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

CaitSeith
Guest
CaitSeith

Just played. I have a question…

WTF did I just play!? O_o

otakucode
Guest
otakucode

A human life. I think. That’s how I interpreted it anyway. Maybe. Still working on it, just finished it myself and entirely blown away.

JDIncinerator
Guest
JDIncinerator

a videogame.

Whattheheck
Guest
Whattheheck

Just played it. 10/10 is right.

The ending was bizarre but still meaningful.

The story itself did confuse me, but after reading some interpretation stuff on the web, a coherent story is there if you sit back and think for a while.

The allegorical view is not so easy to reconcile, but the themes that Jim mentions contribute to a real feeling of relevance.

rob
Guest
rob

Just finished it on ps4 this afternoon, I loved it!

Phony McFake
Guest
Phony McFake

A game where you control a massive, misshapen blob of flesh rolling around, making whiny noises… Yeah, I can see why you find it so appealing.

Max Evarts
Guest
Max Evarts

yeah he really likes boglins and any boglin lover would be enthused about that

kunuri
Guest

lol, fat stupid cuck, wrong again Jim.

Unknown
Guest
Unknown

10/10 lol

Mark Nelson
Guest
Mark Nelson

Great game … just played through it 2nd time. kinda thinking the end bit is slightly too long. Loved controlling the boy- but, the “thing” …. not so much!
Lots of soon-to-be-classic scenes in this one. Loved the beginning chase and submarine sections! Really gorgeous too. Don’t think it mattered which game came first. Id still be equally impressed by Limbo if it was the sequel to Inside.

MrAmanley44
Guest
MrAmanley44

Well this was an odd game. I have to admit I fall into the “I don’t get it” crowd this time. The game was undoubtedly beautiful, played very well, and had me pooing myself more than a few times, but overall…. I don’t get it.

Xprimentyl
Guest
Xprimentyl

Like Jim said in the review, “Narrative is implicit.” Rest assured, those of us you think “get it” don’t know any more than you do; Playdead’s developers are the only ones who “know” anything about the world and tale of “Inside” with any certainty. The intent of the game was to afford the player an “experience,” a peek into sordid world and to raise more questions than answers, not to necessarily tell the player a cut and dry story. I just hope the lack of overt understanding didn’t affect your enjoyment of the game.

Chris Wallace
Member
So I just finished this game and I have to give it a meh out of 10. Its a very tightly designed and enjoyable puzzle platformer, I’ll give it that, but it reminds me of what I hated about Limbo; it’s just so pompously vague. I’ll sit here and debate the nuances and themes of games like Undertale, Beginner’s Guide, Spec Ops: The Line or Bloodborn with anyone, happily, for hours at a time. But this style of “oh oh oh, what’s going on here? it’s all super vauge and allegorical, it could mean anything, and WE’LL certainly never tell.… Read more »
Alex
Guest
Alex

I hope this comes to PS4.

Ainsz
Guest
Ainsz
Soon after watching your Jimpressions video, I went and downloaded it off Steam (seeing as it isn’t available on PS4) and get to grips with the keyboard I’m not too well trained on for gaming. Thankfully the game only assigned 5 keys, though I still managed to mix up ctrl and left a lot of the time. And that was my only gripe with the game. It was mesmerising and disturbing. Few games have as good visuals or sound design as this, the gameplay never felt stiff except when I was pressing the wrong key and the puzzles never became… Read more »
Knight_Blazer
Guest
Knight_Blazer

Since you have a PS4 why didn’t you just use a USB cable to plug your PS4 control into you computer and play using that?

Ainsz
Guest
Ainsz

Good question. Didn’t think to do that.

Forest-of-Stars
Guest
Forest-of-Stars

It’s easier to get an xbox controller for PC though, using a ps4 controller on PC requires a mapping program, and it may/may not bug out a lot of the time. An xbox one controller would do the trick!

Xprimentyl
Guest
Xprimentyl

Couldn’t agree more on the sonic boom sequence; it was simply mesmerizing!

Maxine Caulfield
Guest
Maxine Caulfield

Nice job docking a game for your own incompetence.

Ainsz
Guest
Ainsz

That was the point.. My only problem with the game was my own fault.

