutely do not want to do that. I want this to be played, and I want it to surprise and shock its players, to make them shudder in disgust and tilt their heads in repulsed bemusement.

It should go without saying that Inside is an easy choice for anybody who enjoyed Limbo. At its most basic, Playdead’s newest presentation is a continuation of its prior work – a macabre puzzle-platformer with a gloomy visual style and forsaking atmosphere.

Beyond that, however, Inside is so much more…

Something more… fleshy.

Oh…

Oh the flesh.

10/10
Sterling

CyanManta
Guest
CyanManta

If they have a sale, I’m getting it. I liked Limbo more than a little and the trailer looks promising.

Anton
Guest
Anton

Well, this certainly looks nice.

This spring/early summer season of gaming has me feeling all spoiled. Much better than the disappointing Christmas season of last year, that’s for sure.

BAH!
Guest
BAH!

I’ve got some money sitting in my MS account (thanks, Bing Rewards!) so I may very well pick this up soon. Though I may wait until I’ve played LIMBO, which might not be for a while. I’m surprised it’s not backwards compatible yet.

sammybli
Guest
sammybli

Limbo was a free download during E3 to get ready for Inside (i don’t think it’s available for free anymore) on Xbox One. It’s not the 360 backwards compatible version, they actually re-released it on Xbox One

Chris Buck
Guest
Chris Buck

Limbo is free on the Xbox One store, it was remastered so to speak

BAH!
Guest
BAH!

I see it says “try it for free” over the “buy it for $9.99” button, so is it a sort of “free weekend” kind of thing, or a demo, or what? I doubt it’s just straight-up free at this point.

Hywel Nevard
Guest
Hywel Nevard

Does this game lean on “you can’t avoid this without being killed by it first” as heavily as Limbo did?

Max Whiteley
Guest
Max Whiteley

It depends on how fast you are.
Some times you will get got and sometimes you won’t.

HaveSomeOatmeal
Guest
HaveSomeOatmeal

Some of them seemed that way. But on my second playthrough I noticed clues I missed the first time that would have alerted me to the danger.

BAH!
Guest
BAH!

Sort of defeats the purpose of the clues, doesn’t it?

HaveSomeOatmeal
Guest
HaveSomeOatmeal

I suppose you could look at it that way. Though I appreciated their subtlety when I did catch them, and chuckled to myself when I did not. It was probably 50/50. Watching other people play for the first time is also fascinating in the clues they catch that you missed, and vice versa.

BAH!
Guest
BAH!

I’ll find out for myself when I eventually play it, but what you describe reminds me of Undertale’s boss fights. Figuring out the pacifist option was often quite difficult because the clues were either missing, obtuse, or outright contradicted by the gameplay. I found it quite frustrating, and a blemish on an otherwise good game.

HaveSomeOatmeal
Guest
HaveSomeOatmeal

Yeah, that’s fair enough. I haven’t played Undertale so I can’t speak to any similarities. I will say that failure in Inside is at least handled intelligently – it puts you back in the game right away, and the checkpoint system is never more than a few seconds from when you met your demise.

BAH!
Guest
BAH!

So the restart is quick? That’s actually very important to me. I’ve got a list of “cardinal sins” for game development, and lengthy “Game Over” screens combined with long reload times is very near the top of the list.

HaveSomeOatmeal
Guest
HaveSomeOatmeal

Yes, totally. Once the game begins there is never a loading screen or game over. You don’t have a pool of lives. After you die you’re right back to where you were within seconds.

BAH!
Guest
BAH!

Excerrent!

Dreggsao
Guest
Dreggsao

That was one of the things that made Super Meat Boy such a good game. Before you were even done screaming “SHIT” at your screen the timer was already running again.

Daniel Jensen
Guest
Daniel Jensen

Huh. This popped up for me the Steam Discovery thing, and while I thought it looked cool I didn’t exactly stick about.Seriously though, a 10/10? Well, you gave that score to Undertale (which I utterly adore), so I’ll use that as an excuse to put this on my wishlist.

Terriosaurus Hex
Guest
Terriosaurus Hex

Shit. Come to the dark side, inside. Come!! We PS4 owners will love you more, honest. How the hell can i keep myself unspoilt till some lengthy undefined chunk of time? I might not even live that long!

Watchmedance
Guest
Watchmedance

Just get it on PC?

ScrubMaster
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ScrubMaster

I didn’t find Limbo “mechanically tight”. It was yet another floaty platformer banking on aesthetics and style more than mechanics.

TΛPETRVE
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TΛPETRVE

I don’t see the problem. Limbo does the same style of inertia-based platforming that has been around since the first Prince of Persia. Pixel-perfect Super Mario acrobatics have no place in that sub-genre.

