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.

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?

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!

ScrubMaster
Guest
ScrubMaster

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

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..?

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.

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

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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