Jules
Guest
Jules

for some reason I thought the ending bit was oddly comical

Eric
Guest
Eric
I did very much enjoy the game, however there was nothing that I found that I could refer to as “the spider sequence” from Limbo – that one segment that absolutely stands out in art design, gameplay design and level design all at once. Tjere is a bit with a horrifying creature and it was very tense for me, but it wasn’t eye popping like the spider sequence was for me. I think I actually liked Limbo a little better because of that and the fact that the silhouette decision left much of that game up to your imagination, whereas… Read more »
David Everard
Member
I’m not sure about the whole “sequences never repeated twice” thing. There’s one particular theme that keeps popping up (using ‘lesser’ creatures, such as the previously mentioned homonculi) to solve puzzles for you, but never with the same ‘lesser’ element. You see chicks, homonculi and fish all follow you for whatever reason as the narrative progresses, and while the puzzles are never exactly the same, there are a few that involve mind-controlling the homonculi. I wouldn’t say that’s a bad thing, though. I’d say that’s a rather good example of a multi-faceted mechanic, as well as narrative exposition of themes… Read more »
qorl123
Guest
qorl123

Damnit, Playdead! You keep doing this! There’s mystery following mystery but the game ends abruptly and no questions have been answered! Not a single one!

JDIncinerator
Guest
JDIncinerator

Not every game needs to explain things, maybe it is up to us to make our own minds up.

Retarded Pikachu
Guest
Retarded Pikachu

That’s because they’re meant for people with a higher than middle school education. People that can interpret what’s being told without everything being spoonfed to them.

qorl123
Guest
qorl123

I knew someone would pipe up with a douchy “you just don’t GET it, maaan” response. I can interpret it till the cows home, but I want to *know*, because it’s an interesting setting/premise and I want some lore. Something, anything. I am slightly, *slightly* irritated at what seems to be varied, individually disturbing elements being presented to me with a shrug of “you figure this shit out”.

MrAmanley44
Guest
MrAmanley44

I agree. I know its a great game, but I have no idea what its trying to get across. Something about conformity? I don’t know.

ChaostheDude
Guest
ChaostheDude

Wow, I’ll see it for myself if it ever reaches the ps4 platform…

mazur
Guest
mazur

you’re creepy 🙁

adampoole
Guest
adampoole

maybe if they game was put on ps4 i’d consider it

Turnbased Toddy
Guest
Turnbased Toddy

Is it sad that this is the first game that has made me want to purchase an Xbox One?

Xprimentyl
Guest
Xprimentyl

Not at all. I’m surprised with the runaway success of Limbo that Playdead would essentially leave out a third of their potential customers with Inside.

Xprimentyl
Guest
Xprimentyl

I’m only about a third of the way through and already agree it merits the 10/10. Much like (and better than) Limbo, the way the story is “revealed” versus it being traditionally “told” is nothing short of amazing. Between the myriad questions that keep piling up from scene to scene and moments of bleak tension, this $20 arcade game is already more immersive than most of the full-retail, $60 Triple A fodder out there.

Tail Rose
Guest
Tail Rose

I guess this game is much better than nothing.

Elvar Ingvason
Guest
Elvar Ingvason

I’d drop the grade down on the art style alone based on those screenshots personally, as for the rest I will see if I pick this up. Looks very bland and boring and uses fog and rain to hide the lack of detail from the looks of things. Never played limbo so this one doesn’t really have much of a draw on it’s own. If cheap or on a sale however, why not give it a go if it gets such glowing reviews from more sources.

c00ch
Guest
c00ch

Oh boy! Don’t judge the game’s aesthetic of screenshots! It’s hands down the best animation in a computer game I’ve ever seen. Movements and variations of reoccurring movement sets look unique and never repetitive. Despite the flat colour palette this game looks organic like hell! Not to mention that it contains the first truly realistic looking underwater visuals.

Xprimentyl
Guest
Xprimentyl
Don’t let the screenshots fool you; the art style fits the intent of the game perfectly; this is literally the art style the tale/world of the game demands; you have to see it in action and experience the unfolding story to truly appreciate it as these stills alone don’t do it justice. The fog and rain you see here aren’t hiding lack of detail so much as they are conveying the idea of a world under dire and oppressive control. There are plenty of moments of greater environmental detail and moments where the side-scrolling world moves on it’s third axis… Read more »
danrg26
Member

Its fantastic IMO its way better then limbo

mrhair
Guest
mrhair

The Limbo dev put out a new game? Man, nobody tells me anything. I guess it doesn’t really matter, since I can’t play it until the 7th, but I’m now pretty pumped.

Sam Leheny
Member

Oh damn. I’d never even heard of this game, but I’ma go pick it up right the fuck now!

James Austin
Member

Pretty sure it only got announced at E3 so it sort of appeared then suddenly was coming out almost immediately.

Jonas King
Member

I did the same thing, haha.

Austin LaBonty
Guest
Austin LaBonty

Dude. This is such a freaking great game. Those closing 10 minutes or so are going to be stuck in my head for years.

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