ScrubMaster
Guest
ScrubMaster

It’s just shallow and not much fun for me. Inertia is the worse thing for platformers.

Turnbased Toddy
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Turnbased Toddy

Yes, Jim did describe it like that but he also praised the gameplay. No offence but I can almost see your nose point up in the air as you say that. The whole point of Limbo and this game is that they tell their story purely through gameplay. A game can have great gamplay and have style have style at the same time.

BAH!
Guest
BAH!

I can’t remember the last platformer I played that didn’t feature some amount of inertia for the jumps. ‘Splosion Man, maybe? It’s been to long to recall clearly.

skratchy
Guest
skratchy

Inertia? Is the worst thing? Oh my god. “Curse real life physics!” There goes your credibility, man.

Terriosaurus Hex
Guest
Terriosaurus Hex
Well aren’t *we* the edgy one? Some works of imagination try and poke the imagination of the viewer, to inspire their own creative wonder within the realms provided. Some people do not have an imagination to poke, so they get frustrated, annoyed and then finally rest on the assumption that they are too good to bother with it. A perfectly natural reaction, but knowing it can help you rise up against your inner ego. Or perhaps there is too much pride at stake for some. These works are a combination of various techniques, if they do not appeal or make… Read more »
skratchy
Guest
skratchy

Go ahead and give us a few examples of “mechanically tight” games then, eh? 🙂

Whinterfell
Guest
I like how you said you play games purely for the mechanics, and everyone tells you how much the story matters and how important the atmosphere is. If you don’t like story I wouldn’t think you would like this game. As is the game is getting so much hype on how good it is and how great the ending is I am hesitant to buy it now. Cause I will get it, play through it, and ultimately have it feel underwhelming cause of all the hype surrounding it. Did the same thing to Undertale with such a massive jump it… Read more »
Max Whiteley
Guest
Max Whiteley

I brought this game last night with out knowing anything about it, and it’s shocked me In a good way and a fue bad ways as well, which are also good things.
Anyway….yeah believe the hype, this game has to be played and for £15 there’s no excuse for not owning it.

TIP: play this game on your own in the dark at 1 am.

Jack Chameleo
Guest
Jack Chameleo

Jim, are you playing the Resident Evil 7 teaser/demo/rippoff, yet? I’d enjoy learning your take on it. I havent finished it yet. If it’s all jump scares, I don’t want to pick it up again, but if they’ve done something compelling with the gameplay, puzzles, or story (a la SH2, 4), I might push through them. Thanks.

Jim Cravat
Guest
Jim Cravat

…uh huh. Any other PS4 owners suddenly starting to feel like this..?

Janio
Guest
Janio
Nope its more like oh “the other consule” that sell for half the price i bought my beatifull PS4 1Tera for and Jimmy boy not buying into VR or even willing to say XBONE scorpio and PS4 4.5 are expensive as fuck, seem in reveiw land the economics of pricing are not worthy to discuss it. Also its silly the consul cost now like 5 or 6 full price AAA games. If somebody, want to buy extra consule do it, It probably worth alone to get all demos on Xbox-one and free to play games (i know more or less… Read more »
Jack Chameleo
Guest
Jack Chameleo

Pretty sure the PS4 was cheaper than the XBox One at launch

ScrubMaster
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ScrubMaster

I work in the consulate so I know.

Janio
Guest
Janio

oh my made a typo should be consol

Jim Cravat
Guest
Jim Cravat

um. okay?

Jim Sterling
Guest

“Jimmy boy not buying into VR or even willing to say XBONE scorpio and PS4 4.5 are expensive as fuck, seem in reveiw land the economics of pricing are not worthy to discuss it.”

What has ANY of this got to do with my videogame reviews?

Jim Cravat
Guest
Jim Cravat

I think maybe the day release schedule for today was the local library. So I wouldn’t read too much into it…

Janio
Guest
Janio

With the picture its of indiana jones and the last crusade , when nazi picked the expensive glass and died , not the Holy Grail which gives eternal ife.

nikolas orava
Guest
nikolas orava

i don’t think so begause pc sells to different market and xbox one is shit

Jim Cravat
Guest
Jim Cravat

Yeah maybs, I was just really pumped for the Limbo follow up, having no idea it was a fucking exclusive…..is there really any need in this day and age?!

Watchmedance
Guest
Watchmedance

Gah! I cut myself on your edge! Put up a sign or I’m calling OSHA.

Jim Cravat
Guest
Jim Cravat

…just me then. I feel so money supermarket right now…

BAH!
Guest
BAH!

I’m beginning to feel like this for buying into the new generation at all. I really should have just stuck with my Wii U and upgraded my PC.

Jim Cravat
Guest
Jim Cravat

I think its a shame the steam machine model hasn’t really taken off yet. Totally valve’s fault for botching the release, but id be really interested in a model that just required me to drop £100 every couple years in order to stay on top of things without having to worry about all this exclusives rubbish

BAH!
Guest
BAH!

Well, it’s not as though a successful SteamBox would eliminate console exclusives- probably not even the nonsensical ones like what we see here. But I agree that PC gaming with the ease of console gaming could be very attractive to the consumer.

Watchmedance
Guest
Watchmedance

Especially considering that SteamBoxes only play a subset of PC games…

BAH!
Guest
BAH!

It’s a *pretty big* subset, though. At least, it should be.

skratchy
Guest
skratchy

I hope it comes to PSN soon, but I may just play it on PC, if it takes like a YEAR for them to port it.

Zaruian
Guest
Zaruian

Is it like limbo in the sense that it doesn’t really take very good hardware to run, or is it more resource-heavy? cause idk if my laptop can run much and i don’t see this coming to wiiU.

Chris
Guest
Chris

Holy Jeez. I just beat the game, and…I’m not sure how to feel about the game. I don’t know if it goes off the rails in the end in the wrong way or right way, but the entire game is going to stick with me for some time. I haven’t gotten these feelings of disturbing and unsettling content in a game in a DAMN long time.

bowlingotter
Guest
bowlingotter

Just finished my play through of this. Wholeheartedly agree with the review — great job of what makes it so interesting without giving anything away.

This game was… something else. I’m still reeling from the final sequence.

diamond
Guest
diamond

Eh, didn’t like Limbo much, so I doubt i’ll like this, I get why people are into these sorts of indie games, but they’re just not my thing.

skratchy
Guest
skratchy

That’s great…why even bother commenting?

HaveSomeOatmeal
Guest
HaveSomeOatmeal

lol

Brad Fang
Guest
Brad Fang

What are you in to than?
I would rather not sacrifice my soul to buy most AAA releases, install a bullshit storefront, and play the same game over and over and over and over and over and over.

diamond
Guest
diamond

I don’t feel like i’m “sacrificing my soul” to buy AAA games, which are NOT “the game over and over”, that’s a lazy criticism.

I’m mainly into action games, whether it be beat-em-ups like Anarchy Reigns, hack and slash games like the Ninja Gaiden series, action RPGs like the Technomancer, third-person shooters like Gears of War or Sunset Overdrive, open world games like Dying Light and Dead Rising 3, or FPS games like Homefront Revolution.

Brad Fang
Guest
Brad Fang

And over.

Mark Patten
Guest
Mark Patten

What sense of narrative in Limbo was lost in the end, but by the sounds of it, this is more varied and succinct with whats it’s saying. Would grab this on Steam right now-wuah if I could.

Decibelle
Guest

Holy moly, a 10/10!

mickeyGfunk
Guest
mickeyGfunk

hope this comes to ps4 i reckon

Warwick Stubbs
Guest
Warwick Stubbs

Yeah, same. I really despise exclusivity.

Mark Davenport
Guest

I think Microsoft partly funded it, along with Limbo that’s why.

Mark Patten
Guest
Mark Patten

Well if Limbo is any barometer of measure, you’re looking at a yearly wait at the very least.

R.Hoffmann
Guest

I am just glad is is coming to Steam next week and is not xbox + windows 10 store exclusive like ReCore.

marvelator
Guest
marvelator

Sounds good. Maybe I’ll give it a shot when it comes out.

qorl123
Guest
qorl123

Woah, a 10? Didnt see that coming. I guess I’ll have to at least check this out

Mike Wallace
Guest
Mike Wallace

I want to know who or what the “merman” was.

John Smith
Guest
John Smith

Just beat the game. No spoilers, but still. What. The. Hell? Jim, you ever wanna try a whack at explaining what you think it all means?

Fat Squeek
Guest
Fat Squeek

Bless

Nemrex
Guest
Nemrex

Blessed is thy Jim, for he has graced us with another Sterling review.

Now all we do is wait for his Skyrim remaster and we have reached our 10 quotas for this year!

And reading all the reviews for this from Gameinformer and Polygon made me cave in and preorder it on Steam. Seven days seen so far away.

Christopher Zorn
Guest
Christopher Zorn

I can’t wait to get this game. I’m very happy that it is getting such good reviews! Working full time games like this are perfect, short and sweet!

Diaboliquín
Guest
Diaboliquín

After reading your review I’m eager to play this title. Thanks for share your thoughts.

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